Individual complaints under UN convention

Convention against all Forms of Discrimination against Women: protocol regarding individual and group claims

In 1999, an optional protocol was adopted under the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW. It opened up the possibility for private individuals and groups of people to submit claims of violations of rights under the convention to the CEDAW monitoring committee. Anyone can submit a claim about the violation of the rights of an individual directly to the CEDAW committee.

Claims must be in writing. Claims cannot be submitted anonymously. Another prerequisite for turning to the committee is that all possible domestic legal remedies have been exhausted, unless the time needed to use them has been unreasonably extended or they are probably ineffective. In addition, the committee will not consider a complaint if:

  • The committee has already examined the same case or it has been examined or is being examined in accordance with another international investigation or determination procedure;
     
  • The provisions of the convention do not apply to the complaint;
     
  • the complaint is obviously without grounds or it has not been justified sufficiently;
     
  • the right of complaint has been misused;
     
  • The facts that are the subject of the complaint happened before the protocol came into effect in the state concerned unless those facts were still current after the said date.


According to the protocol, the committee may initiate an inquiry into grave or systematic breaches of rights under the convention.

Finland was among the first states to ratify the protocol in December 2000, and it came into effect in Finland on 29 March, 2001 (Cedaw-sopimuspöytäkirja SopS 20-21/2001).

The decisions under the optional protocol that have been approved by the committee can be found for example on the United Nation’s Human Rights pages: The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)