The Women’s Treaty: CEDAW

On December 18, 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The call for a Women’s Treaty emerged from the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975. Until the UN General Assembly adopted the CEDAW, there was no treaty that addressed comprehensively women’s rights within political, cultural, economic, social, and family life.

CEDAW is the most comprehensive and detailed international agreement which seeks the advancement of women. It establishes rights for women in areas not previously subject to international standards. The treaty provides a universal definition of discrimination against women so that those who would discriminate on the basis of sex can no longer claim that no clear definition exists. It also calls for action in nearly every field of human endeavor: politics, law, employment, education, health care, commercial transactions and domestic relations. Moreover, CEDAW establishes a Committee to review periodically the progress being made by its adherents.

As of 2013, 187 countries have ratified the Convention, pledging to give women equal rights in all aspects of their lives including political, health, educational, social and legal.