Becoming a State Party to OP CEDAW

This section aims to assist individuals, organisations and institutions advocating at the national level in favour of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW (OP-CEDAW). When referring to this section, it is important to bear in mind that only States that have already agreed to become bound by the CEDAW Convention have the possibility of becoming parties to the OP-CEDAW.

In this connection, Article 15 of the OP-CEDAW sets forth the formal requirements for States parties to CEDAW to become bound by the procedures included in the OP-CEDAW.

What happens when a State signs the OP-CEDAW?

In most cases, the Head of the State, Head of Government or Minister of Foreign Affairs are empowered to sign treaties on behalf of the State. By signing the OP-CEDAW, governments express their intention to move in the direction of consenting to be bound by the procedures established by this treaty. Nevertheless, signatories of the OP-CEDAW are not yet States parties to the treaty.

What happens when a State ratifies the OP-CEDAW?

As clearly established in the UN treaty handbook, “consent to be bound is the act by whereby a State demonstrates its willingness to undertake the legal rights and obligations under a treaty”. Ratification is thus one of the means a State becomes bound by the OP-CEDAW.

The process of ratification will often vary from country to country. However, in general, after signing the OP-CEDAW, a State would have to go through several stages in order to become a State party to it.

What happens when a State accedes the OP-CEDAW?

Accession is another means by which States consent to be bound by a treaty, such as the OP-CEDAW. It has the same legal effect as ratification: a State becomes a party to the OP-CEDAW and is legally bound to it. However, unlike ratification, accession is not preceded by signature.

Governments become States parties to the OP-CEDAW three months after depositing the instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The “Opt-Out” Clause

Unlike the CEDAW Convention, the OP-CEDAW does not allow for reservations to any of the articles in the text (see OP-CEDAW Article 17). It does however include a provision in Article 10 allowing States parties on ratification or accession to "opt-out" of the Inquiry procedure. This means that States parties can declare that they do not recognise the competence of the CEDAW Committee to conduct an Inquiry Procedure into grave or systematic violations of rights within the jurisdiction of the States party. Such a declaration may be subsequently withdrawn at any time by giving notice to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Reservations to the Communications Procedure - which allows the CEDAW Committee to formulate "views" and make recommendations based on information received in communications from individuals from within the jurisdiction of the States party who assert that their rights have been violated - are not permitted.

To see if your country had ratified OP CEDAW and/or have made any Declarations/Reservations, please click here.

When does the OP-CEDAW enter into force at the National Level?

The text of the OP-CEDAW (Article 16) clearly establishes that the treaty would come into force as a binding international legal instrument immediately after the tenth State expressed its consent to become State party to it. In accordance to this provision, the OP-CEDAW came into force on 22 December 2000.

In the case of States that ratified the OP-CEDAW before it came into force internationally, the OP-CEDAW should be considered to have come into force at the domestic level on 22 December 2000.

In the case of all other States, the OP-CEDAW enters into force in the ratifying or acceding State party three months after the date that the instrument of ratification or accession has been deposited with the UN Secretary-General.

This point is noteworthy due to its implications when bringing a case under the Communications Procedure of the OP-CEDAW. Violations forming the subject of communications must have occurred after the OP-CEDAW entered into force in the country concerned or alternatively, they must constitute continuing violations which occurred before the entry into force of the treaty but also continued after that date.

Source: Confronting Discrimination: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optiona; Protocol. A Handbook for Parliamentaries (UN, 2003) pp31-32 and the UN Treaty Handbook, Section 3.3.

This page sets out, in brief, general information on the processes by which governments become bound by treaties. For a mote detailed explaination, including a FAQ, please click here.