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UN: Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 4 December 2008


My right honourable friend the Minister of State (Michael Wills) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The review of the experience of the United Kingdom under the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, announced on 25 June 2007 by my noble friend Lord McKenzie of Luton (Official Report, col. 483), has been concluded.

The CEDAW optional protocol allows women in the UK to submit complaints directly to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women if they feel that their rights have been violated. The Government accepted the optional protocol to reaffirm our commitment to women’s rights and gender equality, and to gain greater empirical evidence on the value of individual petition to the UN generally.

The review of CEDAW was carried out by Professor Jim Murdoch of Glasgow University School of Law. Professor Murdoch finds that: the CEDAW OP has not yet provided women in the UK with real benefits; non-governmental organisations in the UK have not used the optional protocol in advancing the cause of women; and the quality of the UN committee's adjudication on admissibility of complaints can appear inconsistent.

Government expenditure on cases involving the UK has been calculated at just over £4,000 per case.

Professor Murdoch’s findings suggest that the first three years have not provided sufficient empirical evidence to decide either way on the value of other individual complaint mechanisms. We will need further evidence, over a longer period, to establish what the practical benefits are. In the mean time, the Government will consider the merits of other individual complaints mechanisms on a case-by-case basis.

Copies of Professor Murdoch’s report of the review have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be placed on the Ministry of Justice website at