When preparing a communication to the CEDAW Committee, from the outset, it is highly recommended that the following points be considered:
- Ensure that the State party involved is a party to both the CEDAW Convention and its Optional Protocol.
- Ensure that the communication is submitted by, or on behalf of, an individual or group of individuals under the jurisdiction of a state that is party to the CEDAW Convention and its Optional Protocol.
- If a communication is submitted on behalf of an individual or group of individuals, their consent is necessary. Otherwise, their lack of consent must be justifiable.
- The communication must be in writing.
- Ensure that the communication is not anonymous.
- Be complete in all submissions. If the communication lacks detail, the Secretariat of the CEDAW Committee (i.e. the Division for the Advancement of Women) may seek more information from the author, causing considerable delay to the process.
- Submit the case in a working language of the Committee (English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese or Arabic).
- Communications may be sent by fax or email (and should be in cases requiring specific urgent action) but such communications cannot be registered until the signed original has been received by the Secretariat.
- Must involve a right(s) that is protected by the CEDAW Convention.
- The facts of the communication must disclose discrimination based on sex or gender.
- The communication must also describe the violation in detail and be supported by as much evidence as possible.
- All domestic remedies – i.e. attempts to obtain legal, administrative, legislative, policy and programme solutions at the national level – should normally have been exhausted and evidence of this provided as well. If domestic remedies have not been used, the CEDAW Committee will want to know why.
- The communication must not be the same as that which is being or has been examined by another procedure of international investigation or settlement.
- If the communication is based on a continuing violation that occurred prior to but continued after the date on which the Optional Protocol came into force for the State party concerned, these facts should be presented and explained to the CEDAW Committee.
- Interim measures (i.e. emergency actions) are permissible but must be justified
While the subject matter on which a complaint can be based is relatively broad, there are a number of points which must not be overlooked:
The right(s)of an individual(s) must have been violated
In essence it must be possible to prove that either (a) the acts or omissions of a State party has negatively impacted on someone's right(s) as established by the CEDAW Convention or (b) there is a significant threat that this will be the case.
The right must be guaranteed by the CEDAW Convention
The right alleged to have been violated must be protected by the CEDAW Convention. It is important to note, however, that the OP-CEDAW applies not only to those rights specifically contained in Articles 2-16 but also to those not explicitly spelt-out in the convention i.e. rights that are progressively recognised and interpreted by the CEDAW Committee through their General Recommendations and future jurisprudence. For example, General Recommendation 19 recognized violence against women to be a right protected under the CEDAW Convention although it is not explicitly mentioned in the text itself. Furthermore where an act or omission by a State party in another arena has indirectly impacted the enjoyment of a right recognised by the CEDAW Convention (e.g. the curtailment of freedom of movement which is necessary to exercise the right to participation in political life) or has partially violated a right (e.g. the right to be informed of health hazards in the workplace as an aspect of the right safe and healthy working conditions), the OP-CEDAW can also be used.
The claim must be compatible with the provisions of the CEDAW Convention
The right which is claimed to have been violated must be within the scope of the CEDAW Convention. Furthermore, the remedy or result sought must not conflict with the spirit and objectives of the convention.
The claim must be sufficiently substantiated
Although the Secretariat to the CEDAW Committee (i.e. the Division for the Advancement of Women) can and will ask for further details where a claim is lacking in administrative information, a claim which lacks evidence may be considered inadmissible. To be credible, a claim must detail the specific situation of the individual(s) and the precise nature of the violation. While facts about the general status of women's rights can support a claim (e.g. health, illiteracy or employment statistics), they must be relevant and be linked to the specific harm experienced or threatened. Typical evidence might include but is not limited to:
- Details of the victim(s): name, address, date of birth
- Police, medical, educational records, etc. (where appropriate)
- Testimony of victim(s)
- Testimony of witnesses
- Testimony of community leaders, medical staff, police, etc. (where appropriate)
- Relevant correspondence
- Documentary evidence (photographs, video evidence, etc.)
- Media reports
- NGO fact-finding reports both specific to the violation and/or relating to women's human rights generally
The claim must not be ‘manifestly ill-founded’
A communication may be considered manifestly ill-founded if:
- The right(s) alleged to have been violated is not protected by the CEDAW Convention;
- If the CEDAW Convention has been incorrectly interpreted; or
- If the act or omission attributed to the State party does not breach the obligations set out in the convention.
The communication must not constitute ‘an abuse of the right of submission’
Submitting a communication identical to one which the CEDAW Committee has previously dismissed, will be considered an abuse of the right to submit a communication (although this does not prevent individual victims of the same violation from submitting separate claims). Further abuses would include submitting claims with the intent to harass or defame a State party or individual, or submitting claims with defamatory or insulting language
A note on timeframes:
The communications procedure is monitored by the Secretariat and the Working Group on Communications, with the aim being to process submissions as efficiently and quickly as possible. While authors can assist by being complete and comprehensive in all the information submitted, it is important to note that it remains a lengthy procedure, relying on correspondence and exchange of information between the Secretariat, the Working Group on Communications, the CEDAW Committee, the author/individual and the State party. Experience of other treaty bodies indicates that full consideration of a communication by a UN Committee can take up to 2 years.