Summary of Treaty Provisions

Despite the use of language such as “mandates,” “requires,” and “obligates,” the treaty grants no enforcement authority to the United Nations or any other body. It requires only a periodic report and review process. Countries also can express “reservations, understandings, and declarations” where domestic laws diverge from the Treaty. U.S. federal and state laws generally comply with the Treaty for the Rights of Women, which is also compatible with the U.S. Constitution, except where noted in the reservations, understandings, and declarations.

Article 1: Defines discrimination against women 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 marital status, on the basis of equality between men and women, of human rights or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.”

Article 2: Mandates countries to condemn discrimination in all its forms and to ensure a legal framework, including all laws, policies, and practices that provide protection against discrimination and embody the principle of equality.

Article 3: Requires that countries take action in all fields—civil, political, economic, social, and cultural—to guarantee women’s human rights.

Article 4: Permits countries to take “temporary special measures” to accelerate equality.

Article 5: Declares the need to take appropriate measures to modify cultural patterns of conduct as well as the need for family education to recognize the social function of motherhood and the common responsibility for raising children.

Article 6: Obligates countries to take measures to suppress trafficking in women and the exploitation of prostitution of women.

Article 7: Mandates countries to end discrimination against women in political and public life and to ensure women’s equal rights to vote, to be eligible for election, to participate in the formulation of policy, to hold office, and to participate in associations and non-governmental organizations in these arenas.

Article 8: Requires action to allow women to represent their governments internationally on an equal basis with men.

Article 9: Mandates that women will have equal rights with men to acquire, change, or retain their nationality and that of their children.

Article 10: Obligates countries to end discrimination in education, including in professional and vocational training, access to curricula, and other means of receiving an equal education and to eliminate stereotyped concepts of the roles of men and women.

Article 11: Mandates the end of discrimination in the field of employment, including the right to work and to have access to employment opportunities, to equal remuneration, to free choice of profession and employment, to social security, and to protection of health (including maternal health) and also ends discrimination on the grounds of marriage or maternity.

Article 12: Requires steps to eliminate discrimination in health care, including access to services such as family planning.

Article 13: Requires that women be ensured the same rights as men in all areas of social and economic life, such as family benefits, mortgages, bank loans, and participation in recreational activities and sports.

Article 14: Focuses on the particular problems of rural women, including participation in development planning and access to adequate living conditions and health care, credit, and education.

Article 15: Obligates countries to take steps to ensure equality before the law and the same legal capacity to act in such areas as contracts, administration of property, and choice of residence.

Article 16: Requires steps to ensure equality in marriage, including equal rights with men to choose marriage freely; equal rights and responsibilities toward children, including the right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of children and to have the means to do so; and the same rights to property.

Article 17: Calls for establishment of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that will evaluate progress made in implementation of the Treaty.

Article 18: Establishes a schedule for ratifying countries to report to the committee on progress.

Article 19: Establishes the ability of CEDAW to adopt rules of procedure and sets a two-year term for its officers.

Article 20: Sets annual CEDAW meetings to review countries’ reports.

Article 21: Directs CEDAW to report annually to the General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and to make suggestions and general recommendations based on the countries’ reports.

Article 22: Allows for specialized agencies of the UN to be represented and for CEDAW to invite reports from them.

Articles 23-30: Set forth elements of the operation of the Treaty, including the manner by which the Treaty comes into operation, the limits on the scope of permissible reservations, and the way in which disputes between countries can be settled.