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Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Hassan Ali Faiz

The United Nations, passed the most important international document prohibiting discrimination against women under the name of “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women” on 18 December 1979 over 34 /180 Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly and made acceptance of it mandatory by the member states of this organization. This document is the most important international human rights document that has been developed in order to promote and fulfill women’s rights.

 Afghanistan joined Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2003 and managed the implementation of the Convention in 2010 to the Committee’s report. Of course Afghanistan has already joined other documents such as the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that emphasis on the equality of genders and rejection of gender-based discriminatory attitudes. Afghanistan’s constitution, with consideration that women’s status is high, prohibits any kind of discrimination and distinction between men and women and pays special attention to the status of women and their right to participate in governance, social, political, cultural and economic activities. The government has made many legislative documents in respect to women’s rights, and ensures appropriate grounds for the progression of woman’s personality and providing her reserved rights.

For the first time, the issue of equality of women and men was introduced in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and then the other human rights conventions one after another endorsed this equality. On 7 November 1967,  the United Nations General Assembly passed’’ Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women “in one preamble and 11 articles and then, in December 1979 ” Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ” was passed by the UN General Assembly. The article came into force on September 3, 1981 in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 27 of this Convention.

Brief introduction of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women


The aim of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination is based on gender (Gender-based discrimination) and emphasis that the Convention in spite of the natural differences between men and women, these differences should not be a cause of differentiation in rights and duties between men and women.

General structure of the Convention

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women consists of an introduction, six sections and thirty articles. Some articles have recommendations while some parts consider observance of specific rights as mandatory.

Sections of the Convention

Part I: Juridical issues;

Part II:  Political affairs at the national and international levels;

Part III:  Education, work, health, economic, social, cultural issues and etc;

Part IV: Civil issues;

Part V: Convention Committee and working methods of the Committee;

Part VI: Role of the United Nations for accession states to the Convention.

Convention topics

  1. A) The preamble to the Convention: The Convention has a relatively long introduction.This introduction has 15 Clauses or axis. At the end of the preamble states that Member States have agreed on the clauses.

Clause 1 to 5: Citation of equality between men and women

Clause 1. According to the United Nations Charter;

Clause 2. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

Clause 3. According to the “Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” and “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”;

Clause 4. According to the international conventions of the United Nations and special agencies that work toward the development of equality between men and women;

Clause 5. According to the resolutions, declarations and recommendations of the United Nations and special agencies that work toward the development of equality between men and women.

Clause 6 to 15

Clause 6. Fear of the spread of Discrimination against Women;

Clause 7. Emphasizing that discrimination prevents promoting equality in the society and family level;

Clause 8. Fear of access to food, health, work, education and poverty …;

Clause 9. Reminding that the new economic system helps in equality between men and women;

Clause 10. Emphasizes on the elimination of racism, which is an obstacle to achieve equality between women and men;

Clause 11. Reminder that peace and security in the world provides the basis for equality between men and women;

Clause 12. The emphasis on women’s participation in the development of countries;

Clause 13. The emphasis on women’s role in providing welfare, the importance of the role of motherhood, the division of responsibility between men and women;

Clause 14. Need for change in traditional attitudes towards women and men, stereotypical approach in general;

Clause 15. Adopt the necessary measures to eliminate discrimination;

As per number of substances and articles assigned to each Convention category, determining the index by the amount of attention, it can be concluded that the social status of women and the promotion of information and social activities is the most notable question in the Convention. Even being a mother is considered a social function and promoting education, health and employment of women is a priority. The role of women in the family, is priority, in the second clause of the Convention, freedom of choice in marriage and equality of rights between husband and wife has been emphasized and roles of parents especially mother is eclipsed. Under this framework, the role of men in the family is neglected and women without family support have been introduced. The fundamental rights of the individual, on the subject of the Convention, has the third priority. To fulfill the rights in the Convention, the same rules for men and women have been laid and women’s individual rights, in compliance with social and family rights, has no distinction according to gender specific conditions of women than men. Political and economic rights of women, who are next in priority, given the similarity of the roles of men and women in these topics have been proposed.

Terminal Sections and clauses refers to the following topics:

Formation of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;

Regulation Committee;

The provisions of equality;

National commitment to the full realization of the Convention;

Signature, accession, appeals, protection, refer to arbitration;

Equal translations of authentic text of the Convention;

Implementation of the Convention

The United Nations emphasizes on the implementation of the materials of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This emphasis is reflected in the following case:

  • In Article2, refers to the obligation of Member States for the implementation of the Convention and for this purpose considered the following, :
  • Change the constitution and other laws;
  • To take legal measures, including penalties where appropriate;
  • Legal protection through the judicial authorities;
  • In Article3, the Member States are obliged in political, social, economic and cultural rights and legislations to meet the objectives of the Convention by the following ways:
  • Change or modify customs and harmful traditional practices that lead to violations of women’s rights;
  • Eliminate any stereotypical concept about the role of women and men at all levels, particularly through the revision of the curriculum;
  • States Parties agree to withdraw any or all contracts that somehow or another, are in conflict with the provisions of this Convention.

In Article 17 of the Convention for better monitoring & implementation of the provisions of this Convention, a committee is proposed called “Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women”. Governments are required to submit a report to that committee on the basis of a predicted timetable for the implementation and enforcement of this Convention. And also, in Article 22 of the Convention it is stated that special institutions such as National Human Rights institutions, Civil Society and UN specialized organizations may monitor their activities about the implementation of the Convention. Entities can provide “shadow reports” to the supervisor committee to review and monitor the implementation of this Convention. If any member state after joining the Convention, refuses the implementation of its provisions, the Committee by providing decisions to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and through it to the General Assembly, provides the possibility of issuing resolutions against a country.

Reservations in international treaties

Reservations in Convention on the Law of Treaties in Vienna (1969) are listed in detail. This treaty is a reservation in a written statement by the State party during the “ratification”, “acceptance”, “approval” and “accession” of an issued treaty by which, the government’s intention to exclude or modify the legal effect of some provisions of the treaty to his country, is stated. And Article 28 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women may not accept those reservations which do not comply with the objective of this Convention, and also stated that recognition of this affair is the responsibility of States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women. Therefore, the governments can declare reservations based on the following conditions:

  • The Convention does not prohibit reservations;
  • Reservation is permissible in only especially cases;
  • Reservations should not be incompatible with the overall objectives of the Convention.

It should be noted that the government of Afghanistan has signed, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties but has not ratified it yet.

End Note

Fortunately, now that equality between women and men is not a taboo, even the most decadent people also have to acknowledge it somehow. Women’s rights and preserving their dignity and to avoid discrimination and gender-based conflict, is now one of the most important issues of human societies. In the meantime, the United Nations by forming and approving international documents, has done measures to reject all forms of discrimination against women and their rights and establishing legal equality between men and women, Including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women can be pointed.

Convention does not accept any Form of Discrimination between men and women and insists that women because of being women should not have fewer rights and more deprivation and men because being men are endowed rights and more advantages. Gender should not be a criterion for distinction between women and men in terms of rights and duties. Women while in terms of talent and ability are equal to men, their current social status is the product of historical injustice, and discrimination therefore our judgments should not be on the basis of their talents and capabilities. Hence, they should have equal rights and similar duties. Women have equal rights in all areas of political, economic, social, cultural, civil and other areas, which include the right to life equality, freedom, personal freedom, equality of law, prohibition of discrimination, the full enjoyment of physical and mental health, just and favorable conditions of work, providing the perfect life free of any pressure and violence.

Convention considers all gender-based differences between men and women and to resolve this discrimination, calls the Member States to ensure women’s equality with men. Convention urges Member States to remove legal obstacles to achieve this goal and to take the necessary measures to create equality between women and men in all aspects of social life, political, cultural and economic decisions.

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