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University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series

Faculty of Law, UNSW
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Byrnes, Andrew; Freeman, Marsha --- "The Impact of the CEDAW Convention: Paths to Equality" [2012] UNSWLRS 7

Last Updated: 29 February 2012

The Impact of the CEDAW Convention: Paths to Equality

Andrew Byrnes, University of New South Wales

Marsha Freeman, University of Minnesota

This paper is available for download at


This paper may be referenced as [2012] UNSWLRS 7.


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations over thirty years ago. It has been an important tool used by national and international advocates for the equality of women, and the Committee established under the Convention has played a significant role in encouraging the implementation of the treaty. This paper provides an overview of the Convention‘s impact resulting from its use by Governments and civil society. The paper first provides an overview of the challenges involved in identifying and evaluating the impact of human rights treaties, and sets out the indicators used to evaluate the Convention‘s impact on domestic law and practice in the States chosen for this analysis. The second section describes the status of Convention and Optional Protocol ratification, patterns of reservations to the Convention and of their withdrawal, and of States parties’ discharge of their reporting obligations under the treaty. The third section of the paper is the core examination of the Convention‘s impact in specific areas of law and practice in twelve States. It argues that there is considerable evidence that the Convention has contributed to increasing women‘s enjoyment of the right to equality in many countries, but that this impact is variable, and an enormous amount remains to be done before women enjoy full equality with men in all States.

This paper was prepared as a background paper for the World Bank’s World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and Development. The paper was prepared with the support of the Nordic Trust Fund for Human Rights. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the World Development Report 2012 team, the World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent. Further information about the World Development Report 2012, Gender Equality and Development is available at the World Bank website

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