On 6 October 1999, the UN General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

It established two mechanisms that enable women to seek redress for violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

  • The communication procedure enables women to submit communications (i.e., complaints) alleging that a State Party has violated their rights in CEDAW.
  • The inquiry procedure empowers the Committee to conduct inquiries into reliable information that a State Party has committed grave or systematic violations of rights in CEDAW.

A woman might use the Optional Protocol to CEDAW because she wants to:

  • seek redress for human rights violations, but there are no further means of obtaining redress domestically
  • hold a State Party accountable for its actions
  • draw international attention to her case, mobilise support and apply pressure on the State Party to act
  • bring about structural change
  • prevent similar violations in the future
  • bring her case to a body of gender equality experts that can scrutinise the State Party’s actions
  • strengthen jurisprudence on women’s human rights
  • establish an international legal precedent that would compel state action
  • provide a focus for national advocacy on women’s rights issues.

Source: adapted from Simone Cusack, Mechanisms for Advancing Women’s Human Rights: A Guide to Using the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and Other International Complaint Mechanisms (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2011), 3-7