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Updated 06/23/2006

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is the most comprehensive international treaty dealing exclusively with women’s rights. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the convention on Oct. 13, 1979, and as of October 2004, 179 nations have ratified it. The United States has signed the convention, but has failed to ratify it. It is the only industrialized country that has not done so.

The convention ensures the “human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field” of women. The convention is quite comprehensive and includes the right to a nationality, education, equal pay, safe working conditions, equality before the law, and it prohibits the sexual exploitation of women. It also guarantees the elimination of discrimination in marriage, requiring full consent of both parties and prohibiting child marriage.  

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which entered into force Dec. 22, 2000, allows for individuals and groups to submit complaints to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. In addition, the protocol allows the committee to investigate systematic abuses of women’s rights. As of October 2004, 76 states have signed the protocol and 67 of those states are now party to it. The committee is made up of 23 women’s rights experts who are elected by states party to the convention and serve four-year terms. 

For more information

The U.N. Division for the Advancement of Women, which includes the full texts and information on the convention and protocol