DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Salma Yehia

CEDAW Convention


-  Adopted by the UN general assembly on December 18th, 1979

-  entered into force as an international treaty on  September 3rd, 1981

-  “The spirit of the Convention is rooted in the goals of the United Nations: to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women”

-   The convention covers 3 main points on the situation of women:



            1.  Civil rights and the legal status of women

  • Concern over the basic rights of political participation
  • Women are guaranteed the rights to vote, to hold public office and to exercise public functions.
  • This includes equal rights for women to represent their countries at the international level
  • Articles 10, 11 and 13 affirm women's rights to non-discrimination in education, employment and economic and social activities. These demands are given special emphasis for rural women, whose particular struggles and vital economic contributions warrant more attention in policy planning ( Article 14 is on rural women**)
  • equal rights and obligations of women and men with regard to choice of spouse, parenthood, personal rights and command over property ( Article 16)


             2.  dimension of human reproduction

  • Article 5 advocates:  ''a proper understanding of maternity as a social function", demanding fully shared responsibility for child-rearing by both sexes.
  • Provisions for maternity protection and child-care are proclaimed as essential rights and are incorporated into all areas of the Convention, whether dealing with employment, family law, health care or education.
  • The Convention also affirms women's right to reproductive choice. Notably, it is the only human rights treaty to mention family planning
  • Guarantee women's rights "to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights" (article 16.e).

         3. The impact of cultural factors on gender relations

  • gives formal recognition to the influence of culture and tradition on restricting women's enjoyment of their fundamental rights
  • Convention stresses "that a change in the traditional role of men as well as the role of women in society and in the family is needed to achieve full equality of men and women".
  • Article 1O.c. mandates the revision of textbooks, school programmes and teaching methods with a view to eliminating stereotyped concepts in the field of education
  •   Cultural patterns which define the public realm as a man's world and the domestic sphere as women's domain are strongly targeted in all of the Convention's provisions that affirm the equal responsibilities of both sexes in family life and their equal rights with regard to education and employment.

-  Definition of “Discrimination against Women":  “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 their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”

-  Article 2f.  (And article 5a. +13c hints at the same point) states-(f) “To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.” Article 6 is against trafficking and exploitation of prostitution of women

-  Article 7 is for ensuring political rights of women

-  ARTICLE 14- important for RURAL women’s rights

-  Article 17 talks about the organization of CEDAW- how it is divided and who gets leadership positions- and election process for CEDAW

-  Articles 18- 30 talk about reservations, and other general rules about CEDAW


-   How can one change nationality? I am confused about what Article 9 it is trying to say.


-  Think about some reasons why some countries would want to join but are not actively following the treaty.


-  How can you modify a custom which is usually deeply engraved in the culture??  (Article 2f. + 5a. +13c)


-  Are women’s issues even important too look at or are they too “advanced” for 3rd world countries—or are they crucial to raise the status of poor countries?


-  How do you prove women discrimination? Because it mostly happens on an individual analysis not the state. Besides government oppressing women politically, it is difficult to see what happens inside people’s houses and many times it is the head of the family ( usually male) who decides his children’s fate-- whether the children should attend school/who she marries.



** Countries who have not ratified the treaty: United States, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga**

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


How CEDAW works: Procedures and Results from the International Women’s Treaty

By: The Rev. Susan Hagood Lee, Ph.D.

  • In the 20th century women’s rights became global
  • UN Commission on the Status of Womenà created CEDAW because the UN  wanted a broader treaty to set a normative legal framework for women’s rights
  • Jimmy Carter signed the treaty but the US senate did not ratify CEDAW treaty
  • Part 3 of CEDAW treaty: States commit themselves to eliminate discrimination against women in textbooks, scholarships, examinations, sports, family planning education, and school employment
  • This article gives a brief summary of the articles in the treaty of CEDAW on pages 3-5
  • The Protocol allows individuals and groups from States that have signed the Protocol to bring complaints to the Committee about violations of their rights under the Convention
  • Reservations: exempt countries from practicing certain aspects of the treaty.  The purpose is to let countries that have minor issues with CEDAW to be a part of it even if portions of the treaty are not acceptable to the country. 
  1. Many countries (including Egypt) have exempted from Article 29(1) “paragraph stipulating that disputes between countries over the interpretation of CEDAW may be submitted to the International Court of Justice”--- they have done so because they don’t want to be held legally accountable to the treaty's norms on women's human rights. 
  2. Other countries have held reservations for acceptable reasons such as India: India declared that though it supported in principle the registration of all marriages as stated in Article 16, it could not practicably register all marriages in its vast country due to "its variety of customs, religions, and levels of literacy"
  3. Others have had reservations because of sharia law- articles 9 and 16 and article 2 ( which is a core part of CEDAW)— ***check if Egypt is under these reservations ( especially article 2)***
  • The Committee meets two or three times a year, alternating between New York and Geneva.  At each meeting, it reviews reports submitted by nations that are party to CEDAW.
  • The article states how CEDAW has inspired countries to alter their constitutions so that they can create equality for women—Uganda, Brazil, India, Hong Kong, costa Rica ( pages 11-13)** check if these countries are now prosperous to see if women’s rights improve a countries status economically


  • Benefits of CEDAW:
  1. Convention offers a structure for updating international norms on gender equality in the form of the General Recommendations
  2. Allows women's voices to be heard on the international stage.  The CEDAW reporting process brings women's groups into the conversation formally by allowing "shadow" reports to be filed with the CEDAW Committee.  The reports give the perspective of women's organizations in the country as a counter to the official report by state officials
  • Negatives of CEDAW:
  1. Some countries have used the reservation process to wriggle out of the purpose of CEDAW, greater gender equality.  By acceding to the treaty, they get the benefit of looking as though they support gender equality
  2. CEDAW is that its effectiveness relies on vibrant and active women's organizations.   
  3. If women's groups do not exist or are not well-organized, the CEDAW process is much less effective. 
  • Page 15 ** reasons why US probably have not ratified- not enough support from women’s groups: they are well-organized but they are all divided and only focus on specific issues. They take their freedom for granted so no need to think about it in general. But other NGOs in other countries have been limited of their freedoms so they have strong women groups to fight - with one or two main ones of the country—ex. Egypt- national council for Women
  1. “There is currently no substantial US movement to ratify CEDAW and most women in the United States, even professional women, have no familiarity with the Convention.  The result is that the US does not have a seat at the CEDAW table.  Because of its absence, the United States lacks credibility in speaking up for women's rights and CEDAW has less effectiveness than it could have with US involvement.”

    2.   The true difference between the American Women and Egypt women of    modern society is that the women of the advanced and “free” era have never learned to struggle for their rights while each woman in Egypt is still dying for their authentic liberation.




  1. What is the force that occurs by CEDAW if a specified country does not follow the guidelines of the treaty? Do they put it on trial? Or just tell the country that what they are doing is wrong? What does “legally binding” mean exactly?

Possible answer: “The main risk for a state is that the CEDAW Committee may publicly criticize the country's lack of compliance or effort in bringing its laws into harmony with CEDAW”


  2.  How can states who have signed on to CEDAW create equality in the private sphere? – look at page 5 (middle paragraph)


  3. Should reservations even exist? Because it defeats the point of wanting to defend women’s rights if they don’t want to be legally accountable for their actions (article 29(1)) --- although there are some acceptable reasons why countries can have reservations—page 6 of Lee’s article.

Possible answer: “The alternative would have been that the Secretary-General could have refused to accept an instrument of ratification or accession with reservations on core issues.  The result might have been that many of the world's Muslim nations would not have joined CEDAW.  While the current situation is far from ideal, it does allow the CEDAW process of dialogue to take place and gives space for women's voices from Muslim countries to be heard.  For these reasons, the reservations process has been necessary.”  (Page 15)

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


Bringing Equality Home: CEDAW


-        We need to engage in the process of evolving a core set of universal norms and standards for women’s

Rights. If we do not do this, rights for women will be subject to changing ideologies and shifting socioeconomic and political contexts.


-        Today when I am asked “What can the Convention really do for women?” I reply softly “What do you plan to do with the Convention?” ~Shanthi Dairiam (Director for International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific)


  1. Constitutions


  • Colombia:


  • President welcomed change to the constitution after violent instability
  • NGOs from across the country decided to unite in a single umbrella organization
  • Women groups listed their demands, starting with the incorporation of CEDAW principles. The following month, the Women and the Constituent Assembly National Network (the Network) was officially formed
    • In order for CEDAW to work and women’s rights to be successful divisions need to be eliminated within the women community and establish a defined set of rules—CEDAW encourages this and facilitates the process
    • Colombian constitution now includes some of the most detailed and substantive guarantees of women’s human rights in the world
    • Created a law for domestic violence to be criminal—before it was a private matter
    • Uganda:
      • Ugandan constitution was rewritten in 1995.
      • Women groups mobilized to get women elected to the Constituent Assembly, which would be drafting the constitution then created a women caucus because they didn’t believe the heads wanted to add women’s rights
      • Because of Women NGOs women were able to get their rights written down and were able to be part of the government by making it so a certain number of women need to be in the elected parliamentary seats of government
    • Brazil:
      • Brazilian constitution was redrafted in 1988 and now includes extensive guarantees of women’s human rights. After restoration of democracies
      • CEDAW provided a reference and a framework for articulating specific rights
      • CEDAW provides international legitimacy
      • Paulista Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women has been adopted by the state of São Paulo in Brazil
      • Paulista Convention imposes detailed obligations on the State and local Governments regarding enhancement of women’s human rights in the areas of public administration, daycare, education, health care, employment, and the prevention of violence against women ( page 17)
        • Governments should enforce and advocate local governments and states to advertise women’s rights to make it clear that it is law. Usually, even if something is law, because the people don’t read every law, they will not know that it exists. So, women’s groups and local governments need to make it clear that there will be consequences if women’s rights are violated. **The Paulista Convention needs to be an example to all!**
      • South Africa:
        • South Africa changed form an apartheid state to a true democracy in the 1990s, and a new constitution helped the transition.  coalitions — composed of women’s NGOs, academics, women politicians, and women’s trade union groups —worked together to ensure that women’s human rights were given proper constitutional recognition and protection
        • They presented their demands in the form of a charter of women’s rights
        • It was very successful
  1. II.              The Courts:
  • Many judges tend to me unfamiliar and uncomfortable using international treaties to interpret national law. However, if their country has ratified the Convention, they usually have the authority to consider it, either as part of national law or as an aid to interpreting national law.
  • To convince the courts to make use of the Women’s Convention, it is often useful to provide examples of other countries in which the courts have done so, as well as instances in which the courts have applied other international treaties and covenants.



  • Vishaka v State of Rajasthan ( 1992)- a group of women’s NGOs brought a petition to the Supreme Court of India
  • Reason: gang rape of a social worker by her own colleagues in a village in Rajasthan, and the failure of local officials to investigate. However, the problem the NGOs asked the court to address was much broader: there were no laws in India that prohibited sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Legal question the court had to resolve was whether the State actually had an obligation to protect women from sexual harassment. The constitution prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, and guaranteed just and humane conditions of work, but it didn’t refer explicitly to sexual harassment.
  • They used CEDAW to prove India had an international standard to rely on so they used articles from CEDAW to clear any vagueness
  • For the women’s rights to have been upheld, it required collaborative effort between the women’s NGO lawyers, the solicitor general, and the panel of Supreme Court judges who heard the case.
  • Supreme court decision: sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as: a) physical contact and advances; b) a demand or request for sexual favours; c) sexually coloured remarks; d) showing pornography; e) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. Where any of these acts is committed in circumstances where-under the victim of such conduct has a reasonable apprehension that in relation to the victim’s employment or work, whether she is drawing a salary, or honorarium or voluntary, whether in government, public or private enterprise, such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem.


  • Botswana Citizenship Act was passed in 1984—made it so only father could decide nationality of child
  • Botswanan lawyer and activist, Unity Dow, challenged the act since she was married to an American
  • Debate:  the court told the state that “The time that women were treated as chattels or were there to obey the whims and wishes of males is long past, and it would be offensive to modern thinking and the spirit of the Constitution to find that the Constitution was framed deliberately to permit discrimination on the grounds of sex.”And the government had supported women’s rights internationally (not CEDAW).
  • Government appealed--the constitution was intended to discriminate against women, in order to preserve traditional Tswana values
  • During the time of CEDAW ratification (1995), Citizenship Act was finally amended. These changes have been maintained, and the Act is now gender-neutral, giving equal rights to men and women with respect to the citizenship of their children.


  • court challenge to the Haya customary law that prevented her from selling clan land.
  • Tanzania’s Declaration of Customary Law clearly prohibited her sale of the land in section 20 of its rules of inheritance, which states that “women can inherit, except for clan land, which they may receive in usufruct but may not sell.”
    • Eventually, the government created equal rights for inheritance


  • Dhungana v Nepal
  • Problem: overturn a law that gave sons a share of ancestral property at birth but severely restricted daughters’ entitlements.
  • CEDAW has the status of national law in Nepal, the case was argued both as a violation of the Convention and as a violation of the constitution’s equality guarantee. The Supreme Court found that the law did discriminate against women, but did not act immediately to invalidate it
  • Government is still hesitant and it is uncertain at present just what changes can be expected to Nepal’s inheritance law.


  • Longwe v Intercontinental Hotels
  • Problem: The Intercontinental Hotel had been enforcing a policy of refusing women entry unless they were accompanied by a male escort. Longwe had been stopped by a security guard who would not allow her to enter to pick her children up after they had attended a party at the hotel.
  • 1992- she couldn’t enter again so she took it to the higher court
  • The court ruled in Longwe’s favour, finding that her constitutional rights had been violated. Because the constitution could be applied in this case, the
  • court did not feel it necessary to rely on CEDAW.
  • BUT hotels are STILL discriminatory
  • NOTE: many court decisions and changes take YEARS to take affect and require persistent citizens
  1. National Laws


  • United States: San Francisco
    • San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to implement the CEDAW principles within the city. The ordinance endorses the principles of the Convention, and creates the framework for integrating them into city governance.
    • WILD (Women’s Institute for Leadership Development for Human Rights) felt that the CEDAW could provide a broader, more integrated perspective that seemed to be missing from American women’s advocacy.
    • They hope to have a broader impact on the state of women’s human rights in the United States, where the U.S. Government has failed to ratify CEDAW.
    • Krishanthi Dharmaraj of WILD said: “This legislation sends a strong message to the U.S. Government that women and girls expect their rights not only to be acknowledged but also enforced.”
    • Advocacy work is currently being done to prepare for the passage of a CEDAW implementation law at the State level in California. If passed, this law would set a standard for the rest of the country.
    • Hong Kong:
      • Human rights activism intensified in Hong Kong in the late 1980s, following the events in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and in anticipation of the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule.
      • Women’s Organizations. The Coalition began lobbying for the ratification of CEDAW, the passage of anti-discrimination legislation, and the creation of a Women’s Commission
      • During the first election, women’s NGOs questioned candidates about their views on women’s rights, and made sure that women’s issues had a high profile in the campaign. Many of the legislators came to recognize the importance of the women’s vote; several legislators became real advocates; and broad support developed in the Council for women’s issues.
      • Costa Rica:


Law of Promotion of the Social Equality of Women requires the following:

-  The State must share the cost of child care with all working parents of children under seven years of age;

-  Property titles must be registered under the names of both spouses, and single women’s property must be registered in their own names;

-  Working women are protected against dismissal due to pregnancy; reinstatement can be ordered and employers may be sanctioned;

- Women are entitled to three months’ maternity leave following adoption;

-  Mothers and fathers are given equal rights over their children;

- Women in common-law relationships are entitled to inherit property of the relationship;

- Regarding the legal prosecution of rape: Female officials must be available for the investigation, women are entitled to be accompanied during forensic examinations, justice personnel are to be given special training, and programmes to combat sex crimes are to be developed;

- The courts are authorised to order an abusive spouse to leave the home and to continue providing economic support;

- Gender stereotypes must be eliminated from educational materials, practices and teaching methods; new training programmes for teachers and women must be financed and conducted;

- A women’s legal defense office is to be instituted to protect women’s human rights under both international conventions and national laws and to promote equality between the sexes

  • Japan:
    • Nationality Law
    • 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL)
    • China:
      • Passed the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests in 1992
      • law is quite progressive, the challenge is implementation. Women are entitled to bring legal claims over the violation of their rights under the law, and the State has control over the progress of these claims

IV: Government Policy:

  • South Africa:
    • South African Department of Justice is in the process of developing a Gender Policy as part of a broader transformation of the justice system that began with the end of apartheid
    • the Convention is listed as one of the primary “guiding principles” that is to inform the transformation of the South African legal system.


  • Colombia:
  • The Convention has helped provide the framework for the new health policy through its conceptualization of health as a human rights issue. Article 12 of CEDAW requires the State to “eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality between men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.”
  • The Colombian constitution includes several key provisions regarding women’s health that were modelled after the rights contained in the Women’s Convention.
  • The Colombian Health Policy elaborates upon and extends these entitlements by setting out a detailed programme of women’s health rights
  • The policy stresses that all women have the right to be active participants in decisions that affect their health, lives, bodies, and sexuality

V: The CEDAW reporting process:

  • Zimbabwe
  • Legal Age of Majority Act (LAMA)--1982. This Act is very important to women in Zimbabwe. It places men and women on an equal legal footing, giving both full legal capacities at the age of 18.
    • The Act was shown to CEDAW meeting but gvt didn’t have intention to pass it so the NGOs felt they had the responsibility to keep the gvt in check. They made sure it was passed
    • Croatia
      • the Government delegation promised the Committee that the results of the CEDAW meeting would be publicized in Croatia. However, after they returned, the Government remained silent.
      • NGOs are CRUCIAL for CEDAW’s  success
      • Mauritius
        • When Pramila Patten, of Women’s Legal Rights Action Watch, informed the press that the CEDAW Committee’s criticisms were being kept hidden, the Government publicly attacked her credibility. However, she was able to obtain a copy of the Committee’s concluding comments, and once they had been circulated, the Government backed down.
        • Morocco



VI. Ratifications:

  • India
    • India ratified CEDAW in 1993 but effectively reserved on the articles relating to cultural and customary practices (5(a)) and to equality in marriage and family relations (16(1)). Because it interrupts personal affairs


  • The Indian personal laws, which control matters such as inheritance, property rights, and adoption, continue to follow patriarchal principles.
  • Unless these laws are amended women cannot be empowered to combat violence and cultural practices that frustrate and deny them equality and dignity.
  • With its reservations on articles 5 and 16, however, the Indian Government appears to have adopted a strategy of passive inaction on discrimination in women’s private lives, under the rubric of respect for the wishes of minority communities.




  1. Does protection of women’s rights happen best in true democracies? ( Not hybrid democracies)
  2. When is the best time to install women’s rights into the law?
  • Possible answer: When there is a change in government. In Egypt women NGOs NEED to take this opportunity to push for women’s rights as a new head is elected. As with all the other countries, it was after a change of government and ideas did CEDAW help women in countries with women’s rights
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.




The UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): A New Way to Measure Women’s Interests


                                              By: Lisa Baldez, Dartmouth College




- The Author states that many have researched the quality of political representation BUT their research is flawed because they either seclude certain women groups or define women’s interests too narrowly


-The author will look at quality of political representation (of women) from a CEDAW perspective because the convention is broad and is flexible to portray change overtime. It also has the approval of almost every country in the world (186)


- Research Question: how well do political institutions and political actors address and advance those interests?


-Within political science—women’s voices have not been heard because its usually rhea husband or father that “represents” the women in the “outside” world ( page 419)


- Problematic way of representation of women:


  1. women share a set of interests on the basis of their shared gender identity

                a. Those who invoke “women’s interests” as a political or analytical category implicitly presume a set of shared interests among all those who identify themselves as women

               b. Women’s diverse experiences inevitably challenge the effort to fix the meaning of gender as a category of identity.



   2.     women’s political interests differ from those of men.

               a. research on gender has exaggerated the differences between men and women and overlooked the similarities in their interests


- Following Molyneux, scholars categorize women’s interests in 2 groups:


  1. one that reflects the interests that flow from women’s traditional or conventional gender roles
  2.  the other challenges gender hierarchy


- We have to be careful defining what is feminist and what is not—don’t want to seclude men and so they feel they don’t need to have same ideas on family as women


-“Categorizing issues related to the family and children as women’s interests are problematic given the ways that changes in reproductive technology, family structure, and marriage law now implicate men directly.” ( page 421)


- Women’s and men’s interests are  NOT mutually exclusive


-“Research on gender and political representation needs to account for the gender overlap as well as the gender gap.” ( page 422)


- “CEDAW rests on the idea that all women do share an interest in their gender’s not being the basis of discrimination. Freedom from discrimination allows women to pursue all our other interests” (422)


- “CEDAW transcends the dichotomy between feminine and feminist interests by asserting that women’s gender-related interests are human rights… CEDAW does not privilege a feminist conception of women’s interests over a feminine one” (422-423)


- “Also addresses the interests that men and women share. Article 5, for example, calls for the elimination of gender stereotypes that reflect “the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women” and the “recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children.”


-“CEDAW would allow us to circumvent limited and culturally specific definitions of women’s interests.”



DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

The Tension between Women’s rights and religious rights: reservations to CEDAW by Egypt, Bangladesh, and Tunisia


By: Michele Brandt and Jeffrey A. Kaplan

- The article looks at tension of Women rights v. Religious rights

-  It also looks at how well CEDAW can ensure adherence to its convention while recognizing freedom of religion/belief-- The religious rights ( based on Islamic law) are protected by the States reservations of CEDAW




Part I-- discusses the nature of women's rights outlined in CEDAW:


- Articles 1, 2, 3, and 24 of CEDAW are the “prime movers” of CEDAW.

-  These 3 articles obligate States to act, to effect changes that will advance women’s rights and help women's lives for the better—if States fail to adhere to the articles then the country is not protecting women’s rights ( the main purpose of CEDAW)

-  Article 28(1)—on reservations-- allows ratification subject to reservations, provided the reservations are not "incompatible with the object and purpose of the present Convention."'

  1. **The Convention, however, provides no criteria for determining a reservation's incompatibility.**

- many reserving states have entered reservations that cloud the scope of their commitments

- Some parties noted that: it is largely Muslim countries that have entered the "most explicit and all encompassing reservations" to the Convention based on their adherence to Islamic law, otherwise known as the Shari'a, characterize objections to these reservations as anti-Islamic."







Part II-- summarizes women's legal rights and obstacles to enjoying those in Egypt, Bangladesh, and Tunisia. And also looks are what these State Parties' religious-based reservations to CEDAW entail regarding their commitment to CEDAW:



- Egypt has long represented one of the Arab world's most secular and cosmopolitan societies

- Egypt's Personal Status Law of 1929, Law No. 25, allowed women, for the first time, to sue for divorce; four grounds are the most important: failure to provide maintenance,2 desertion , mistreatment and possession of a dangerous or contagious disease ( During Sadat’s time)—but it’s still difficult to divorce for women

- Egypt's law regarding associations, which forbids any discussion of political or religious issues by any organization, has been used to close down the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA) and its publication, Al Noon. ( page 11)

-  Interrelated to lack of education opportunities is poverty. Many women, possessing no identity cards or birth certificates, are ineligible for social programs such as subsidized food and housing and cannot vote, obtain a passport or go to court.

-  To date, no shelters exist in Egypt for battered women


  • Egypt's representative to CEDAW, explaining his country's reservations, stated that Islamic law had already "liberated [women] from any form of discrimination."—this doesn’t make sense with the reason why Egypt created a reservation on article 2 of CEDAW
  • I don’t understand the reasoning behind creating the reservation: Article 16 was the only provision for which Egypt expressly stated that a reservation was necessary to comply with the Shari'a. With regard to Article 16, Egypt asserted that the provision provides for the equality of men and women in family matters, and its obligations "must be without prejudice to the Islamic Shari'a provisions ... This is out of respect for the sanctity deriving from firm religious beliefs which govern marital relations in Egypt and which may not be called into question ... ( page 15)
  • **In its view, advantages that women enjoy in certain aspects of marriage, like lack of financial obligation to support themselves or their families, are balanced against advantages men possess, such as superior rights to divorce. One scholar has termed this a "separate but equal" approach to women's rights under which a "just balance" of separate rights is equivalent to equal rights** ( page 17—look at it for more info why this is not right)
    • With regard to Article 2, Egypt states: "The Arab Republic of Egypt is willing to comply with the content of this Article, provided that such compliance does not run counter to the Islamic Sharia."68 Thus, although Egypt did not submit reservations to every provision of the Convention that conflicts with the Shari'a, Egypt's reservation to Article 2 exempts Egypt from abiding by any obligation or duty that does contradict Islamic law…One commentator suggested that “Egypt's adoption of the Convention carries little force because Article 2 is the most important provision of the Convention. Egypt's broad reservation to Article 2 is therefore incompatible with the object and purpose of the Women's Convention.”
    • Egypt defending reservation of article 9(1): [I]t is clear that the child's acquisition of his father's nationality is the procedure most suitable for the child and that this does not infringe upon the principle of equality between men and women, since it is the custom for a woman to agree, on marrying an alien, that her children shall be of the father's nationality.
  1. From now on States and individuals should not defend their actions by baselessly arguing that they acted upon “custom”. Just because a custom exists DOES NOT mean it is correct.
  • Egypt defending general reservations: “Except for certain rights and responsibilities during marriage and its dissolution, Islamic law had given to women all the necessary rights even before the ratification of the Convention”…Egypt's representative appears to suggest that actively promoting CEDAW in Egypt is unnecessary, as is dismantling laws which reinforce expectations that a woman's place is in the home.


Possible source to use:

  1. Zenid-Ziegler, In Search of Shadows




- Bangladesh enacted the Child Marriage Restraint Act forbidding child arranged marriages; the Act does not void such marriages.

- Muslim marriage laws are unequal regarding with whom a marriage may be contracted. Muslim men can marry a Katabi (Christian, Muslim, or Jew) but Muslim women may only marry a Muslim man.

- **Reservations to Article 2, scholars argue, are a means by which the ratifying state need not comply with the obligation to modify domestic law to eliminate discrimination against women**

- Bangladesh failed to specify why the Shari'a is a barrier to implementing its obligations under Articles 13(a) (family benefits) and 16.1(c) and (f) (marriage, divorce, guardianship and custody).

- Courts in Bangladesh determine the appropriate legal balance as cases arise, and certain cases evidence their willingness to favor protection of women's rights over inflexible interpretations of Islamic law



- Tunisia adopted a progressive Family Code - the Personal Status Code. The Tunisian government describes this code as a "civil code of Islamic inspiration, which has chosen the provisions of the doctrine of different Islamic traditions while taking into consideration the need to reconcile respect for the Islamic religion with the imperatives of modern life."

-  Tunisia abolished polygamy because Reformers in Tunisia argued that because “the Qur'an states that a man must treat each wife equally, and it is impossible to treat individuals identically psychologically, polygamy cannot be condoned.”

- Today, termination of a pregnancy is the woman's choice; the husband's agreement is not required

-  Tunisia also referred to the Shari'a when making reservations to Articles 9, 15, and 16 as well as a self-described "general declaration."


Part III-- offers recommendations on how CEDAW might respond to religious-based reservations to enhance the Convention's effectiveness:


- ***Many accepted religious practices are “often rooted in outdated or discredited Customs or viewpoints,” and they “actually reduce the social positions and status of women.” (page 32) ***

- “The question becomes: how should CEDAW address this tension and respond to broad reservations based upon religious tenets?” ( page 33)

- Is there any genuine hope that other Islamic countries will follow Tunisia's lead, either by reinterpreting their practice of Islam or explicitly departing from certain provisions of Shari'a?

4 factors obstructing progressive reinterpretation of Islam:

  1. The "religious nature of Islamic Law makes it difficult for Muslims to appear critical of that law. They tend to regard the specific interpretations of Shari'a as divine and heavenly
  2. developments have typically been piecemeal, issue-by-issue adaptations and accommodations
  3. Dual origins of inequality: The constant interplay between religion and custom has blurred the distinction between them, and burdened every reform effort.
  4. Domestic political scene

- **pushing countries to outline in greater detail where CEDAW and religious norms diverge may encourage a more focused dialogue, as opposed to presently simmering recriminations.**





  1. Will the reservations tighten, loosen or will CEDAW even exist under Morsi?  Can having a new president—especially having someone from the Muslim Brotherhood—limit even more the rights of women? If we had a secular tyrant as a president before who limited women’s rights supposedly because of “Islamic law” what will happen with someone who is part of the Muslim Brotherhood? The national council for women in Egypt and other NGOs needs to take this time to keep lobbying for women’s rights—as did other countries during a transition of government!
  2. Do the reservations that Egypt has now truly “protect” Islamic Law? Do some of the CEDAW articles actually violate Islamic law? What is Egypt’s Islamic law? Islamic Law v. Islam. What does Islam actually say that supposedly makes it difficult to protect women’s rights (if anything)?
  3. Egypt needs to change 3 parts of government:
    1. The legal process—judges and lawyers can’t have biases—quicker process
    2. Execution/enforcement of the law/Better police force (stop detaining people for their political views!)
    3. Better process for creating laws—check on the president—people of government can’t be the majority party which is the same as the Presidents political party
    4. IF THE GOVERNEMNET changes—the people will also change—walking the streets now it’s very likely your baggage might get stolen at the Egyptian airport, men creepily walk behind you if you are a women and are disrespectful, and walking in the street your stuff may get stolen.
    5. From my observations, anything that has to do with women’s rights is usually kept in the private. If women are abused, want a divorce, or something is violated for the women it is not talked about in public because the women would feel “humiliated”. This is unacceptable.  NGO’s need to create public awareness in rural areas AND in the city to alert women of their rights in the government and sharia law and create women shelters.
    6. There NEEDS to be a distinction between cultural practices/ideologies and Religious practices/ideology. TOO many times people excuse their racial, sexist, bigotry comments on religion. In my essay I MUST make the two clearly divided. Ex. It is strange in Egyptian culture for a women to have a job while being married—this is not because  religion
    7. Westernization v. Modernization: can Egypt modernize without westernizing? Are modernization and religion mutually exclusive? [ the clash of civilization-Huntington]
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.