CEDAW Committee Working Paper Emphasizes Concern about Reservations to Article 16
Monday, July 21, 2008 10:53 AM

After considering the practices of other human rights treaty bodies when they receive communications that concern treaty provisions subject to reservations, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has produced a working paper. The working paper concluded that there remains an open question whether the Committee considers that one of its functions when examining an individual communication is to determine the permissibility of a reservation.

In the working paper, the Committee reiterated previous statements it has made expressing alarm about the number of states parties that have made reservations to all or part of article 16 of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which seeks to ensure the equal rights of men and women in marriage and family relations.

Specifically, some of the provisions of article 16 require states parties to ensure that men and women have the same right to choose a spouse and marry only with their free and full consent; the same rights and responsibilities during marriage, at its dissolution, and as parents regardless of marital status; the same right to decide the number and spacing of their children; the same personal rights as husband and wife, including the choice of a family name; and the same property rights.

The Committee has stated that “reservations to article 16, whether lodged for national, traditional, religious or cultural reasons, are incompatible with the Convention and therefore impermissible and should be reviewed and modified or withdrawn.” Under article 28, paragraph 2 of CEDAW, all reservations that are incompatible with the object and purpose of the convention are impermissible.

States parties to CEDAW that have made reservations to all or part of Article 16 include Algeria, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Egypt, France, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Micronesia, Monaco, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Syria, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

For the full working paper, click here. For a complete list of states parties that have made declarations, reservations and objections to CEDAW, click here.

Compiled from: “Working paper on reservations in the context of individual communications,” Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 20 May 2008; “Declarations, Reservations and Objections to CEDAW,” United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, last accessed 21 July 2008; “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” last accessed 21 July 2008