The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) is the treaty monitoring body created to oversee state implementation of and compliance with CEDAW. It consists of 23 women’s rights experts from around the world who meet in Geneva three times per year.
The CEDAW Committee’s work on advancing the rights of women cannot be overstated. Since its work began in 1982, the CEDAW Committee has influenced the growing recognition of international and state obligation to end all forms of discrimination against women – including violence against women. Its General Recommendations, reports, inquiries and growing body of case law have continue to be powerful authorities on women’s rights around the world.
The CEDAW Committee’s interaction with states during the reporting procedure give practical application to CEDAW’s provisions, identifying the roots of gender inequality and calling attention to the needs of women in specific contexts. The CEDAW Committee has also been fundamental to transforming the way violence against women is understood, recognising it as a form of discrimination and violation of women’s human rights. This work is widely cited throughout national, regional and global human rights institutions and judicial systems. A few examples include:
Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997): the Supreme Court of India used CEDAW’s General Recommendation No. 19 to demand state action on the protection of women from sexual harassment at work. According to the Supreme Court, India had failed to create and effectively implement laws to protect women’s fundamental rights. As such, the Supreme Court took action to implement specific guidelines and norms for “due observance at all workplaces or other institutions, until a legislation is enacted for this purpose.”
“Cotton Field” Case (Gonzalez et al. v. Mexico, 2009): the Inter-American Court of Human Rights extensively cited information uncovered during the CEDAW Committee’s inquiry into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. With information from the inquiry indicating the grave and system abuses suffered by women and widespread impunity for crimes of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez, the Court determined Mexico had violated the rights of the applicants.
EIPR and Interights v. Egypt (2011): applicants in this case used CEDAW’s General Recommendation 19, and A.T. v Hungary (CEDAW’s first case on domestic violence) to successfully argue that Egypt had failed to meet its due diligence obligations and the violence suffered by the applicants constituted a form of discrimination.