PUCL Bulletin, Nov., 2000


26 September 2000

NEW YORK, 25 September. With the ratification by Italy on 22 September, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has been ratified by 10 countries. It will enter into force on 22 December.

States which ratify the Optional Protocol recognize the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted all national remedies. The Optional Protocol also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention. The Committee is the body established under the Convention to monitor its implementation.

On 6 October 1999, in a landmark decision for women, the United Nations General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted the 21-article Optional Protocol to the Convention, and called on all States parties to the Convention to become party to the new instrument as soon as possible. The Protocol, which was opened for signature, ratification and accession on 10 December 1999, includes an "opt-out clause", allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure. Article 17 of the Protocol explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms. Only States parties to the Convention may accept the Optional Protocol. With the ratification of Saudi Arabia on 7 September, the Convention has 166 States parties.

During the Millennium Summit of the United Nations (New York, 6-8 September), ratifications to the Optional Protocol were received from Austria, Bangladesh, Ireland and New Zealand. Other States parties to the Protocol are Denmark, France, Namibia,
Senegal and Thailand. There are a total of 62 signatories to the Optional Protocol.

The ratification of the Optional Protocol, and its entering into force on 22 December, represent further milestones on the road towards the achievement for all women of their fundamental human rights and freedoms. It is also a recognition of the universality of human rights.

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