30 May 2002

Background Release

Will Review Reports of Eight States Parties

NEW YORK, 30 May (Division for Advancement of Women) -- The twenty-seventh session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 3 to 21 June 2002.

The 23 experts of the Committee, who serve in their personal capacities, monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and came into force in 1981. The Convention, which, as of 24 May 2002, had been ratified or acceded to by 169 countries, requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights. In pursuing the Convention’s goals, States parties are encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures designed to promote equality between women and men.

On 22 December 2000, the Optional Protocol to the Convention entered into force. The Optional Protocol entitles the Committee to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies. It also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention. As of 24 May 2002, there were 40 States parties to the Optional Protocol.

Since 1997, the Committee has met twice annually. At this forthcoming session, the Committee will review the reports of eight States parties to the Convention, including the combined initial and second periodic reports of Suriname; the combined initial, second, third and fourth periodic reports of Saint Kitts and Nevis; the combined initial, second, third, fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Congo; the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Belgium, Tunisia and Zambia, respectively; the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of Ukraine; and the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Denmark. An exceptional session of the Committee is being held from 5 to 23 August 2002 to consider the reports of 11 States parties which have been awaiting review for some time.

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit reports, one year after becoming a State party and then at least once every four years thereafter, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. In addition to reviewing the reports and evaluating progress made in concluding comments, the Committee formulates general recommendations to the States parties as a whole on eliminating discrimination against women. It may also invite United Nations specialized agencies to submit reports and receive information from non-governmental organizations.

To date, the Committee has considered 116 initial, 84 second, 63 third, 28 fourth, and seven fifth periodic reports. It has also received five reports on an exceptional basis -- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), and Rwanda.

The Committee has adopted 24 general recommendations covering such issues as women’s economic position; the impact of structural adjustment policies; maternity leave; measures taken to allow women to combine child-bearing with employment; violence against women; the dissemination of the Convention and its provisions; and the extent to which non-governmental organizations have been incorporated into the process of preparing reports on the implementation of the Convention. During its twenty-seventh session, the Committee will continue to work on its twenty-fifth general recommendation, which was begun during its twenty-fourth session. When completed, this new recommendation will address article 4.1 of the Convention on temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women.

Experts receive country-specific information from non-governmental organizations, which are able to brief the Committee’s pre-session working group and plenary meeting.

169 States Parties

With the accession to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the Solomon Islands on 6 May 2002, the number of States parties to the Convention became 169. Adopted in 1979 and opened for signature in March 1980, the Convention is now among the international human rights treaties with the largest number of ratifications and accessions. However, it is also amongst those treaties with the highest number of reservations by States parties.

Often described as the international bill of rights for women, the Convention in its 16 substantive articles defines discrimination against women and provides an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. Discrimination against women is defined as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.

The Convention spells out the basis for realizing equality between men and women through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life -- including the right to vote and stand for election -- as well as education and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislative and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

On 6 October 1999, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention which enables women victims of sex discrimination to submit complaints to the Committee. By accepting the Optional Protocol, States recognize the competence of the Committee to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups of individuals within its jurisdiction in cases where they have exhausted domestic remedies. It also creates an inquiry procedure enabling the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. Although the Optional Protocol includes an opt-out clause, allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure, it explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms. Opened for signature on 10 December 1999, as of 24 May 2002, 74 States had signed the Optional Protocol, and 40 had ratified or acceded to it. Only one State party –- Bangladesh –- has opted out of the inquiry procedure. The Optional Protocol came into force on 22 December 2000.

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women called upon governments to promote and protect the human rights of women through the full implementation of all human rights instruments, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It urged universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 and asked governments to limit the extent of any reservations to the Convention. The twenty-third special session of the General Assembly "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century", which took place in June 2000, called on governments to ratify the Convention, limit the extent of any reservations to it, and withdraw reservations which were contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention or otherwise incompatible with international treaty law. It also asked governments to consider signing and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

States Parties to Convention

As of 24 May 2002, the following 169 States had either ratified or acceded to the Convention, which entered into force on 3 September 1981: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

States Parties to Optional Protocol

As of 24 May 2002, the following 40 States had either ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol of the Convention which entered into force on 22 December 2000: Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Senegal, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Thailand, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Committee Membership

The current members of the Committee, serving in their personal capacity, are: Charlotte Abaka, Ghana; Ayse Feride Acar, Turkey; Sjamsiah Achmad, Indonesia; Emna Aouij, Tunisia; Ivanka Corti, Italy; Feng Cui, China; Naela Gabr, Egypt; Françoise Gaspard, France; María Yolanda Ferrer Gómez, Cuba; Aída González Martínez, Mexico; Savitri Goonesekere, Sri Lanka; Rosalyn Hazelle, Saint Kitts and Nevis; Christine Kapalata, United Republic of Tanzania; Fatima Kwaku, Nigeria; Rosario Manalo, Philippines; Göran Melander, Sweden; Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, South Africa; Frances Livingstone Raday, Israel; Zelmira Regazzoli, Argentina; Fumiko Saiga (Japan): Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling, Germany; Heisoo Shin, Republic of Korea; and Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, Portugal.

For more information on the Committee and women’s rights, contact: Women’s Rights Unit, Division for Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Room DC2-1228, United Nations, New York, NY 10017; fax: (212) 963-3463; e-mail: del-vasto@un.org

Visit the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women page of the Web site of the Division for the Advancement of Women at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw

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