In a landmark decision for women, the UN General Assembly on October 6, 1999 acted without a vote to adopt the 21-article Optional Protocol to the CEDAW (OP-CEDAW). It called on all States Parties to the Convention to become party to the new instrument that recognizes the competence of the CEDAW Committee to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups within its jurisdiction.
The Protocol contains two procedures:
- A communications procedure allows individual women, or groups of women, to submit claims of violations of rights protected under the Convention to the Committee. The Protocol establishes that in order for individual communications to be admitted for consideration by the Committee, a number of criteria must be met, including those domestic remedies must have been exhausted.
- The Protocol also creates an inquiry procedure enabling the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. In either case, States must be party to the Convention and the Protocol. The Protocol 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 citizens of OP-CEDAW States Parties can avail of these procedures.
The OP-CEDAW entered into force on December 22, 2000 following the ratification of the 10th State Party to the Convention. The Philippines signed the OP-CEDAW on March 21, 2000 and ratified it on November 12, 2003. As of 2007, 88 have acceded to the Optional Protocol.
Click to view full text of Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women