The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) aims to eliminate discrimination against women. It states: “ ...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 UK ratified CEDAW in April 1986 after it was adopted in 1979 and entered into force in 1981. 

Under CEDAW, state bodies are required to produce reports to the UN Committee one year after consenting to the convention, and then every four years thereafter, or otherwise as directed by the Committee. These reports must outline progress and legislative, judicial and policy measures taken to fulfil their obligations under the Convention.

The last UK State report (8th periodic report) was submitted in November 2017. The UK will be reviewed in February 2019, with a pre-session taking place in July 2018.  

The most recent review of the UK took place in July 2013 and accompanying Concluding Observations can be accessed here. The UK State follow up report can be accessed here with an additional addendum here.

More information on the reporting status and access to all relevant documentation including: State reports, Civil society & NHRI submissions; Concluding Observations and follow-up State reports can be accessed here.

NHRI Engagement

In order to support the UK review of CEDAW, the Commission undertook a number of activities, including:

  1. Consultation ‎with experienced civil society members to build Commission capacity to prepare the Commission’s parallel report
  2. Submission of a parallel report
  3. Providing oral evidence and attending the UK State Review
  4. Meeting with the Committee members‎ and the country rapporteur 
  5. Meeting the UK Government representative before and after the review in Geneva.

As part of each review the Commission produces a list of recommendations for the Committee to ask of the UK State. The following were included in the Commission's 2013 review, and many of these were adopted by the Committee in its concluding observations.

  1. incorporate CEDAW into domestic law and that both the UK and Scottish Government commit to raising awareness of the availability of the right of individual petition under OP-CEDAW.
  2. ensure all rights and obligations under the HRA are retained.
  3. fully implement the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
  4. develop guidance on the protection of complainer’s privacy rights in rape cases in Scotland.
  5. prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings, repealing of all legal defences currently in place, and further promote positive non-violent forms of discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment.
  6. develop a comprehensive, coordinated and integrated strategy to prevent and combat human trafficking across the UK.
  7. increase efforts to integrate human rights in school and professional curricula and development and to combat gender inequality in science, technology, engineering and maths based occupations in Scotland.
  8. increase efforts to tackle the gender pay gap, including educational and employment initiatives for women as well as direct support to employers to improve job evaluation, pay transparency and flexible work options.
  9. take further steps to ensure the effective provision of affordable, good quality childcare in Scotland.
  10. urgently assess the equality and human rights impact of the welfare reform to ensure that its cumulative impact does not breach CEDAW rights.
  11. develop a timetable to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Women Offenders and ensure the availability and accessibility of appropriate facilities and services for women in detention with mental health problems and/or drug or alcohol dependency in Scotland.
  12. ensure that immigration staff are adequately trained to recognise, treat and report any signs of trauma and torture experienced by (women) asylum seekers.
  13. ensure that changes to legal aid do not limit women's access to legal advice and services in areas of civil law, and for criminal cases in Scotland. That the UK monitors and mitigate the impact of its changes to Employment Tribunals on women’s access to justice.

Civil Society Engagement

Civil society has the potential to engage with this treaty in a number of ways:

  1. Submitting written information to the Committee
  2. Submitting an alternative report
  3. Providing information for the list of issues
  4. Attending Sessions and Making Oral Submissions to the Committee

Scottish civil society has a great deal of experience engaging with CEDAW. Submissions from Scottish Civil society can be found here.