Handbook for  Parliamentarians: CEDAW & OP

More than four decades after its adoption, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women remains an essential and ambitious guide for achieving gender equality across the board – from the family and the classroom to executive boards and political leadership roles. Despite considerable progress since the Convention came into force, no country can yet claim to have fully achieved gender equality.

Gains in women’s rights and gender equality are at serious risk of being reversed by multiple crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic and the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, to armed conflict and displacement, and the rise of authoritarianism. Gender equality is a fundamental element of sustainable development and peace. Today’s challenges cannot be overcome if women, who constitute half of the world’s population, are excluded from full and equal participation and leadership in economic, political and social life. The Convention therefore continues to serve as a solid foundation for building a more resilient world and more inclusive societies.

As the main representatives of the people in any country, parliaments must ensure that the lived reality, needs and interests of all sectors of society are taken into account in decisions that affect them. They have both the power and the responsibility to build a solid basis for everyone to claim their rights and fulfil their potential without discrimination on any grounds, including intersecting forms of discrimination. Parliaments have a central role to play in ensuring respect for women’s rights and in redressing historical inequalities between women and men, girls and boys. As a comprehensive framework to help advance women’s rights and gender equality in law and in practice, the Convention can help parliaments to achieve that objective.

Over the past two decades, a very close relationship has emerged between the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – the monitoring body for the Convention – and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Thanks to this collaboration, parliamentarians from around the world have grown more aware of the Convention, and are increasingly engaged in the important stocktaking exercise of periodic reporting to the Committee on its domestic implementation. They have put questions to governments, introduced and/or revised legislation, raised awareness among their constituents and engaged with the United Nations to bridge the gap between the promises of the Convention and women’s and girls’ lived realities on the ground.

In 2003, the IPU and the United Nations published The Convention on the Elimination of  All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol: Handbook for  Parliamentarians. That first handbook aimed to foster a better understanding among parliamentarians of the Convention, its Optional Protocol and the related reporting, implementation and monitoring processes. As parliamentarians became more aware of the relevance of the Convention to their work, and of the wealth of knowledge developed by the Committee, good practices emerged.

This revised edition of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination  against Women and its Optional Protocol: Handbook for Parliamentarians is a joint publication of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The collaboration formally began in 2021 and the revised edition is the product of substantial research, development and consultations. It draws extensively from the work developed by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other international bodies over the years, as well as on national experiences and lessons learned.

Read/Download the Handbook for Parliamentarians

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