The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women sets comprehensive international standards for women’s human rights. Signatory Governments are obligated to take steps in laws and policies to achieve these norms.
UN Women is committed to the advancement of women’s human rights and places their realization at the centre of its work in all thematic areas.
In South Asia, women confront manifold violations of their human rights — when they cannot participate in the decisions that affect their lives or claim fair political representation, when they face discrimination in employment, when they are denied entitlement to land and property, or when they suffer violence within their own home.
At the same time, South Asian Governments have undertaken legal human rights obligations to combat gender inequalities. The key international agreement on women’s human rights is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is also described as the international bill of women’s rights.
Under CEDAW, States are required to eliminate the many different forms of gender-based discrimination women confront, not only by making sure that there are no existing laws that directly discriminate women, but also by ensuring that all necessary arrangements are put in place that will allow women to actually experience equality in their lives.
CEDAW is one of the most widely ratified human rights treaty. A total of 186 countries have ratified the Convention, including the eight South Asian countries of Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and India. By ratifying the Convention, all eight South Asian states are duty bound to undertake a series of measures at the national level to address discrimination against women.
Most South Asian countries have submitted their fourth report. Bhutan has submitted its seventh report. The Optional Protocol to CEDAW has been ratified by Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. The CEDAW framework and its concepts have gained prominence as a tool for realizing women’s human rights in the region.
The constitutions of all countries in South Asia guarantee the fundamental rights of equality before the law and non-discrimination on the ground of sex. In South Asia, CEDAW has been used not only as a standard that has informed the framing of a country’s constitution, as in the case of Afghanistan, but has also been deployed to interpret constitutional rights, to make laws CEDAW complaint, and to enact new laws.