CEDAW Principles : Equality Between men and women


Three basic principles

  • Principle of non-discrimination,
  • Principle of state obligation, and
  • Principle of substantive equality (equality of results)

CEDAW obligates the StateĀ 

(1)to recognize women’s rights,

(2)to provide the material and spiritual conditions so that women can enjoy them, and

(3) to create the mechanisms for denouncing their violation and obtaining redress.



CEDAW defines discrimination as

an act that violates the principle of equality and it recognizes women as legal subjects equal to men in human dignity, establishing a concept of equality based on the protection of women’s human rights.

Article 1 also specifies that discrimination is prohibited “irrespective of their marital status” to emphasize that the Convention intends to eliminate all discrimination against women, including discrimination within matrimony.

  • the Convention’s definition prohibits discrimination in all spheres.
  • The last phrase “or any other field,” clearly includes the private or family sphere where so many violations of women’s human rights occur.
  • It also means that discrimination against any woman based on other conditions such as race, class, disability, or sexual identity is prohibited.
  • The convention intends to achieve not only de jure equality but de facto equality not only between men and women but also between women.
  • The goal is social transformation, social change that goes far beyond legislative change, though including it.

The Principle of State Obligation

The adoption of CEDAW was a first step in the necessary development of a judicial doctrine that joins equality between women and men and nondiscrimination against women with the principle of state responsibility.

Substantive Equality and Equality of Results

To achieve substantive equality in all spheres CEDAW requires two types of actions by the State:

(1) actions to achieve equality of opportunity between men and women, and

(2) actions to correct the inequalities of power between men and women.