women against discrimination
Human Rights Part V
THE Treaty on the Rights of Women, formally named the Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women (CEDAW), is the most comprehensive international agreement
on the rights of women.
It was adopted on December 18, 1979, by the United Nations
General Assembly and came into force on September 3, 1981.
It consists of a preamble and 30 articles which define what
constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an
agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
The term discrimination against women is defined
in Article 1 of the Convention as any distinction,
exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which
has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the
recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective
of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and
women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political,
economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
The treaty has been ratified by more than 184 countries.
Trinidad and Tobago signed the treaty on June 27, 1985,
making the State a party to the convention.
CEDAW provides an international standard for protecting
the human rights of women. By accepting the convention,
states commit themselves to undertake a series of minimum
standards to end discrimination against women worldwide.
Such measures include the establishment of the principle
of equality between men and women within the states
legal system, the repeal of all laws which discriminate
against women, and the adoption of laws which prohibits
discrimination against women.
States are encouraged to establish tribunals and other public
institutions to ensure the effective protection of women
against discrimination and to ensure elimination of all
acts of discrimination against women by persons, organisations
The convention is the foundation on which states can enshrine
such ideals as womens equal access to, and equal opportunities
in, political and public life which include the right to
vote and to stand for election.
State parties must also establish equality for women in
fundamental areas like education, health and employment.
In taking these vital steps, state parties to the convention
can ensure that women are able to enjoy all their human
rights and fundamental freedoms. State parties must report
on structures and customs that discriminate against girls
and women and on actions taken to eliminate those barriers.
The T&T Constitution prohibits discrimination on the
basis of sex and promotes as a fundamental right, equality
and equal protection under the law.
There still exist many opponents and concerns about the
treaty despite its success in the promotion of equality
for women worldwide.
One major concern suggested is that the treaty will destroy
traditional families by redefining family and
the roles of women and men. The treaty does not seek to
regulate family life but instead focuses on establishing
social equality between the two sexes.
For example, in the area of child-rearing, the treaty calls
for the recognition of the common roles of men and women
in the upbringing and development of their children and
seeking the best interests of the child. Another concern
is that the treaty will call for the decriminalisation of
Indeed, the CEDAW committee has called for the decriminalisation
of prostitution in specific countries such as China where
prostitution and trafficking in women and children are rampant,
but not for all countries in general.
Regulation would allow victimised women to come forward
without fear of repercussions for treatment to prevent HIV/Aids
and other sexually-transmitted disease, to obtain healthcare
and education, and to halt trafficking and sex slavery practices.
This treaty for the rights of women sets out best
practices for ensuring basic human rights for women,
without imposing any laws on governments. Domestic laws
The treaty has proven to be a valuable tool for governments
wanting to improve their own laws by broadening the basic
rights of women. As a result of the treaty, many laws have
been put in place improving the status of women worldwide.
Byer and Ronnie Boodoosingh