Do Our Laws Promote Gender Equality? - A Handbook for CEDAW-based Legal Reviews


-- Summary in English --


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) celebrated 30 years of existence in 2009, having been adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 1979. As of 1 August 2009, 186 States had ratified CEDAW, reflecting the global consensus of States to take concrete measures to achieve gender equality and to eliminate discrimination in all its forms.

CEDAW provides a comprehensive framework for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of women’s human rights. In particular, it obligates States to eliminate discrimination against women in all fields, without delay, and by all appropriate means, including legislation. However, despite obligations imposed by CEDAW, discrimination continues to exist in all fields, including in the area of law. Discriminatory laws continue to restrict, prohibit or nullify women’s human rights and perpetuate impunity for violations. They deprive women the enjoyment of their human rights and full development of their persons.

The CEDAW Committee, in their recent Concluding Observations, urged States Parties to achieve compatibility and compliance of their laws with the Convention. It also strongly encouraged States to ensure that CEDAW is applicable in the domestic legal system and its provisions are fully incorporated in national law.


This handbook was developed to guide practitioners in governments, NGOs, academic institutions, development agencies and women’s groups to assess compliance of their national laws with CEDAW and provide appropriate recommendations for its compatibility through a CEDAW-based legal review. It does this by presenting a framework for assessing legal compliance (assessment framework). The assessment framework builds capacities of practitioners to identify obligations under CEDAW, craft legal indicators, identify discriminatory legal provisions, propose laws, revisions or amendments that promote gender equality, and provide other recommendations to ensure the compatibility of laws with the Convention. The handbook is primarily targeted for practitioners in Southeast Asia. However, it can also be used in other regions.


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