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UN Committee to review Sri Lanka’s record on women’s rights

GENEVA (15 February 2017)  – Sri Lanka’s record on women’s rights will be examined by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 22 February. Sri Lanka has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and so is reviewed regularly by the Committee on how it is implementing the Convention. 

Among the possible issues for discussion between CEDAW and a delegation from the Sri Lankan Government are: 

  • Amendments to discriminatory laws and policies;
  • Women participation in decision making processes, including law reform;
  • Elimination of stereotypical attitudes towards women and girls;
  • Improving women’s access to justice;
  • Measures taken to prohibit torture, rape, sexual and gender-based violence by public authorities and private individuals;
  • Providing support for marginalized women, such as heads of households, older women, war widows, ex-combatants, women with disabilities and internally displaced women;
  • Recognizing marital rape as a criminal offence;
  • Removing punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion.

The review will take place in Room XVI at Palais des Nations in Geneva on 22 February from 10:00-13:00 (14:30-17:30 in Palikir) and from 13:00-17:00 (17:30-21:30). The sessions are public and will be webcast here: http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will also hear from NGO representatives. More information about the review, including Sri Lanka’s written report can be found online.

The Committee’s findings, officially known as concluding observations, on Sri Lanka and the other countries being reviewed – Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Rwandas, El Salvador, Micronesia, and Ukraine  will be published on 6 March here.


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Background information

What is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)?

Adopted by the United Nations in 1979, CEDAW is the most important human rights treaty for women. 

The Convention currently has 189 states parties. Thus, the vast majority of the member states of the UN (193) have voluntarily agreed to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of women under all circumstances.

Why is CEDAW important?

CEDAW, also known as the treaty for the rights of women, is a tool that helps women around the world to bring about change in their daily life. In countries that have ratified the treaty, CEDAW has proved invaluable in opposing the effects of discrimination, which include violence, poverty, and lack of legal protections, along with the denial of inheritance, property rights, and access to credit.

The treaty has contributed to the development of:

  • citizenship rights in Botswana and Japan;
  • inheritance rights in the United Republic of Tanzania;
  • property rights and political participation in Costa Rica.

CEDAW has also fostered adoption of:

  • a law on gender equality in Mongolia;
  • a law in Rwanda prohibiting sex-based discrimination in access to land;
  • domestic violence laws in Turkey, Nepal, South Africa, and the Republic of Korea;
  • legislation criminalizing all forms of violence against women in Burkina Faso and femicide in Panama;
  • a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada;
  • anti-trafficking laws in Ukraine and Moldova.

In addition, in response to CEDAW’s concluding observations, China took measures to curb cases of non-medical foetus sex identification and sex-selective abortion and to change stereotypes leading to son preference and Sri Lanka introduced gender-responsive budgeting for rural economic development projects.

How does CEDAW work?

The States that ratified the Convention are legally obliged, firstly, to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in all areas of life, and, secondly, to ensure women’s full development and advancement in order that they can exercise and enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms in the same way as men. Thirdly, a State party must allow the CEDAW Committee to scrutinize its efforts to implement the treaty by reporting to the body at regular intervals.

The CEDAW Committee consists of 23 independent experts on women’s rights from around the world.

Countries that have become party to the treaty (States parties) are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of the Convention are being implemented. During its public sessions, the Committee reviews each State party report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations. For more information go here: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cedaw/pages/cedawindex.aspx

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