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  • The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: A Commentary
  • Simone Cusack (bio)
The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: A Commentary (Marsha A. Freeman, Christine Chinkin & Beate Rudolf eds., Oxford 2012), 792 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-956506-1.

I. Introduction

The UN human rights treaty body system plays an important role in the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The treaty body [End Page 251] system is, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon noted recently, "one of the greatest achievements in the history of the global struggle for human rights."1 It "provides authoritative guidance on human rights standards, advises on how treaties apply in specific cases, and informs States parties of what they must do to ensure that all people enjoy their human rights."2

Celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Committee) is one of the older bodies that comprise the UN treaty body system. Throughout its three decades of work, the Committee has made significant contributions to the advancement of human rights and women's human rights, in particular. The Committee is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),3 and aided by a dedicated and vocal women's movement, has succeeded in placing women's human rights squarely on the international agenda. In just three decades, the Committee has considered over 450 initial and periodic reports of states parties, published twenty-eight general recommendations on issues as diverse as women's health rights and the rights of women migrant workers, and finalized a growing number of communications and inquiries under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Optional Protocol).4 Through this work, the Committee has helped to shape equality discourses at the international, regional, and domestic levels.5 It has also greatly improved understanding of the rights violations experienced exclusively or predominantly by women, elucidated the content and meaning of states parties' obligations under CEDAW, and held states accountable for violating women's rights.6

The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: A Commentary, edited by Marsha A. Freeman, Christine Chinkin, and Beate Rudolf, is the first comprehensive commentary to examine the Committee's body of work.7 The commentary is grounded in a belief in the value of CEDAW and the Optional Protocol as instruments for advancing women's human rights and gender equality. It seeks to provide an in-depth overview of the [End Page 252] legal norms and obligations enumerated in CEDAW as interpreted and applied by the Committee across the lifespan of its work to date.8 It also seeks to document and pay tribute to the work of the Committee in monitoring states parties' implementation of CEDAW.9 This long overdue commentary is essential reading for anyone interested in CEDAW, its Optional Protocol, or the work of the Committee. It is destined to be the first resource that scholars, lawyers, advocates, students, and others look to for detailed guidance on CEDAW; it will do for CEDAW what Manfred Nowak's commentary10 has done for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.11

The commentary is structured coherently, beginning with an overarching introduction that provides an overview of CEDAW, including its history, architecture, and key concepts. The chapters that follow are dedicated to CEDAW's preamble and substantive and procedural provisions. Additional chapters are included on violence against women in recognition of the Committee's characterization of such violence as a form of discrimination against women encompassed by Article 112 and the Optional Protocol. Each chapter is self-contained but all the chapters fit together seamlessly to provide a holistic and comprehensive commentary on CEDAW and its Optional Protocol.

Most chapters follow a standard format, with slight variations to accommodate the specificities of different treaty provisions. In general terms, each chapter examines the travaux préparatoires of the relevant treaty article, the interpretation and application of the article by the Committee, the content and...


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