The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against women (CEDAW) on 18 December 1979. It entered into force as an International Treaty on 3 September 1981.

The Convention explicitly acknowledges that ‘extensive discrimination against women continues to exist’, and emphasizes that such discrimination ‘violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity’.

Further information can be found on the UN website.

The UK signed the Convention in 1981 and ratified it in 1986. The UK's Government Equalities Office (GEO) is responsible for overseeing and promoting the delivery of commitments to CEDAW and, for the 4-yearly reports, co-ordinates input from all other UK Government Departments and the devolved administrations, including Scottish Government. These reports provide progress information on the situation of women in regards to all the areas of discrimination detailed within the Convention as well as on the UN CEDAW Committee's previous recommendations.

The CEDAW articles fall into three main categories:

  • The nature and scope of the Government’s obligations.
  • The specific forms of discrimination and the measures which should be undertaken to eliminate discrimination in each of the areas.
  • Procedural and administrative matters.


In December 2017 the UK Government Equalities Office submitted its Period Report to CEDAW. Following on from this, the UK women's sector produced a 4 Nations 'Shadow Report'.

In August 2018, CEDAW responded to the UK report with a list of issues and questions which required further information or clarification. The UK CEDAW examination took place at the UN in Geneva in February 2019. The SWC attended this with the support of a grant from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). CEDAW issued their 'Concluding Observations' in March 2019.

Copies of all reports can be accessed below: