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close this bookPassport to Equality (UNESCO, 1999, 40 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface by the Director-General of UNESCO
View the documentPreface by Angela King
View the documentIntroduction*
View the documentConvention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women
View the documentPART I.
View the documentPART II.
View the documentPART III.
View the documentPART IV.
View the documentPART V.
View the documentPART VI.
View the documentConvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
View the documentThe States Parties to the Convention
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Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Passport to Equality

1. The Passport to Equality is issued by virtue of the right of every human being, without distinction of sex, to enjoy the basic rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. The purpose of the Passport is to make men and women all over the world aware of the existence of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

3. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (known by its acronym CEDAW) is an international standard-setting instrument that was adopted by the United Nations in 1979 and came into force in 1981. Today, 163 States are parties to the Convention.

4. CEDAW establishes the universality of the principle of equality of rights between men and women and makes provision for measures to ensure equality of rights for women throughout the world.

5. Very open in outlook, the Convention seeks to establish equality of rights for women, whatever their marital status, in all fields - political, economic, social, cultural and civil. It provides for the adoption at the national level of legislation prohibiting discrimination and for the adoption of special temporary measures to accelerate the establishment of de facto equality between men and women, including changing the paradigms and models of sociocultural behaviour that perpetuate discrimination.

6. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women was established in 1982, after the Convention entered into force. Its main task is to consider periodical reports submitted to it by Stales concerning the legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures adopted to give effect to the Convention and to make recommendations to them on steps to be taken to implement the Convention, in particular, by transposing it into national legislation.

7. In practice, the implementation of the Convention rests largely on the willingness of governments to incorporate the terms of the Convention into their national legislation. A State Party thus agrees to include these universal standards in its national laws and to transpose them into administrative and social policies and practices in order to achieve a de facto eradication of discrimination.

8. A State’s accession to this international treaty may, however, sometimes be accompanied by reservations. Reservations allow a State to waive certain provisions by which it cannot or does not wish to be bound, while being a party to the treaty. Various reasons, such as the national legislation in force, customary law or religious freedom, are given by States to justify their reservations. A reservation is not, however, acceptable if it is incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.

9. In the case of CEDAW, the number and nature of reservations expressed by States in their instruments of ratification now constitute a disturbing obstacle to the recognition and universal implementation of the Convention. Some reservations question the very principle of the Convention, namely, the elimination of discrimination against women, and are major obstacles to the improvement of the status of women.

10. In the event of violation of one of CEDAW’s articles, victims hitherto had no means of seeking individual redress. For that reason, an optional protocol to CEDAW was drafted and recently approved, on 12 March 1999, at a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, and will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly towards the end of 1999 for adoption.

11. The draft optional protocol to CEDAW seeks, on the one hand, to give women the right to lodge individual complaints with the Committee concerning all violations of the Convention by their governments and, on the other, to empower the Committee to conduct investigations into the abuses of which women are victims in countries that have signed the protocol.

The holders of this Passport undertake to read the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the text of which is reproduced herein, so that CEDAW may become a reference for everyone and be universally implemented.

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