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The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW-OP)1 was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1999, 20 years after the adoption of the Convention itself. It con- tains both an individual complaints procedure and an inquiry procedure. As of 15 February 2008, 90 of the States Parties to the Convention were also par- ties to the CEDAW-OP, all of which were subject to the individual complaints procedure and 87 of which were subject to the inquiry procedure. As of the end of 2007, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the Committee) had made public decisions in 10 individual communi- cations submitted under the CEDAW-OP,2 as well as completing one inquiry under Article 8 (in which it found systematic violations of the Convention in Mexico).3 Of the 10 individual complaints, the Committee rejected five on admissibility grounds; of the five cases which it considered on the merits, it found violations in four. Three of those involved a failure by the State Party concerned to provide effective legal and/or practical protection against family violence which posed a serious threat to the life and physical and mental integ- rity of the women concerned (two of whom had been killed by their former partners),4 while one related to a sterilisation carried out on a woman without her informed consent.5 The one case considered on the merits which was unsuccessful involved a challenge to the complex provisions of Netherlands law relating to maternity leave as they applied to the case of a woman who was working both as a salaried employee and as a co-working spouse in her husband’s business at the same time.6
This review considers three of the cases decided by the Committee on the merits against the background of the Committee’s practice and jurisprudence under the CEDAW-OP to date. These are two cases involving the liability of the State for failure to protect a woman against violence by a partner which eventually resulted in the woman’s death, and one case involving a sterilisation operation in a state hospital in which it was claimed that there had been a fail- ure to ensure that the woman’s informed consent had been obtained before a sterilisation operation had been carried out.