FAQs

Q: What are the requirements for submitting a communication on behalf of victims?

A: The victim's consent is normally required in order to submit a communication on her behalf. Evidence of consent can be offered in the form of an agreement to legal representation, power of attorney, or other documentation indicating that the victim has authorized the representative to act on her behalf.

Q: When can a communication be submitted without the victim's consent?

A: A communication can be brought on behalf of victims without their consent if the individual or group submitting it can 'justify' acting on the victims' behalf. For example, an activist or an organisation seeking to bring a communication on behalf of a very large group of individuals (a "class" of victims) might argue that it is impractical to get consent from each victim; or that the victim faces a risk of ill-treatment or other retaliation, including physical injury or economic loss, if she consents to the communication on her behalf; or that the victim is unable to give her consent for any reason, including detention or other confinement, serious ill health, or the lack of legal authority to consent; or any other circumstance in which it would be unreasonable to require the victim's consent.

Q: How will the CEDAW Committee decide if a State has a duty to take action?

A: It will analyse the language of specific articles and then consider any interpretations of that language or similar language in other human rights instruments. The CEDAW Committee could refer to its own General Recommendations, established interpretations of other human rights instruments that have provisions similar to those in CEDAW, and other sources of international law, such as the opinions of scholars and consensus regarding best practice as reflected in commitments made in plans of action adopted at various UN World Conferences.

Q: What is the criteria to determine that the harm to the victim is due to a violation by the States party?

A: The harm must be causally linked to an act by the States party or a failure to take action required under CEDAW.

Q: Can the Communications Procedure be used to deal with violations by private individuals, groups or enterprises?

A: Yes. The OP-CEDAW allows individuals to seek remedies for violations by non-governmental individuals, groups or enterprises because CEDAW itself applies to such violations. For example, if a private employer is violating the rights of women workers, a case may be brought against the State for failing to take steps to prevent or respond to the employer's actions.

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Q. What if the case is being, or has been, examined under another procedure of "international investigation or settlement"?

A: It will be declared inadmissible if it concerns the "same matter". To determine whether it is "same matter", the CEDAW Committee will consider both the facts underlying the claim and the content of the rights in question. If the committee finds that the facts have changed significantly, or the claims raised through the other international procedure concerned different rights or obligations (even though the facts were the same), it may admit the communication.

Q: What is considered a procedure of international investigation or settlement?

A: The procedure must provide for (a) consideration of the facts of the specific case; (b) an opportunity for both the victim and the States party to submit their arguments; (c) a finding that the States party has (or has not) violated specific legal obligations; and (d) the identification of remedies for the victim. For example, you can submit a communication under the OP-CEDAW about a case that has already been sent to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, because a reporting procedure of that type is not another procedure of international investigation or settlement. If a claim can be raised under more than one treaty, you should compare the strategic and substantive advantages of the OP-CEDAW to the other procedures.

Q. What constitutes an "abuse of the right" to submit a communication?

A: It will be considered an abuse of the right to submit a communication if the author's purpose in submitting the communication is to harass or defame an individual or some other malicious intent, or if the claim that has been previously found by the CEDAW Committee to be unfounded.

Q: Can a communication deal with a violation that took place before the State ratified the OP-CEDAW?

A: The CEDAW Committee will declare a communication inadmissible if it deals with a violation that occurred before the States party's ratification became effective, unless the violation is continuing. If the violation began before ratification but the facts giving rise to the communication are ongoing, or the States party fails to remedy the ongoing consequences of a past violation, the CEDAW Committee can admit the communication. In the case of a failure to remedy the ongoing consequences of a past violation, the State's inaction can be can be viewed as an affirmation of its previous violation.

Q: What is the obligation of a States party once the CEDAW Committee transmits its views and recommendations?

A: Within six months the States party must inform the CEDAW Committee about any action taken in response to its views and recommendations. Article 2 of CEDAW creates general obligations to implement this convention. This implies a duty to eliminate laws, policies and practices that the CEDAW Committee has found to be discriminatory and a duty to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future.

Q: After this initial response from the States party, can the CEDAW Committee continue to monitor the action taken in response to its recommendations?

A: Yes, the OP-CEDAW and the CEDAW Committee's Rules of Procedure provide for follow-up measures that will enable this expert body to monitor the steps taken to implement its view and recommendations. The CEDAW Committee may request the States party to provide additional information in its periodic reports under CEDAW and may appoint a special rapporteur or working group to follow-up. The Rules of procedure authorise the special rapporteur or working group to make "contacts and take such action" as appropriate.

Q: What would be "appropriate" follow-up measures that the CEDAW Committee could be urged to take?

A: Examples of action that might be appropriate include publicising the CEDAW Committees follow-up activities through the media; including a separate chapter on follow-up activities under the OP-CEDAW in the CEDAW Committee's annual report, with detailed information about action and inaction by States parties; establishing direct contacts with national officials; inviting NGOs to submit information; or conducting on-site follow-up missions by the special rapporteur or working group at the invitation of the States party.