Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

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Convention For The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

What is CEDAW?
The Principles of CEDAW
How is Malaysia involved in CEDAW?
NGOs involvement in CEDAW
WAO's involvement in CEDAW
35th CEDAW Session in New York

Malaysian NGO CEDAW Alternative Report 2011

What is CEDAW?

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) more popularly known as the Women's Convention is the international women's rights treaty that spells out women's rights and obliges governments to ensure respect for these rights. CEDAW provides the framework for advocating for women's human rights.  The Malaysian government ratified CEDAW in 1995. The Malaysian Non-Government Organisations' (CEDAW) Report is available here.

The Convention calls for national legislation to:

  • ban discrimination;recommends temporary special measures to speed equality in fact between men and women and
  • action to modify social and cultural patterns that perpetuate discrimination.

There are 30 articles or provisions that define the Women's Convention. They are: 

Article 1:
Definition of "Discrimination against Women"
Article 2:
Condemnation of Discrimination against Women and Commitment to Eliminate This
Article 3:
Full Development and Advancement of Women, and Equality of Women's and Men's Rights and Freedoms
  • national constitution and laws to embody equality of men and women
  • sanctions and new legislation, if necessary, prohibiting discrimination against women
  • tribunals and other institutions for effective protection of women against any act of discrimination
  • modifications or abolition of laws, regulations, customs and practices discriminatory to women
Article 4:
Temporary Special Measures
  • affirmative-action measures to hasten de facto equality of men and women (because new legislation and amendments are invariably a long, tedious process)
Article 5:
Customary practices and Stereotypes
  • Customary practices and Stereotypeschanges in social and cultural patterns that promote stereotyped roles of men and women
  • family education for a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and concept of shared responsibilities at home
Article 6:
Trafficking in Women and Exploitation of Women in Prostitution
Article 7:
Political and Public Life
  • women's right to vote and hold public office
  • participation in government policy making and implementation
  • participation in NGOs and civil-society groups
Article 8:
Representation in International Organisations
Article 9:
Citizenship
  • equal rights to acquire, change or retain nationality, regardless of marriage to a foreign husband
  • equal rights in determining the nationality of children
Article 10:
Education
  • equal opportunity in all levels, from pre-school to higher education
  • access to the same facilities, equipment, teachers and examinations, and scholarships and grants available to men
  • removal of stereotypes through coeducation and revision of learning/teaching materials
  • programmes to reduce any gender gap in education or to reduce the female student drop-out rates
  • participation in sports and cultural activities
  • information and advice on family planning
Article 11:
Employment and Labour Rights
  • women's right to work
  • right to the same employment opportunities available to men
  • free choice of profession and work
  • equal pay for work of equal value
  • equal treatment at the workplace and equal evaluation criteria
  • health and safety protection, including protection from harmful work during pregnancy
  • prohibition of dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy or marital status
  • maternity leave with pay and no loss of seniority or benefits
  • social services to support the combination of family and work responsibilities
Article 12:
Health
  • equal access to health care services, including family planning services
  • appropriate services in connection with pregnancy and childbirth, plus adequate nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Article 13:
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • social security, especially in case of retirement, sickness, unemployment, invalidity and old age
  • right to family benefits
  • equal rights to bank loans and other forms of credit
  • participation in recreational activities and all aspects of cultural life
Article 14:

Rural Women

  • recognition of the significant role and contributions of rural women and their special circumstances
  • rural women's rights to adequate living conditions (housing, sanitation, basic utilities, transport and communications); participation in development planning and community activities; health care; direct social security benefits; training and education; and establishment of membership in self-help groups
  • women's access to production resources including credit, technology and marketing facilities
  • equal treatment in land, agrarian reform and land resettlement schemes
Article 15:
Legal Rights and Contractual Capacity
  • equality before the law and the courts
  • equal rights to conclude contracts and administer property
  • governments' nullification of contracts and other private instruments that curb women's legal rights
  • freedom of movement
  • right to choose place of residence and domicile
Article 16:
Marriage and Family
  • right to enter into marriage only with full consent
  • freedom to choose a spouse
  • equal rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution
  • women's rights to choose freely the number and spacing of children
  • access to information, education and means to make family-planning choices
  • equal rights and responsibilities regarding guardianship or adoption with children
  • equal rights regarding ownership, management and disposition of conjugal property
  • nullification of child marriages
  • minimum age for marriage and registration of marriages in an official order
Article 17-22:
Establishment and Functions of the Monitoring Committee

Article 23-27:

Administration of the Convention
Article 28:
Reservations
  • prohibition of reservations incompatible with the essence of Convention
  • withdrawal of reservations
Article 29:
Arbitration of Disputes
Article 30:
Stewardship of Convention Text

Each article calls for equal rights for women regardless of their marital status, from political participation to non-discriminatory health services, from rights within the family to non-discrimination in employment and pay.

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The Principles of CEDAW

Under the Convention, rights for women are based on 3 fundamental principles. They are:

Principle of Substantive Equality
Substantive equality means equal opportunity, equal access and equal results and outcomes for women and men. In order to redress past discrimination and to promote substantive equality, the Convention recognises that women do not share equal status with men, and women have to be treated differently from men to benefit equally. In many countries, women are precluded from employment in jobs that require night work. A rationale often given is that night work exposes women to violence, prohibiting women from night work protects them from such violence.

Regardless of the motivations behind these rules, the effect of this prohibition is to deny women important economic opportunities and to relegate women to domestic duties. In the case of night work, substantive equality is advanced when the problem of violence associated with night work is addressed by making working conditions safer for both women and men

Principle of Non-discrimination
The Convention defines discrimination as "any act that has the effect or purpose of denying the exercise and enjoyment of all rights". From this perspective, acts constitute "discrimination" not only if they either expressly single out women for disparate treatment, but also if they appear to be gender neutral but, nonetheless, have a discriminatory impact on women.

Principle of State Obligation
Under the terms of the Convention, state parties must submit a national report within one year of acceding to the Convention and within every four-year period thereafter. This process ensures that state parties implement the Convention.

These principles provide the framework for formulating strategies and give meaning to the articles of the Convention.

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How is Malaysia involved in CEDAW?

On 5th July 1995, Malaysia reaffirmed its commitment to provide certain basic human rights to women by acceding to the Convention. Prior to that Malaysia had made reservations with respect to and does not consider itself bound by provisions of certain articles, which included the rights of women relating to marriage and family relations. The governments that have ratified to the Women's Convention are required to submit a report to the CEDAW Committee within a year of becoming State parties and thereafter, submit a report every 4 years. A comprehensive review of women's situation in the country and the identification of obstacles to the full protection and promotion of women's rights are given in the initial report to the Committee. The subsequent progress reports elaborate on the interventions made, in progress or planned, and identify the difficulties that continue to inhibit women's enjoyment of their guaranteed rights and freedoms. Malaysia has ratified to the Convention 5 years ago but the initial report was submitted to the Committee in 2006.

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NGOs' involvement in CEDAW

Governments are encouraged, by the Committee, to involve NGOs in the report preparation as governments are seldom self-critical. NGOs can submit alternative or shadow reports, which are likely to analyse the government's application of the Convention, or identifying the obstacles to women's equality, which demand further action.

It is important for NGOs and other institutions and individuals promoting women's rights to provide an additional perspective on the status of women in Malaysia. Independent NGO analysis may address areas that are low on the governments' agendas and may result in greater accountability on the part of the government. Through this monitoring process, NGOs can participate in dialogues with governments to promote effective implementation of the Convention.

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WAO's involvement in CEDAW

In 1998, Women's Aid Organisation in collaboration with individuals from Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and International Women's Rights Action Watch, Asia Pacific (IWRAW) and in consultation with other women's organisations, produced a draft Baseline Report monitoring the disparity in the current laws and policies that affect women in Article 16, which is the rights of women in marriage and divorce. The report also monitors the state obligation within the provisions of the Convention and it also provides recommendations to eliminate the disparity. In its account of the experiences of Malaysian women in relation to marriage and divorce, this Baseline Report begins with general background information relevant to the analysis of Malaysia's compliance with the Convention. The report proceeds in the second chapter to reveal the disparities and disadvantages commonly faced by all Malaysian women. The third chapter analyses the discriminatory content of civil laws and practices as applied to non-Muslim women in Malaysia, while the fourth chapter evaluates disparities in Syariah Law and practices as applied to Muslim women. The third chapter analyses the discriminatory content of civil laws and practices as applied to non-Muslim women in Malaysia, while the fourth chapter evaluates disparities in Syariah Law and practices as applied to Muslim women. The report concludes in chapter five with a summary of recommendations and challenges the Malaysian government, NGOs and other institutions and individuals to enact and promote legal and social reforms to advance women's rights in Malaysia.

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35th CEDAW Session in New York

The Government of Malaysia has submitted its initial and second periodic reports on the status of women in the country to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The review of reports from various governments took place at the 35th CEDAW session at the United Nations in New York from 15 May to 2 June 2006.

The Malaysian Government, was represented by a delegation led by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, reported to the CEDAW Committee on 24 May 2006. The Committee of 23 independent experts evaluated the fulfillment of the government's obligations with respect to the implementation of the CEDAW Convention.

To strengthen women's groups' advocacy, six representatives from women's groups attended the 35th CEDAW session. These representatives were part of the International Women's Rights Action Watch, Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific) "Global to Local" programme, which brought together women activists from countries whose governments were reporting to CEDAW. The six representatives were:
 

  • Dr. Hamidah Karim (National Council of Women’s Organisations, NCWO)
     
  • Zaitun Kasim (Sisters In Islam, SIS)
     
  • Ivy Josiah (Women’s Aid Organisation, WAO)
     
  • Meera Samanther (Women’s Aid Organisation, WAO)
     
  • Vizla Kumaresan (Women’s Aid Organisation, WAO)
     
  • Zarizana Abdul Aziz (Women’s Centre for Change, WCC)
     
The team lobbied various members of the Committee to raise specific issues with the Government when they reported to the Committee. Some of the issues lobbied for were amendments to the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) (IFL), rights of migrant domestic workers, the need for a gender equality bill and for gender sensitisation of the judiciary. 
 
For more information on the government report, concluding comments and NGO shadow report, pleas 
Click here

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