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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 196
December 27, 2010

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100 countries to fight discrimination against women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 3 September 1981) is the most comprehensive treaty on women's human rights, establishing legally binding obligations to end discrimination. Often described as the international bill of rights for women, it provides for equality between women and men in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Cambodia has become the 100th country to ratify a key international treaty that allows women who have been denied their rights in their own countries to have their claims reviewed directly by a UN committee of independent experts: the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

“Rights, also women's rights, without legal tools to make them a reality, can easily become mere illusions,” said Cees Flinterman, Chairperson of the Working Group on communications under the Optional Protocol. “Therefore it is so important that States parties to the Convention provide for remedies, not only at the domestic level, but also at the international level.

“By having ratified the Optional Protocol,” Mr. Flinterman noted, “100 States have given all women and groups of women in their countries the necessary tools to hold their governments accountable for alleged violations of their rights at the international level, and to have access to remedies if the Committee concludes that their rights have indeed been violated.”

The Optional Protocol also permits the 23-strong UN Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention in countries that have ratified both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Optional Protocol. However, the Committee member stressed that “women continue to face obstacles to access justice, such as the lack of access to legal aid, the women's legal literacy and the lack of awareness of their rights and capacity to effectively claim them, which impairs their ability to use the Optional Protocol and its tools to fight discrimination.”

Any person or groups from States which have ratified the Convention and its Optional Protocol can submit a complaint to the Committee. Communications may also be submitted on behalf of other people or groups with their written consent. Discrimination is to be eliminated through legal, policy and programmatic measures and through temporary special measures to accelerate women's equality.

The Optional Protocol (OP CEDAW, 22 December 2000) is a separate human rights treaty that complements the Convention, and must be independently ratified or acceded to by governments that are already parties to the Convention (186 States parties).

Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.



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