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

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, is a treaty codified in 1979. It is one of the most important legally binding instruments for ending all forms of discrimination against women. Unlike declarations and resolutions, this convention is binding upon all states that have signed and ratified it and must be implemented. The General Recommendations No. 12 and No. 19 highlight, which articles of CEDAW are to be applied regarding VAW, while gender based violence is also explicitly defined.

General Recommendation No. 12 and No. 19 on VAW

General Recommendation No. 12 (1989) on Violence against Women:
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, states “that articles 2, 5, 11, 12 and 16 of the Convention require the States parties to act to protect women against violence of any kind occurring within the family, at the work place or in any other area of social life”. Further the Committee recommends to the States parties the inclusion of the following points in their periodic State reports:

  1. The legislation in force to protect women against the incidence of all kinds of violence in everyday life (including sexual violence, abuses in the family, sexual harassment at the work place etc.);
  2. Other measures adopted to eradicate this violence;
  3. The existence of support services for women who are the victims of aggression or abuse;
  4. Statistical data on the incidence of violence of all kinds against women and on women who are the victims of violence.

General Recommendations No. 19 (1992):
In Rec. 19 gender-based violence is defined as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or violence that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.” Gender based
Violence impairs or nullifies the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms under general international law as well as human rights conventions. According to Rec. 19, the responsibilities of the state include taking “appropriate and effective measures to overcome all forms of gender-based violence, whether private or public acts [.....]”. Further “states may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence, and for providing compensation”.

General recommendation No. 32 on the gender-related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women (4. Nov. 2014):
The experiences of individuals going through displacement, seeking asylum, integrating into new societies, returning to their home countries, or resettling in different places often involve human rights violations, especially for women and girls. This includes situations where the asylum process fails to consider the specific circumstances and needs of women, which can hinder the proper assessment of their claims. For instance, asylum authorities may only interview the male head of the family, fail to provide female interviewers and interpreters, and may conduct interviews with women asylum seekers in the presence of their husbands or male family members who may be the source of their complaints. The General Recommendation proposes practical steps to enhance the protection of women's rights. For instance, it suggests that states should ensure that women have the ability to submit individual asylum applications and be interviewed separately, even if they are part of a family seeking asylum. The Committee also calls on states to acknowledge that human trafficking is often related to gender-based persecution. Victims of trafficking should not only be informed of their right to seek asylum but also have equal access to asylum procedures without facing discrimination.

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