CEDAW and Country Laws
Often described as the international bill of rights for women, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. It is the most comprehensive international agreement imposing legally binding duties to eliminate violence against women. CEDAW expressly requires states to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organisation or enterprise” (Article 2 (e)).
In 1992, the CEDAW Committee adopted General Recommendation 19 on “violence against women”, which defined violence as a form of discrimination against women, and emphasises that governments are responsible for eliminating discrimination against women by any person, organisation or enterprise, and that governments are required to prevent violations of rights by any actor, punish these acts and provide compensation (paragraph 9).
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1994) defines violence against women as:
“Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
It says, violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:
- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
- Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
- Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
Some other significant international legal instruments include:
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989
- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993)
- The World Conference on Human Rights (1993)
- Plan of Action in the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (1994)
- The Fourth World Conference on Women (1994)
- The Forty Ninth World Health Assembly (1996)
- The Eighth World Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Children (1996)
- The Women 2000: Gender, Equality, Development and Peace for Twenty First Century (Beijing +5) (2000)
- The Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (2000)
- Islamabad Declaration Review and Future Action Celebrating Beijing Plus Tem (2005)
For details on which countries have ratified the CEDAW and other international legislation and what laws each country has been passed to combat violence against women, see