CEDAW at a Glance

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), also known as the Treaty for Women's Equality, is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. CEDAW is a practical blueprint for each country to achieve progress for women and girls.

Ratification of CEDAW strengthens the United States as a global leader in standing up for women and girls. To date, 187 countries have ratified the treaty. The United States is one of only seven countries—including Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and two small Pacific Island nations (Palau and Tonga)—that have not yet ratified CEDAW.

The American public strongly supports the principles and values of equality, fairness, education and basic human rights. Under the leadership of Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, the U.S. ratified similar treaties on genocide, torture, and race. Ratifying the CEDAW treaty would continue that important bipartisan tradition. Ratification of the CEDAW treaty requires two-thirds of the Senate to stand together for women and has no financial cost.

CEDAW Works: Invest in Women, It Pays.

In countries that have ratified CEDAW, women have partnered with their governments to improve the status of women and girls, and as a result have shaped policies to create greater safety and opportunity for women and their families.

Around the world, CEDAW has been used to reduce sex trafficking, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation; ensure primary education for girls and vocational training for women; ensure the right to vote; end forced marriage and child marriage; improve health care services and save lives during pregnancy and child-birth; allow women to own and inherit property; and ensure the right to work and own a business without discrimination.

For example:

  • Mexico responded to an epidemic of violence against women by using CEDAW terms in a General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free from Violence. By 2009, all 32 Mexican states had adopted the measure.
  • Kenya has used CEDAW to address differences in inheritance rights, eliminating discrimination against widows and daughters of the deceased.
  • Kuwait's Parliament voted to extend voting rights to women in 2005 following a recommendation by the CEDAW Committee to eliminate discriminatory provisions in its electoral law.

Role of the CEDAW Committee

Each country decides how best to achieve implementation. The CEDAW Committee has no enforcement authority; it can only make recommendations highlighting areas where more progress is needed in a particular country.

Countries that ratify CEDAW agree to take all appropriate measures to implement the treaty's provisions.  Ratifying countries submit a report on how they are implementing the treaty one year after ratification, then every four years thereafter.The CEDAW Committee reviews each report and comments on each country's progress.

The CEDAW Committee is comprised of 23 independent experts who are nominated and elected by ratifying countries to serve a four-year term.