The UN CEDAW (in full: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) is the most important instrument in international law ensuring human rights for women. It obliges states that are party to the convention to uphold the equality of women and girls in all areas of life, and it expressly includes the private sphere. The state is not permitted to contravene this principle of equality. Furthermore, it is obliged to actively adopt policies that eliminate discrimination against women and promote de facto equal opportunities for them.
History of the women’s rights convention
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), was passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 18, 1979. It came into force in international law on September3, 1981. In many of the approx. 190 signatory states, the CEDAW has since led to changes in the law and measures to guard against discrimination against women. Germany ratified the convention in 1985, and its provisions are legally binding within Germany in equivalence to federal laws.
CEDAW Optional Protocol: A right for individuals to have complaints heard
In 1999, the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW was passed by the UN General Assembly. It includes the establishment of complaint and inquiry mechanisms. This also grants an individual the right to lodge a complaint against a state that is party to the convention in cases of grave or systematic violations of its provisions – as long as the complainant has exhausted all domestic legal remedies. Women and girls therefore have a way to take legal action at international level against their government if they are suffering violations of their human rights and are not being protected by specific measures or national laws. Germany ratified the protocol on January 15, 2002.