The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is an international convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it came into force on 3 September 1981. The Convention defines discrimination against women in the following terms: ‘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.’ It also establishes an agenda of action for putting an end to sex-based discrimination: States ratifying the Convention are required to enshrine male/female equality into their domestic legislation, repeal all discriminatory provisions in their laws, and enact new provisions to guard against discrimination against women. They must also establish tribunals and public institutions to guarantee women effective protection against discrimination, and take steps to eliminate all forms of discrimination practised against women by individuals, organisations, and enterprises. In 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Optional Protocol of CEDAW. The Protocol includes a procedure through which individual women or groups can denounce national violations of CEDAW directly to CEDAW’s committee of experts.

You can learn more about the CEDAW on the UN Women website.