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iconStarThanks to the OP-CEDAW, women are able to access justice at an international level. Through the OP-CEDAW’s “communication procedure”, individuals (or groups of individuals) can bring alleged violations of the Convention to the CEDAW Committee.

Admissibility of complaints submitted to the CEDAW Committee

Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the OP-CEDAW establish CEDAW’s communications procedure and specify the conditions applicants must meet prior to a case being heard (these are called “admissibility criteria”) before the CEDAW Committee. These admissibility are:

  1. Exhaustion of domestic remedies. The Committee’s communications procedures provide that a complaint should have exhausted all available domestic remedies prior to submission, unless the application of such remedies is unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to bring effective relief (for more, see Christine Chinkin, Marsha Freeman and Beate Rudolf’s commentary on CEDAW)
  2. Communications must in be written form
  3. Communications may be submitted by or on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals who are:
    • Under the jurisdiction of a state party and
    • Claiming to be victims of a violation of any of the rights set forth in the Convention by the state concerned
  4. If submitted on behalf of individuals or groups of individuals this must be with their consent unless the author can justify acting on their behalf without such consent

Conversely, a complaint may be rejected if:

  • It is submitted anonymously
  • The same matter has already been examined by the Committee or is being examined by another international investigation procedure
  • It is incompatible with CEDAW’s provisions
  • It is manifestly ill-founded or not sufficiently substantiated
  • It is an abuse of the right to submit a communication
  • The violation referred to occurred before OP-CEDAW entered force – unless it continued after that date
  • The complaint concerns a state not party to OP-CEDAW

The Procedure

Complaint Form  |  Cases

The CEDAW Committee’s complaints process under OP-CEDAW has five stages:

Stage 1: Submission and registration of the communication

  • The complainant submits a formal communication. Complaints that fail to meet the formal requirements, such as anonymous complaints, those not in writing, and those not concerning a state party to OP-CEDAW are rejected at this stage.

Stage 2: The admissibility test (see section above)

  • At this stage, the committee determines whether the communication is admissible, under Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the protocol, applying discretion with regard for the circumstances of the complaint.

Stage 3: The initial review

  • [Optional: If there is a risk of irreversible harm to the victim, the Committee can at this point urge the state to take interim measures]
  • The Committee submits the communication to the state concerned, confidentially
  • The state provides clarification, or explanation, of the alleged violations within six months of receipt of the communication and can provide details of any remedies implemented

Stage 4: Consideration of the merits

  • Once it has received the response of the state, the CEDAW Committee considers the merits of the complaint

Stage 5: Views, recommendations and follow-up

  • If the Committee finds that the state has violated the Convention, it will make recommendations which it transmits to both the state and the complainant
  • The state provides a written response to the CEDAW Committee within six months, outlining actions taken to implement recommendations
  • The CEDAW Committee may also request the state provide specific follow-up information

iconLockWant More? International Women’s’ Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific has produced an overview of the communication procedure and the steps involved, including flowchart

Contact Information

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Human Rights Treaties Division (HRTD)
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson – 52, rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva (Switzerland)

Mailing address
CH-1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland)
Tel. +41 22 917 94 43 | Fax +41 22 917 90 08

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