Monday, October 6, 2014

Committee on Women’s Discrimination (CEDAW) meets (58th session, July 2014)

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) concluded its 58th regular session  on July 18th.  The Committee will soon meet for its 59th session so I wanted to get this summary of its 58th session out before the next session was upon us. This is a summary of key developments of the 58th session (June 30 – July 18, 2014).  


CEDAW monitors compliance under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Historically it has met two times a year, but recently that has increased to three times per year in order to catch up on the Committee’s backlog. The Committee has 23 members, half of whom are elected/re-elected every even numbered year.  The three session per year format will probably continue and may become permanent.  The last election was held this year on June 26th, at which 12 were elected or re-elected.  

The Convention has been in effect since 1981 (33 years). It has now been ratified by 188 countries, which makes it the 2nd most ratified in the human rights treaty system.  The individual complaint mechanism that is available under the Optional Protocol to the Convention has been ratified by 104 countries. The most recent ratification was the State of Palestine which ratified effective April 2, 2014. The Governments of Iraq (on February 18) and Tunisia (April 17) have also notified the UN treaty authorities that they are withdrawing certain of their prior reservations to the Convention.   


The Committee met shortly after the General Assembly had concluded its treaty body strengthening activity, culminating in a resolution in April, aiming to increase resources and streamline processes in the treaty body system. The announced objectives of the new initiatives were also to reduce backlogs, and improve state reporting and responsiveness to treaty obligations and treaty body requests.  These developments were discussed in private session by the Committee at this session and will no doubt have an impact on its proceedings in the future. 

Other political events happening during or shortly before this session included the kidnapping of over 200 girls by Boko Horam in Nigeria; violence and civil conflict in the Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, the Central African Republic and India, a series of horrific rapes in India, the apostasy case of a Christian woman in Sudan threatened with the death penalty, and the Girl Summit 2014, inspired in part by the experience of Malala Yousafzai and her fight for the right to education of all girls. The Girl Summit was held in London in July, at the same time that this 58th session of CEDAW was meeting in Geneva.

It is notable that three of the countries that were reviewed at this session of CEDAW are among these countries currently in the news, the Central African Republic, India and Syria.  In addition, a 4th conflict zone, Gaza, was the subject of a special statement of concern and criticism that was adopted by the Committee and released during the session.

Another notable event leading up to this session was the publication in March 2014 of a new book by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power”, in which he calls discrimination and violence against women and girls the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights in the world today.

Key developments

The Committee reviewed eight country reports during this session, decided two individual cases, issued a special statement concerning the conflict in Gaza and its impact on women and children civilians, held a special half-day discussion on the right to education, and continued work on several draft comments and statements.

The Committee also adopted on a trial basis, a simplified reporting procedure similar to the procedure which is now being offered by several of the other human rights treaty committees. Under this procedure States have the option to select this new procedure instead of the traditional reporting procedure, and if they do, the Committee will issue a list of issues before the report is prepared that will then form the basis of the state party’s report.  Instead of doing an item by item analysis to the treaty’s articles, this procedure will permit the state party to instead structure their report as a response to the questions and issues posed by the Committee instead.

State reports

Many of the reports submitted by governments to the treaty body system are either late, over the page limit, or fail to respond to the prior concluding observations (COs) of the Committee. The current page limits are 40 pages for periodic reports, 60 pages for initial reports, and 80 pages for common core reports. Here is my analysis of the eight country reports reviewed at this session: 

On time?
Within page limits?
Response to last COs?
Central African Republic
No, 20 years late
No, 22 pages over
Not applicable. This is an initial report.
No, 7 mos. late
No, 16 pages over
No, 2 years late
No, 4 months late
No, 52 pages over
Yes, apparently, although it is difficult to track them to see if they are complete
No, 2 years late
No, 7 pages over
No, 1 year late
No, 7 years late
No, 24 pages over
Not applicable. This is an initial report.
No, 3 months late
No, 52 pages over

Each report was reviewed by the Committee and discussed with the government delegation.  

The Committee issued Concluding Observations on each report, from 10 to 15 pages in length, containing positive aspects and areas of concern. Counting sub-items, there were between 49 and 82 recommendations for each report.  In each case several items were identified for follow-up by the government in either one or two years, depending on the country. The next full report for each country is due in 4 years, July 2018. 

Here is a brief analysis of each concluding report: 

Central African Republic

  • 13 pages, 78 recommendations
  • next full report is due July 2018
  • follow up within one year on
    • developing a national strategy to end impunity from sexual violence (paragraph 16(b))
    •  ensuring that women participate in all stages of the coming peace process in the country, including at decision-making levels (paragraph 20(a)
  •  link to full report of the Committee


  • ·      11 pages, 49 recommendations
  •      next report is due July 2018
  • ·        follow up in 24 months on:
    •       taking measures to better prevent murders of women by their husbands and partners, encourage more effective investigations, assistance to victims, prohibit and sanction the practice of virginity testing (paragraph 21)
    •        ensuring full and equal participation of women in political and public life, especially at senior and decision-making levels (paragraph 25)
  • ·      link to full report of the Committee

  • ·      10 pages, 77 recommendations
  • ·      next full report is due July 2018
  • ·      follow up in 24 months on:
    •        implementation of the recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission to help reduce the incidents of violence against women, including on dowry-related deaths and honour crimes (paragraphs 11a,e,f,g,h)
    •     review of the legal protocols on the treatment of women in border areas and conflict zones, especially the manner in which “special powers” are enforced in such areas, including Kashmir, the North East, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhrah Pradesh) (paragraphs 13a,d,f,g,h)
  • ·      link to full report of the Committee

  • ·      12 pages, 64 recommendations
  • ·      next full report is due July 2018
  • ·      follow up in 24 months on:
    •  strengthening the mandate and funding of the Commission for Equal Opportunities, ensuring that every ministry allocates special budgetary funds to implementing gender equality, and ensuring effective monitoring of time bound targets and indicators (paragraphs 15a,b,c,e)
    •  adopting a comprehensive strategy to prevent domestic violence and assist victims, collect, analyze and publish data on reported cases of violence against women and girls, and provide crisis centers (paragraphs 23b,c,d)
  • ·      link to full report of the Committee

  • ·      13 pages, 68 recommendations
  • ·      next full report is due July 2018
  • ·      follow up in 24 months on:
    •    expediting adoption of measures to curb the widespread practice of female genital mutilation in the country, including adopting criminal legislation, sensitizing health practitioners to te special needs of FGM victims, amending current legislation where needed to permit prosecutions and raising awareness (paragraph 25)
    •    addressing the problem of slave-like conditions that some women of Haratin and Afro-Mauritanian ethnicity are currently living under, including better monitoring, data collection, income programs, adoption of a National Action Plan, and monitoring the situation of refugee women (paragraph 45)
  • ·      link to full report of the Committee

  • ·      12 pages, 58 recommendations
  • ·      next full report is due July 2018
  • ·      follow up in 24 months on:
    • adopting temporary special measures to address the low participation rate of women in public life (paragraph 18)
    • addressing the problem of unsafe abortions which is currently a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in the country, including removing several of the legislative and programmatic barriers to obtaining therapeutic abortions in the current situation (paragraphs 36a, b, c, & g)
  • ·      link to full report of the Committee

  • ·      11 pages, 56 recommendations
  • ·      next full report is due July 2018
  • ·      follow up in 24 months on:
    • adopting legislation that expressly states that discrimination based on sex or marital status is unlawful, and to urgently adopt other pending legislation which has been languishing in the legislative process, including the Marriage bill, the Administration of Estates bill, the Transnational Crimes bill, the Employment bill, the Legal Aid bill, and the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence bill (paragraph 9)
    • reinstating the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence bill which had successfully passed by Parliament but then lapsed because it did not receive Royal assent; in addition several measures are urgently encouraged, to address the high prevalence of violence against women and girls in the country (paragraph 21)
  • ·      link to full report of the Committee

  • ·      15 pages, 82 recommendations
  • ·      next full report is due July 2018
  • ·      follow up in 12 months on:
    •  taking measures to include prominent Syrian women in the peace building and reconstruction processes, and to include women generally in peace negotiations and related activities (paragraph 14a)
    • reviewing its current reservations to the Convention and consider withdrawing those reservations (paragraph 16)
    •  taking more concerted actions to investigate, prosecute and punish all cases of violence against women in the country, including issuing command orders immediately to all government forces prohibiting sexual violene and holding perpetrators accountable (paragraphs 27 c and d)
    • protecting women activists from arbitrary detention, physical abuse and sexual violence by government forces and affiliated militias (paragraph 30 c)
  • ·      link to full report of the Committee

Individual complaints

Two individual decisions were decided by the Committee during this 58th session. One case involving Spain found that the government had committed human rights violations. The other case, involving the Philippines, concluded that the complaint did not sufficiently substantiate a claim and was therefore inadmissible.

Here is a brief summary of each case. I will post a more detailed analysis of each decision in at a later time. 


Gonzalez Carreno v. Spain, CEDAW/C/58/D/47/2012 (July 18, 2014), decided 17 February 2014.  Represented by counsel (Women’s Link Worldwide). Gender stereotypes; appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination in all matters relating to marriage and family relations. VIOLATION. Articles 2(a)-(f); 5(a), and 16(1)(d), read in conjunction with article 1.


M.S. v. The Philippines, CEDAW/C/58/D/30/2011 (July 16, 2014), decided 16 July 2014.  Represented by counsel (H. Harry L. Roque Jr.).  Employment/right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions.  INADMISSIBLE.  Dissenting opinion of Ms. Schulz (4 pages). [2 members abstained]


The latest election was held June 26, 2014, NY, when 12 of the Committee members were up for re-election or replacement. Seven members were re-elected and five new members were elected, as follows:

New members:
  • Ms. Gladys ACOSTA VARGAS (Peru)
  • Ms. Magalys AROCHA DOMINGUEZ (Cuba)
  • Ms. Lilian HOFMEISTER (Austria)
  • Ms. Kheira MAHDJOUB-OUIGUINI (Algeria)
  • Ms. Lia NADARAIA (Georgia)

Re-elected members:

  • Ms. Feride ACAR (Turkey)
  • Ms. Naela GABR (Egypt)
  • Ms. Ruth HALPERIN-KADDARI (Israel)
  • Ms. Yoko HAYASHI (Japan)
  • Ms. Ismat JAHAN (Bangladesh)
  • Ms. Pramila PATTEN (Mauritius)
  • Ms. Patricia SCHULZ (Switzerland)

Gender/geographic balance

The topic of geographic balance is addressed annually in a GA report on treaty body composition.  In its 2013 report the GA report indicated that the CEDAW was underrepresented geographically by the African Group and overrepresented by WEOG. 

From table 3 of A/68/323 -- CEDAW – these statistics are through the prior election held in 2012:

5 (21.7%)
51 (27.3%)
6 (26.1%)
51 (27.3%)

Eastern Europe
3 (13.0%)
23 (12.3%)

3 (13.0%)
33 (17.6%)

6 (26.1%)
28 (15.0%)

On gender balance CEDAW has been consistently overbalanced with more women than men. Currently only 1 member is male. This is not considered a healthy balance between male and female members. All of the other committees have a better balance between men and women.

No. of women members
5 of 18 (28%)
4 of 18 (22%)
4 of 18 (22%)
22 of 23 (96%)
3 of 10 (30%)
10 of 25 (40%)
11 of 18 (61%)
7 of 18 (39%)
3 of 14 (21%)
1 of 10 (10%)
66 of 172 (38%)*
            *only 30% if you remove CEDAW 

Next session

The Committee's 59th session will be October 20 to November 7, 2014.  Eight countries/10 reports (3 from China) are scheduled for that session:
  • Belgium
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • China
  • China Hong Kong
  • China Macau
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Poland
  • Solomon Islands*
  • Venezuela

* It is noted that the consideration of Solomon Islands in the absence of a report had originally been scheduled for the 54th session. However, Solomon Islands submitted its combined initial to third periodic reports on 30 January 2013, and the consideration was subsequently postponed to the 59th session to allow for the translation of the report as well as the establishment of an updated list of issues at the pre-sessional working group.

No comments:

Post a Comment