Charter for the Rights of Widows. Widows for Peace Through Democracy; 2005.Abstract

A Draft Protocol for adaptation to specific country, legal, social, cultural and economic situations.

The Articles below describe acts and attitudes which are, in most countries, already proscribed under the general principles of international laws ratified by governments.  Here they are spelled out specifically.

It is hoped it will be a useful lobbying tool for widows’ groups, women’s organisations, and inform the relevant Ministries (Women, Justice, Health etc.) of the principle issues.

CEDAW. Case of A.T. v. Hungary. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); 2005. Publisher's VersionAbstract



The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against women held that State party's obligations extend to prevention of, and protection from, violence against women and remain unfulfilled in the instant case and constitute a violation of the author's human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly her right to security of person; Violation of articles 5(a) and 16, traditional attitudes contribute to violence against women; facts of the communication reveal aspects of the relationships between the sexes and attitudes towards women; impossibility to ask for a restraining or protection order or to flee to a shelter.

CEDAW. Case of B. J. v. Germany. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract



In B.J. v. Germany (1/2003), Ms. B.J., a German citizen, submitted an individual complaint to the Committee alleging that she was subjected to gender-based discrimination under the statutory regulations regarding the law on the legal consequences of divorce. She claimed that the law relating to reallocation of pension entitlements and provisions governing the question of maintenance are similarly discriminatory. The author claimed more generally that women are subjected to procedural discrimination because the risks and stress of court proceedings to resolve the consequences of divorce are carried unilaterally by women, who are also prevented from enjoying equality of arms. She also claimed that all divorced women in situations similar to hers are victims of systematic discrimination. 

The Committee decided that the communication was inadmissible under article 4, paragraph 1, for the author’s failure to exhaust domestic remedies, and paragraph 2(e), because the disputed facts occurred prior to the entry into force of the Optional Protocol for the State party and did not continue after that date. 

Elimination of domestic violence against women (A/RES/58/147, of 22 December 2003). United Nations General Assembly; 2003. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Report located under "Domestic Violence"

Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly for the elimination on violence against women. 

CEDAW – Guidelines on Reporting from States. UN Women. 2003. Publisher's VersionAbstract


This document (HRI/GEN/2/Rev.1/Add.2 ) contains the guidelines issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women for all reports submitted after 31 December 2002. These guidelines replace all earlier reporting guidelines issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, including those contained in HRI/GEN/2/Rev.1.

Merry SE. Constructing a Global Law - Violence against Women and the Human Rights System. Law & Social Inquiry. 2003;28 (4) :941-977. Publisher's VersionAbstract


*The full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.

This ethnographic analysis of one of the core human rights conventions suggests that despite the lack of enforceability of this convention and its operation within the framework of state sovereignty, it is similar to state law. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, the major UN convention on the status of women, articulates a vision of women's equal protection from discrimination and addresses gender-based violence as a form of discrimination. It had been ratified by 171 nation states as of mid-2003. Its implementation relies on a complex process of periodic reporting to a global body meeting in New York and a symbiotic if sometimes contentious relationship between government representatives and international and domestic NGOs. Like state law, it serves to articulate and name problems and delineate solutions. It provides a resource for activists endeavoring to address problems of women's status and turns the international gaze on resisting nations. Its regulatory strength depends on the cultural legitimacy of the international process of consensus building and related social movements to define social justice in these terms. Thus, like state law, its impact depends on its cultural legitimacy and its embodiment in local cultures and legal consciousness. This examination of CEDAW as quasi law extends our understanding of law as a plural and a symbolic system rooted in a particular historical moment of globalization.


Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1999. Publisher's VersionAbstract


In a landmark decision for women, the General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted on 6 October 1999 a 21-article Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and called on all States parties to the Convention to become party to the new instrument as soon as possible. 

By ratifying the Optional Protocol, a State recognizes the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -- the body that monitors States parties' compliance with the Convention -- to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups within its jurisdiction.

The Protocol contains two procedures: (1) A communications procedure allows individual women, or groups of women, to submit claims of violations of rights protected under the Convention to the Committee. The Protocol establishes that in order for individual communications to be admitted for consideration by the Committee, a number of criteria must be met, including those domestic remedies must have been exhausted. (2) The Protocol also creates an inquiry procedure enabling the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. In either case, States must be party to the Convention and the Protocol. The Protocol includes an "opt-out clause", allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure. Article 17 of the Protocol explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms.

The Optional Protocol entered into force on 22 December 2000, following the ratification of the tenth State party to the Convention. The entry into force of the Optional Protocol puts it on an equal footing with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention against Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which all have communications procedures. The inquiry procedure is the equivalent of that under the Convention against Torture.

Etienne M. Addressing Gender-Based Violence in an International Context. Harvard Women's Law Journal. 1995;18 :139. Publisher's VersionAbstract


This Article, exploratory in nature, revisits the feasibility of establishing workable international standards for addressing the dehumanizing violence and discrimination that women suffer by virtue of their gender. It concludes that human rights activists and organizations seeking justice for women must not rely on contemporary international law, but must instead focus on local grassroots and watch group institutions that are intimately aware of the abuses faced by women. Part I examines the nature of abuses against women qua women and looks critically at the United Nations' response to these crises. Part II discusses the deficiencies in public international law, namely the United Nations' Charter and the Women's Convention, and the inherent limitations of the framework of international law in addressing the issue of gender-based discrimination. Part III suggests local and regional solutions, particularly the development of extra-legal strategies and institutions to counter more effectively gender-based abuses and to change public attitudes about gender equity. This Article neither attempts nor claims to solve the problem of international human rights for women. It suggests seeking justice for women in an alternative setting: Human rights for women can be attained more fruitfully through localized structures that both prioritize education, control, and management and seek concrete solutions in the struggle against gender bias.

Chinkin C. Violence Against Women: The International Legal Response. In: Gender and Development. Vol. 3. 2nd ed. ; 1995. pp. 23-28. Publisher's VersionAbstract


*This full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.

In demanding the right to be free from violence, women are claiming what they are entitled to. Violence against women must be seen as a human-rights issue, and legal instruments created and enforced to guarantee protection for women.

CEDAW General Recommendation No. 19 - 1992 - Violence Against Women. CEDAW. 1992. Publisher's VersionAbstract


The Convention in Article 1 defines discrimination against women. The definition of discrimination includes gender-based violence, that is, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty. Gender-based violence may breach specific provisions of the Convention, regardless of whether those provisions expressly mention violence. 

CEDAW General Recommendation No. 14 - 1990 - Female Circumcision. CEDAW. 1990. Publisher's VersionAbstract


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends that States parties take appropriate and effective measures with a view to eradicating the practice of female circumcision (FGM) and provides various suggestions for what these activities could be and a requirement to include this in reports. 

CEDAW. CEDAW General Recommendation No. 12 - 1989 - Violence Against Women. 1989. Publisher's VersionAbstract


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends to the States parties that they should include in their periodic reports to the Committee information about:

1. The legislation in force to protect women against the incidence of all kinds of violence in everyday life (including sexual violence, abuses in the family, sexual harassment at the work place etc.);

2. Other measures adopted to eradicate this violence;

3. The existence of support services for women who are the victims of aggression or abuses;

4. Statistical data on the incidence of violence of all kinds against women and on women who are the victims of violence. 

CEDAW - Full Text. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1979. Publisher's VersionAbstract


On 18 December 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It entered into force as an international treaty on 3 September 1981 after the twentieth country had ratified it. By the tenth anniversary of the Convention in 1989, almost one hundred nations have agreed to be bound by its provisions.

The Convention was the culmination of more than thirty years of work by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a body established in 1946 to monitor the situation of women and to promote women's rights. The Commission's work has been instrumental in bringing to light all the areas in which women are denied equality with men. These efforts for the advancement of women have resulted in several declarations and conventions, of which the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is the central and most comprehensive document. 

Among the international human rights treaties, the Convention takes an important place in bringing the female half of humanity into the focus of human rights concerns. 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 present document spells out the meaning of equality and how it can be achieved. In so doing, the Convention establishes not only an international bill of rights for women, but also an agenda for action by countries to guarantee the enjoyment of those rights.