CEDAW Article 16 on Marriage and Family Relations

Photo: UN Women/Fahad Kaizer
Photo: UN Women/Fahad Kaizer

CEDAW article 16 in practice – perspectives from across the Asia Pacific

The articles below are written by journalists taking part in the course titled ‘Protection, Safety and Gender in Journalism in Asia, developed by UN Women in collaboration with OHCHR and in partnership with UNESCO.


Under Article 16 State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations. This includes:

  1. The same right to enter into marriage
  2. The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent
  3. The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution
  4. The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status
  5. The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights
  6. The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children
  7. The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation
  8. The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property

Article 16 also has an explicit reference to child marriage: The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.

CEDAW article 16 combined with CEDAW General Recommendation 19 and 35 on Ending Violence against Women promotes a comprehensive approach to family law that encompasses all legislation and policies to eliminate gender-based discrimination in family relations as well as violence against women.

UN Women promotes a people-centred approach to create an environment where women can seek remedies without fear of negative consequences. A people-centred justice approach to family law takes women’s needs and experience into consideration to not only implement their human rights but also improve the justice journey to effectively establish equality within the family.