INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS
compilation of general comments andgeneral recommendations adopted byhuman rights treaty bodies
Note by the Secretariat
This document contains a compilation of the general comments or general recommendations adopted, respectively, by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee on Migrant Workers has not yet adopted any general comments.
I.GENERAL COMMENTS ADOPTED BY THE COMMITTEE ONECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
General comment No. 1: Reporting by States parties
General comment No. 2: International technical assistance measures(art. 22 of the Covenant)
General comment No. 3: The nature of States parties’ obligations (art. 2, para. 1, of the Covenant)
General comment No. 4: The right to adequate housing (article 11 (1) of the Covenant)
General comment No. 5: Persons with disabilities
General comment No. 6: The economic, social and cultural rights ofolder persons
General comment No. 7: The right to adequate housing (art. 11 (1) of the Covenant): forced evictions
General comment No. 8: The relationship between economic sanctions and respect for economic, social and cultural rights
General comment No. 9: The domestic application of the Covenant
General comment No. 10: The role of national human rights institutionsin the protection of economic, social and cultural rights
General comment No. 11: Plans of action for primary education (art. 14)
General comment No. 12: The right to adequate food (art. 11)
General comment No. 13: The right to education (art. 13)
General comment No. 14: The right to the highest attainable standardof health (art. 12)
General comment No. 15: The right to water (arts. 11 and 12 of the Covenant)
General comment No. 16: The equal right of men and women to theenjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights (art. 3)
CONTENTS ( continued )
General comment No. 16: The equal right of men and women to theenjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights (art. 3)
General comment No. 17: The right of everyone to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he or she is the author (art. 15)
General comment No. 18: The right to work (art. 6)
General comment No. 19: The right to security (art. 9)
II.GENERAL COMMENTS ADOPTED BY THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
General comment No. 1: Reporting obligation
General comment No. 2: Reporting guidelines
General comment No. 3: Article 2 (Implementation at the national level)
General comment No. 4: Article 3 (Equal right of men and womento the enjoyment of all civil and political rights)
General comment No. 5: Article 4 (Derogations)
General comment No. 6: Article 6 (Right to life)
General comment No. 7: Article 7 (Prohibition of torture or cruel,inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment)
General comment No. 8: Article 9 (Right to liberty and security of persons)
General comment No. 9: Article 10 (Humane treatment of personsdeprived of their liberty)
General comment No. 10: Article 19 (Freedom of opinion)
General comment No. 11: Article 20
General comment No. 12: Article 1 (Right to self-determination)
General comment No. 13: Article 14 (Administration of justice)
General comment No. 14: Article 6 (Right to life)
CONTENTS ( continued )
General comment No. 15: The position of aliens under the Covenant
General comment No. 16: Article 17 (Right to privacy)
General comment No. 17: Article 24 (Rights of the child)
General comment No. 18: Non-discrimination
General comment No. 19: Article 23 (The family)
General comment No. 20: Article 7 (Prohibition of torture, or othercruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment)
General comment No. 21: Article 10 (Humane treatment of personsdeprived of their liberty)
General comment No. 22: Article 18 (Freedom of thought, conscienceor religion)
General comment No. 23: Article 27 (Rights of minorities)
General comment No. 24: Issues relating to reservations madeupon ratification or accession to the Covenant or the Optional Protocolsthereto, or in relation to declarations under article 41 of the Covenant
General comment No. 25: Article 25 (Participation in public affairsand the right to vote)
General comment No. 26: Continuity of obligations
General comment No. 27: Article 12 (Freedom of movement)
General comment No. 28: Article 3 (The equality of rights betweenmen and women)
General comment No. 29: Article 4: Derogations during a stateof emergency
General comment No. 30: Reporting obligations of States partiesunder article 40 of the Covenant
General comment No. 31: The Nature of the General Legal Obligation Imposed on States Parties to the Covenant
General comment No. 32: Right to equality before courts and tribunals and to a fair trial
CONTENTS ( continued )
III.GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS ADOPTED BY THE COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION269
General recommendation I concerning States parties’ obligations (art. 4 of the Convention)269
General recommendation II concerning States parties’ obligations269
General recommendation III concerning reporting by States parties270
General recommendation IV concerning reporting by States parties (art. 1 of the Convention)271
General recommendation V concerning reporting by States parties (art. 7 of the Convention)271
General recommendation VI concerning overdue reports272
General recommendation VII relating to the implementation of article 4273
General recommendation VIII concerning the interpretation and application of article 1, paragraphs 1 and 4 of the Convention274
General recommendation IX concerning the application of article 8, paragraph 1, of the Convention274
General recommendation X concerning technical assistance275
General recommendation XI on non-citizens275
General recommendation XII on successor States276
General recommendation XIII on the training of law enforcement officials in the protection of human rights276
General recommendation XIV on article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention277
General recommendation XV on article 4 of the Convention277
General recommendation XVI concerning the application of article 9 of the Convention279
General recommendation XVII on the establishment of national institutions to facilitate the implementation of the Convention279
CONTENTS ( continued )
General recommendation XVIII on the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity280
General recommendation XIX on article 3 of the Convention281
General recommendation XX on article 5 of the Convention281
General recommendation XXI on the right to self-determination282
General recommendation XXII on article 5 of the Convention on refugees and displaced persons284
General recommendation XXIII on the rights of indigenous peoples285
General recommendation XXIV concerning article 1 of the Convention286
General recommendation XXV on gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination287
General recommendation XXVI on article 6 of the Convention288
General recommendation XXVII on discrimination against Roma289
General recommendation XXVIII on the follow-up to the World Conferenceagainst Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance294
General recommendation XXIX on article 1, paragraph 1,of the Convention (Descent)296
General recommendation XXX on discrimination against non-citizens301
General recommendation XXXI on the prevention of racial discriminationin the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system306
IV.GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS ADOPTED BY THE COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN318
General recommendation No. 1: Reporting by States parties318
General recommendation No. 2: Reporting by States parties318
General recommendation No. 3: Education and public information campaigns319
CONTENTS ( continued )
General recommendation No. 4: Reservations319
General recommendation No. 5: Temporary special measures320
General recommendation No. 6: Effective national machinery and publicity320
General recommendation No. 7: Resources321
General recommendation No. 8: Implementation of article 8 of the Convention322
General recommendation No. 9: Statistical data concerning the situation of women322
General recommendation No. 10: Tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women323
General recommendation No. 11: Technical advisory services forreportingobligations324
General recommendation No. 12: Violence against women324
General recommendation No. 13: Equal remuneration for work of equal value325
General recommendation No. 14: Female circumcision326
General recommendation No. 15: Avoidance of discrimination against women in national strategies for the prevention and control of acquired mmunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)327
General recommendation No. 16: Unpaid women workers in rural and urban family enterprises328
General recommendation No. 17: Measurement and quantification of the unremunerated domestic activities of women and their recognition in the gross national product329
General recommendation No. 18: Disabled women330
General recommendation No. 19: Violence against women331
General recommendation No. 20: Reservations to the Convention336
General recommendation No. 21: Equality in marriage and family relations337
CONTENTS ( continued )
General recommendation No. 22: Amending article 20 of the Convention346
General recommendation No. 23: Political and public life347
General recommendation No. 24: Article 12 of the Convention (women and health)358
General recommendation No. 25: Article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention (temporary special measures)365
V.GENERAL COMMENTS ADOPTED BY THE COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE374
General comment No. 1: Implementation of article 3 of the Convention in the context of article 22 (Refoulement and communications)374
General comment No. 2: Implementation of article 2 by States parties376
VI.GENERAL COMMENTS ADOPTED BY THE COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD384
General comment No. 1: The aims of education384
General comment No. 2: The role of independent national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child391
General comment No. 3: HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child398
General comment No. 4: Adolescent health and development in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child410
General comment No. 5: General measures of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (arts. 4, 42 and 44, para. 6)421
General comment No. 6: Treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin441
General comment No. 7: Implementing child rights in early childhood466
General comment No. 8: The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment (arts. 19; 28, para. 2; and 37, inter alia)485
General comment No. 9: The rights of children with disabilities497
General comment No. 10: Children’s rights in juvenile justice519
III.GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS ADOPTED BY THE COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
According to article 9, paragraph 2, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Committee may make suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of the reports and information received from the States parties. Such suggestions and general recommendations shall be reported to the General Assembly together with comments, if any, from States parties. The Committee has so far adopted a total of 18 general recommendations.
Fifth session (1972)*
General recommendation I concerning States parties’ obligations(art. 4 of the Convention)
On the basis of the consideration at its fifth session of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Committee found that the legislation of a number of States parties did not include the provisions envisaged in article 4 (a) and (b) of the Convention, the implementation of which (with due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights expressly set forth in article 5 of the Convention) is obligatory under the Convention for all States parties.
The Committee accordingly recommends that the States parties whose legislation was deficient in this respect should consider, in accordance with their national legislative procedures, the question of supplementing their legislation with provisions conforming to the requirements of article 4 (a) and (b) of the Convention.
Fifth session (1972) *
General recommendation II concerning States parties’ obligations
The Committee has considered some reports from States parties which expressed or implied the belief that the information mentioned in the Committee’s communication of 28 January 1970 (CERD/C/R.12), need not be supplied by States parties on whose territories racial discrimination does not exist.
However, inasmuch as, in accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, all States parties undertake to submit reports on the measures that they have adopted and that give effect to the provisions of the Convention and, since all the categories of information listed in the Committee’s communication of 28 January 1970 refer to obligations undertaken by the States parties under the Convention, that communication is addressed to all States parties without distinction, whether or not racial discrimination exists in their respective territories. The Committee welcomes the inclusion in the reports from all States parties, which have not done so, of the necessary information in conformity with all the headings set out in the aforementioned communication of the Committee.
Sixth session (1972)*
General recommendation III concerning reporting by States parties
The Committee has considered some reports from States parties containing information about measures taken to implement resolutions of United Nations organs concerning relations with the racist regimes in southern Africa.
The Committee notes that, in the tenth paragraph of the preamble to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, States parties have “resolved”, inter alia, “to build an international community free from all forms of racial segregation and racial discrimination”.
It notes also that, in article 3 of the Convention, “States parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid”.
Furthermore, the Committee notes that, in resolution 2784 (XXVI), section III, the General Assembly, immediately after taking note with appreciation of the Committee’s second annual report and endorsing certain opinions and recommendations, submitted by it, proceeded to call upon “all the trading partners of South Africa to abstain from any action that constitutes an encouragement to the continued violation of the principles and objectives of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by South Africa and the illegal regime in Southern Rhodesia”.
The Committee expresses the view that measures adopted on the national level to give effect to the provisions of the Convention are interrelated with measures taken on the international level to encourage respect everywhere for the principles of the Convention.
The Committee welcomes the inclusion in the reports submitted under article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention, by any State party which chooses to do so, of information regarding the status of its diplomatic, economic and other relations with the racist regimes in southern Africa.
Eighth session (1973)*
General recommendation IV concerning reporting by States parties(art. 1 of the Convention)
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Having considered reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination at its seventh and eighth sessions,
Bearing in mind the need for the reports sent by States parties to the Committee to be as informative as possible,
Invites States parties to endeavour to include in their reports under article 9 relevant information on the demographic composition of the population referred to in the provisions of article 1 of the Convention.
Fifteenth session (1977)**
General recommendation V concerning reporting by States parties (art. 7 of the Convention)
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Bearing in mind the provisions of articles 7 and 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Convinced that combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination, promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among racial and ethnic groups, and propagating the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and of the human rights declarations and other relevant instruments adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, are important and effective means of eliminating racial discrimination,
Considering that the obligations under article 7 of the Convention, which are binding on all States parties, must be fulfilled by them, including States which declare that racial discrimination is not practised on the territories under their jurisdiction, and that therefore all States parties are required to include information on their implementation of the provisions of that article in the reports they submit in accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention,
Noting with regret that few States parties have included, in the reports they have submitted in accordance with article 9 of the Convention, information on the measures which they have adopted and which give effect to the provisions of article 7 of the Convention, and that that information has often been general and perfunctory,
Recalling that, in accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention, the Committee may request further information from the States parties,
1.Requests every State party which has not already done so to include - in the next report it will submit in accordance with article 9 of the Convention, or in a special report before its next periodic report becomes due - adequate information on the measures which it has adopted and which give effect to the provisions of article 7 of the Convention;
2.Invites the attention of States parties to the fact that, in accordance with article 7 of the Convention, the information to which the preceding paragraph refers should include information on the “immediate and effective measures” which they have adopted, “in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information”, with a view to:
(a)“Combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination”;
(b)“Promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups”;
(c)“Propagating the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” as well as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Twenty-fifth session (1982)*
General recommendation VI concerning overdue reports
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Recognizing the fact that an impressive number of States has ratified, or acceded to, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Bearing in mind, however, that ratification alone does not enable the control system set up by the Convention to function effectively,
Recalling that article 9 of the Convention obliges States parties to submit initial and periodic reports on the measures that give effect to the provisions of the Convention,
Stating that at present no less than 89 reports are overdue from 62 States, that 42 of those reports are overdue from 15 States, each with two or more outstanding reports, and that four initial reports which were due between 1973 and 1978 have not been received,
Noting with regret that neither reminders sent through the Secretary-General to States parties nor the inclusion of the relevant information in the annual reports to the General Assembly has had the desired effect, in all cases,
Invites the General Assembly:
(a)To take note of the situation;
(b)To use its authority in order to ensure that the Committee could more effectively fulfil its obligations under the Convention.
Thirty-second session (1985)*
General recommendation VII relating to the implementationof article 4
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Having considered periodic reports of States parties for a period of 16 years, and in over 100 cases sixth, seventh and eighth periodic reports of States parties,
Recalling and reaffirming its general recommendation I of 24 February 1972 and its decision 3 (VII) of 4 May 1973,
Noting with satisfaction that in a number of reports States parties have provided information on specific cases dealing with the implementation of article 4 of the Convention with regard to acts of racial discrimination,
Noting, however, that in a number of States parties the necessary legislation to implement article 4 of the Convention has not been enacted, and that many States parties have not yet fulfilled all the requirements of article 4 (a) and (b) of the Convention,
Further recalling that, in accordance with the first paragraph of article 4, States parties “undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination”, with due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights expressly set forth in article 5 of the Convention,
Bearing in mind the preventive aspects of article 4 to deter racism and racial discrimination as well as activities aimed at their promotion or incitement,
1.Recommends that those States parties whose legislation does not satisfy the provisions of article 4 (a) and (b) of the Convention take the necessary steps with a view to satisfying the mandatory requirements of that article;
2.Requests that those States parties which have not yet done so inform the Committee more fully in their periodic reports of the manner and extent to which the provisions of article 4 (a) and (b) are effectively implemented and quote the relevant parts of the texts in their reports;
3.Further requests those States parties which have not yet done so to endeavour to provide in their periodic reports more information concerning decisions taken by the competent national tribunals and other State institutions regarding acts of racial discrimination and in particular those offences dealt with in article 4 (a) and (b).
Thirty-eighth session (1990)*
General recommendation VIII concerning the interpretation andapplication of article 1, paragraphs 1 and 4 of the Convention
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Having considered reports from States parties concerning information about the ways in which individuals are identified as being members of a particular racial or ethnic group or groups,
Is of the opinion that such identification shall, if no justification exists to the contrary, be based upon self-identification by the individual concerned.
Thirty-eighth session (1990) *
General recommendation IX concerning the application of article 8, paragraph 1, of the Convention
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Considering that respect for the independence of the experts is essential to secure full
observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Recalling article 8, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Alarmed by the tendency of the representatives of States, organizations and groups to put pressure upon experts, especially those serving as country rapporteurs,
Strongly recommends that they respect unreservedly the status of its members as independent experts of acknowledged impartiality serving in their personal capacity.
Thirty-ninth session (1991)*
General recommendation X concerning technical assistance
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Taking note of the recommendation of the third meeting of persons chairing the human rights treaty bodies, as endorsed by the General Assembly at its forty-fifth session, to the effect that a series of seminars or workshops should be organized at the national level for the purpose of training those involved in the preparation of State party reports,
Concerned over the continued failure of certain States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to meet their reporting obligations under the Convention,
Believing that training courses and workshops organized on the national level might prove of immeasurable assistance to officials responsible for the preparation of such State party reports,
1.Requests the Secretary-General to organize, in consultation with the States parties concerned, appropriate national training courses and workshops for their reporting officials as soon as practicable;
2.Recommends that the services of the staff of the Centre for Human Rights as well as of the experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination should be utilized, as appropriate, in the conduct of such training courses and workshops.
Forty-second session (1993)**
General recommendation XI on non-citizens
1.Article 1, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination defines racial discrimination. Article 1, paragraph 2, excepts from this definition actions by a State party which differentiate between citizens and non-citizens. Article 1, paragraph 3, qualifies article 1, paragraph 2, by declaring that, among non-citizens, States parties may not discriminate against any particular nationality.
2.The Committee has noted that article 1, paragraph 2, has on occasion been interpreted as absolving States parties from any obligation to report on matters relating to legislation on foreigners. The Committee therefore affirms that States parties are under an obligation to report fully upon legislation on foreigners and its implementation.
3.The Committee further affirms that article 1, paragraph 2, must not be interpreted to detract in any way from the rights and freedoms recognized and enunciated in other instruments, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Forty-second session (1993)*
General recommendation XII on successor States
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Emphasizing the importance of universal participation of States in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Taking into account the emergence of successor States as a result of the dissolution of States,
1.Encourages successor States that have not yet done so to confirm to the Secretary‑General, as depositary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, that they continue to be bound by obligations under that Convention, if predecessor States were parties to it;
2.Invites successor States that have not yet done so to accede to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination if predecessor States were not parties to it;
3.Invites successor States to consider the importance of making the declaration under article 14, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, recognizing the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to receive and consider individual communications.
Forty-second session (1993) *
General recommendation XIII on the training of law enforcementofficials in the protection of human rights
1.In accordance with article 2, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, States parties have undertaken that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, will not engage in any practice of racial discrimination; further, States parties have undertaken to guarantee the rights listed in article 5 of the Convention to everyone without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
2.The fulfilment of these obligations very much depends upon national law enforcement officials who exercise police powers, especially the powers of detention or arrest, and upon whether they are properly informed about the obligations their State has entered into under the Convention. Law enforcement officials should receive intensive training to ensure that in the performance of their duties they respect as well as protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons without distinction as to race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
3.In the implementation of article 7 of the Convention, the Committee calls upon States parties to review and improve the training of law enforcement officials so that the standards of the Convention as well as the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (1979) are fully implemented. They should also include respective information thereupon in their periodic reports.
Forty-second session (1993)*
General recommendation XIV on article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention
1.Non-discrimination, together with equality before the law and equal protection of the law without any discrimination, constitutes a basic principle in the protection of human rights. The Committee wishes to draw the attention of States parties to certain features of the definition of racial discrimination in article 1, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is of the opinion that the words “based on” do not bear any meaning different from “on the grounds of” in preambular paragraph 7. A distinction is contrary to the Convention if it has either the purpose or the effect of impairing particular rights and freedoms. This is confirmed by the obligation placed upon States parties by article 2, paragraph 1 (c), to nullify any law or practice which has the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination.
2.The Committee observes that a differentiation of treatment will not constitute discrimination if the criteria for such differentiation, judged against the objectives and purposes of the Convention, are legitimate or fall within the scope of article 1, paragraph 4, of the Convention. In considering the criteria that may have been employed, the Committee will acknowledge that particular actions may have varied purposes. In seeking to determine whether an action has an effect contrary to the Convention, it will look to see whether that action has an unjustifiable disparate impact upon a group distinguished by race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.
3.Article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention also refers to the political, economic, social and cultural fields; the related rights and freedoms are set up in article 5.
Forty-second session (1993) *
General recommendation XV on article 4 of the Convention
1.When the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was being adopted, article 4 was regarded as central to the struggle against racial discrimination. At that time, there was a widespread fear of the revival of authoritarian ideologies. The proscription of the dissemination of ideas of racial superiority, and of organized activity likely to incite persons to racial violence, was properly regarded as crucial. Since that time, the Committee has received evidence of organized violence based on ethnic origin and the political exploitation of ethnic difference. As a result, implementation of article 4 is now of increased importance.
2.The Committee recalls its general recommendation VII in which it explained that the provisions of article 4 are of a mandatory character. To satisfy these obligations, States parties have not only to enact appropriate legislation but also to ensure that it is effectively enforced. Because threats and acts of racial violence easily lead to other such acts and generate an atmosphere of hostility, only immediate intervention can meet the obligations of effective response.
3.Article 4 (a) requires States parties to penalize four categories of misconduct: (i) dissemination of ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred; (ii) incitement to racial hatred; (iii) acts of violence against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin; and (iv) incitement to such acts.
4.In the opinion of the Committee, the prohibition of the dissemination of all ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred is compatible with the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right is embodied in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is recalled in article 5 (d) (viii) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Its relevance to article 4 is noted in the article itself. The citizen’s exercise of this right carries special duties and responsibilities, specified in article 29, paragraph 2, of the Universal Declaration, among which the obligation not to disseminate racist ideas is of particular importance. The Committee wishes, furthermore, to draw to the attention of States parties article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to which any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
5.Article 4 (a) also penalizes the financing of racist activities, which the Committee takes to include all the activities mentioned in paragraph 3 above, that is to say, activities deriving from ethnic as well as racial differences. The Committee calls upon States parties to investigate whether their national law and its implementation meet this requirement.
6.Some States have maintained that in their legal order it is inappropriate to declare illegal an organization before its members have promoted or incited racial discrimination. The Committee is of the opinion that article 4 (b) places a greater burden upon such States to be vigilant in proceeding against such organizations at the earliest moment. These organizations, as well as organized and other propaganda activities, have to be declared illegal and prohibited. Participation in these organizations is, of itself, to be punished.
7.Article 4 (c) of the Convention outlines the obligations of public authorities. Public authorities at all administrative levels, including municipalities, are bound by this paragraph. The Committee holds that States parties must ensure that they observe these obligations and report on this.
Forty-second session (1993)*
General recommendation XVI concerning the application of article 9 of the Convention
1.Under article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, States parties have undertaken to submit, through the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for consideration by the Committee, reports on measures taken by them to give effect to the provisions of the Convention.
2.With respect to this obligation of the States parties, the Committee has noted that, on some occasions, reports have made references to situations existing in other States.
3.For this reason, the Committee wishes to remind States parties of the provisions of article 9 of the Convention concerning the content of their reports, while bearing in mind article 11, which is the only procedural means available to States for drawing to the attention of the Committee situations in which they consider that some other State is not giving effect to the provisions of the Convention.
Forty-second session (1993) *
General recommendation XVII on the establishment of nationalinstitutions to facilitate the implementation of the Convention
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Considering the practice of States parties concerning the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Convinced of the necessity to encourage further the establishment of national institutions to facilitate the implementation of the Convention,
Emphasizing the need to strengthen further the implementation of the Convention,
1.Recommends that States parties establish national commissions or other appropriate bodies, taking into account, mutatis mutandis, the principles relating to the status of national institutions annexed to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1992/54 of 3 March 1992, to serve, inter alia, the following purposes:
(a)To promote respect for the enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination, as expressly set out in article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;
(b)To review government policy towards protection against racial discrimination;
(c)To monitor legislative compliance with the provisions of the Convention;
(d)To educate the public about the obligations of States parties under the Convention;
(e)To assist the Government in the preparation of reports submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination;
2.Also recommends that, where such commissions have been established, they should be associated with the preparation of reports and possibly included in government delegations in order to intensify the dialogue between the Committee and the State party concerned.
Forty-fourth session (1994)*
General recommendation XVIII on the establishment of an internationaltribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Alarmed at the increasing number of racially and ethnically motivated massacres and atrocities occurring in different regions of the world,
Convinced that the impunity of the perpetrators is a major factor contributing to the occurrence and recurrence of these crimes,
Convinced of the need to establish, as quickly as possible, an international tribunal with general jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 thereto,
Taking into account the work already done on this question by the International Law Commission and the encouragement given in this regard by the General Assembly in its resolution 48/31 of 9 December 1993,
Also taking into account Security Council resolution 872 (1993) of 25 May 1993 establishing an international tribunal for the purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia,
1.Considers that an international tribunal with general jurisdiction should be established urgently to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds and other inhumane acts directed against any civilian population, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 thereto;
2.Urges the Secretary-General to bring the present recommendation to the attention of the competent organs and bodies of the United Nations, including the Security Council;
3.Requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that all relevant information pertaining to the crimes referred to in paragraph 1 is systematically collected by the Centre for Human Rights so that it can be readily available to the international tribunal as soon as it is established.
Forty-seventh session (1995)*
General recommendation XIX on article 3 of the Convention
1.The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls the attention of States parties to the wording of article 3, by which States parties undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of racial segregation and apartheid in territories under their jurisdiction. The reference to apartheid may have been directed exclusively to South Africa, but the article as adopted prohibits all forms of racial segregation in all countries.
2.The Committee believes that the obligation to eradicate all practices of this nature includes the obligation to eradicate the consequences of such practices undertaken or tolerated by previous Governments in the State or imposed by forces outside the State.
3.The Committee observes that while conditions of complete or partial racial segregation may in some countries have been created by governmental policies, a condition of partial segregation may also arise as an unintended by-product of the actions of private persons. In many cities residential patterns are influenced by group differences in income, which are sometimes combined with differences of race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin, so that inhabitants can be stigmatized and individuals suffer a form of discrimination in which racial grounds are mixed with other grounds.
4.The Committee therefore affirms that a condition of racial segregation can also arise without any initiative or direct involvement by the public authorities. It invites States parties to monitor all trends which can give rise to racial segregation, to work for the eradication of any negative consequences that ensue, and to describe any such action in their periodic reports.
Forty-eighth session (1996)**
General recommendation XX on article 5 of the Convention
1.Article 5 of the Convention contains the obligation of States parties to guarantee the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms without racial discrimination. Note should be taken that the rights and freedoms mentioned in article 5 do not constitute an exhaustive list. At the head of these rights and freedoms are those deriving from the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as recalled in the preamble to the Convention. Most of these rights have been elaborated in the International Covenants on Human Rights. All States parties are therefore obliged to acknowledge and protect the enjoyment of human rights, but the manner in which these obligations are translated into the legal orders of States parties may differ. Article 5 of the Convention, apart from requiring a guarantee that the exercise of human rights shall be free from racial discrimination, does not of itself create civil, political, economic, social or cultural rights, but assumes the existence and recognition of these rights. The Convention obliges States to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in the enjoyment of such human rights.
2.Whenever a State imposes a restriction upon one of the rights listed in article 5 of the Convention which applies ostensibly to all within its jurisdiction, it must ensure that neither in purpose nor effect is the restriction incompatible with article 1 of the Convention as an integral part of international human rights standards. To ascertain whether this is the case, the Committee is obliged to inquire further to make sure that any such restriction does not entail racial discrimination.
3.Many of the rights and freedoms mentioned in article 5, such as the right to equal treatment before tribunals, are to be enjoyed by all persons living in a given State; others such as the right to participate in elections, to vote and to stand for election are the rights of citizens.
4.The States parties are recommended to report about the non-discriminatory implementation of each of the rights and freedoms referred to in article 5 of the Convention one by one.
5.The rights and freedoms referred to in article 5 of the Convention and any similar rights shall be protected by a State party. Such protection may be achieved in different ways, be it by the use of public institutions or through the activities of private institutions. In any case, it is the obligation of the State party concerned to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention and to report thereon under article 9 of the Convention. To the extent that private institutions influence the exercise of rights or the availability of opportunities, the State party must ensure that the result has neither the purpose nor the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination.
Forty-eighth session (1996)*
General recommendation XXI on the right to self-determination
1.The Committee notes that ethnic or religious groups or minorities frequently refer to the right to self‑determination as a basis for an alleged right to secession. In this connection the Committee wishes to express the following views.
2.The right to self‑determination of peoples is a fundamental principle of international law. It is enshrined in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, in article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as in other international human rights instruments. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for the rights of peoples to self‑determination besides the right of ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion or to use their own language.
3.The Committee emphasizes that in accordance with the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970, it is the duty of States to promote the right to self‑determination of peoples. But the implementation of the principle of self‑determination requires every State to promote, through joint and separate action, universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. In this context the Committee draws the attention of Governments to the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/135 of 18 December 1992.
4.In respect of the self‑determination of peoples two aspects have to be distinguished. The right to self‑determination of peoples has an internal aspect, that is to say, the rights of all peoples to pursue freely their economic, social and cultural development without outside interference. In that respect there exists a link with the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs at any level, as referred to in article 5 (c) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In consequence, Governments are to represent the whole population without distinction as to race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. The external aspect of self‑determination implies that all peoples have the right to determine freely their political status and their place in the international community based upon the principle of equal rights and exemplified by the liberation of peoples from colonialism and by the prohibition to subject peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation.
5.In order to respect fully the rights of all peoples within a State, Governments are again called upon to adhere to and implement fully the international human rights instruments and in particular the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Concern for the protection of individual rights without discrimination on racial, ethnic, tribal, religious or other grounds must guide the policies of Governments. In accordance with article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and other relevant international documents, Governments should be sensitive towards the rights of persons belonging to ethnic groups, particularly their right to lead lives of dignity, to preserve their culture, to share equitably in the fruits of national growth and to play their part in the Government of the country of which they are citizens. Also, Governments should consider, within their respective constitutional frameworks, vesting persons belonging to ethnic or linguistic groups comprised of their citizens, where appropriate, with the right to engage in activities which are particularly relevant to the preservation of the identity of such persons or groups.
6.The Committee emphasizes that, in accordance with the Declaration on Friendly Relations, none of the Committee’s actions shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self‑determination of peoples and possessing a Government representing the whole people belonging to the territory, without distinction as to race, creed or colour. In the view of the Committee, international law has not recognized a general right of peoples unilaterally to declare secession from a State. In this respect, the Committee follows the views expressed in An Agenda for Peace (paragraphs 17 and following), namely, that a fragmentation of States may be detrimental to the protection of human rights, as well as to the preservation of peace and security. This does not, however, exclude the possibility of arrangements reached by free agreements of all parties concerned.
Forty-ninth session (1996)*
General recommendation XXII on article 5 of the Conventionon refugees and displaced persons
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Conscious of the fact that foreign military, non‑military and/or ethnic conflicts have resulted in massive flows of refugees and the displacement of persons on the basis of ethnic criteria in many parts of the world,
Considering that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination proclaim that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set out therein, without distinction of any kind, in particular as to race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin,
Recalling the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees as the main source of the international system for the protection of refugees in general,
1.Draws the attention of States parties to article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as well as the Committee’s general recommendation XX (48) on article 5, and reiterates that the Convention obliges States parties to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms;
2.Emphasizes in this respect that:
(a)All such refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin under conditions of safety;
(b)States parties are obliged to ensure that the return of such refugees and displaced persons is voluntary and to observe the principle of non‑refoulement and non‑expulsion of refugees;
(c)All such refugees and displaced persons have, after their return to their homes of origin, the right to have restored to them property of which they were deprived in the course of the conflict and to be compensated appropriately for any such property that cannot be restored to them. Any commitments or statements relating to such property made under duress are null and void;
(d)All such refugees and displaced persons have, after their return to their homes of origin, the right to participate fully and equally in public affairs at all levels and to have equal access to public services and to receive rehabilitation assistance.
Fifty-first session (1997)*
General recommendation XXIII on the rights of indigenous peoples
1.In the practice of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in particular in the examination of reports of States parties under article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the situation of indigenous peoples has always been a matter of close attention and concern. In this respect, the Committee has consistently affirmed that discrimination against indigenous peoples falls under the scope of the Convention and that all appropriate means must be taken to combat and eliminate such discrimination.
2.The Committee, noting that the General Assembly proclaimed the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples commencing on 10 December 1994, reaffirms that the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination apply to indigenous peoples.
3.The Committee is conscious of the fact that in many regions of the world indigenous peoples have been, and are still being, discriminated against and deprived of their human rights and fundamental freedoms and in particular that they have lost their land and resources to colonists, commercial companies and State enterprises. Consequently, the preservation of their culture and their historical identity has been and still is jeopardized.
4.The Committee calls in particular upon States parties to:
(a)Recognize and respect indigenous distinct culture, history, language and way of life as an enrichment of the State’s cultural identity and to promote its preservation;
(b)Ensure that members of indigenous peoples are free and equal in dignity and rights and free from any discrimination, in particular that based on indigenous origin or identity;
(c)Provide indigenous peoples with conditions allowing for a sustainable economic and social development compatible with their cultural characteristics;
(d)Ensure that members of indigenous peoples have equal rights in respect of effective participation in public life and that no decisions directly relating to their rights and interests are taken without their informed consent;
(e)Ensure that indigenous communities can exercise their rights to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs and to preserve and to practise their languages.
5.The Committee especially calls upon States parties to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources and, where they have been deprived of their lands and territories traditionally owned or otherwise inhabited or used without their free and informed consent, to take steps to return those lands and territories. Only when this is for factual reasons not possible, the right to restitution should be substituted by the right to just, fair and prompt compensation. Such compensation should as far as possible take the form of lands and territories.
6.The Committee further calls upon States parties with indigenous peoples in their territories to include in their periodic reports full information on the situation of such peoples, taking into account all relevant provisions of the Convention.
Fifty-fifth session (1999)*
General recommendation XXIV concerning article 1 of the Convention
1.The Committee stresses that, according to the definition given in article 1, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention relates to all persons who belong to different races, national or ethnic groups or to indigenous peoples. If the Committee is to secure the proper consideration of the periodic reports of States parties, it is essential that States parties provide as far as possible the Committee with information on the presence within their territory of such groups.
2.It appears from the periodic reports submitted to the Committee under article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and from other information received by the Committee, that a number of States parties recognize the presence on their territory of some national or ethnic groups or indigenous peoples, while disregarding others. Certain criteria should be uniformly applied to all groups, in particular the number of persons concerned, and their being of a race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin different from the majority or from other groups within the population.
3.Some States parties fail to collect data on the ethnic or national origin of their citizens or of other persons living on their territory, but decide at their own discretion which groups constitute ethnic groups or indigenous peoples that are to be recognized and treated as such. The Committee believes that there is an international standard concerning the specific rights of people belonging to such groups, together with generally recognized norms concerning equal rights for all and non‑discrimination, including those incorporated in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. At the same time, the Committee draws to the attention of States parties that the application of different criteria in order to determine ethnic groups or indigenous peoples, leading to the recognition of some and refusal to recognize others, may give rise to differing treatment for various groups within a country’s population.
4.The Committee recalls general recommendation IV, which it adopted at its eighth session in 1973, and paragraph 8 of the general guidelines regarding the form and contents of reports to be submitted by States parties under article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention (CERD/C/70/Rev.3), inviting States parties to endeavour to include in their periodic reports relevant information on the demographic composition of their population, in the light of the provisions of article 1 of the Convention, that is, as appropriate, information on race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin.
Fifty-sixth session (2000)
General recommendation XXV on gender-related dimensionsof racial discrimination
1.The Committee notes that racial discrimination does not always affect women and men equally or in the same way. There are circumstances in which racial discrimination only or primarily affects women, or affects women in a different way, or to a different degree than men. Such racial discrimination will often escape detection if there is no explicit recognition or acknowledgement of the different life experiences of women and men, in areas of both public and private life.
2.Certain forms of racial discrimination may be directed towards women specifically because of their gender, such as sexual violence committed against women members of particular racial or ethnic groups in detention or during armed conflict; the coerced sterilization of indigenous women; abuse of women workers in the informal sector or domestic workers employed abroad by their employers. Racial discrimination may have consequences that affect primarily or only women, such as pregnancy resulting from racial bias‑motivated rape; in some societies women victims of such rape may also be ostracized. Women may also be further hindered by a lack of access to remedies and complaint mechanisms for racial discrimination because of gender‑related impediments, such as gender bias in the legal system and discrimination against women in private spheres of life.
3.Recognizing that some forms of racial discrimination have a unique and specific impact on women, the Committee will endeavour in its work to take into account gender factors or issues which may be interlinked with racial discrimination. The Committee believes that its practices in this regard would benefit from developing, in conjunction with the States parties, a more systematic and consistent approach to evaluating and monitoring racial discrimination against women, as well as the disadvantages, obstacles and difficulties women face in the full exercise and enjoyment of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights on grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.
4.Accordingly, the Committee, when examining forms of racial discrimination, intends to enhance its efforts to integrate gender perspectives, incorporate gender analysis, and encourage the use of gender‑inclusive language in its sessional working methods, including its review of reports submitted by States parties, concluding observations, early warning mechanisms and urgent action procedures, and general recommendations.
5.As part of the methodology for fully taking into account the gender-related dimensions of racial discrimination, the Committee will include in its sessional working methods an analysis of the relationship between gender and racial discrimination, by giving particular consideration to:
(a)The form and manifestation of racial discrimination;
(b)The circumstances in which racial discrimination occurs;
(c)The consequences of racial discrimination; and
(d)The availability and accessibility of remedies and complaint mechanisms for racial discrimination.
6.Noting that reports submitted by States parties often do not contain specific or sufficient information on the implementation of the Convention with respect to women, States parties are requested to describe, as far as possible in quantitative and qualitative terms, factors affecting and difficulties experienced in ensuring the equal enjoyment by women, free from racial discrimination, of rights under the Convention. Data which have been categorized by race or ethnic origin, and which are then disaggregated by gender within those racial or ethnic groups, will allow the States parties and the Committee to identify, compare and take steps to remedy forms of racial discrimination against women that may otherwise go unnoticed and unaddressed.
1391st meeting, 20 March 2000
Fifty-sixth session (2000)
General recommendation XXVI on article 6 of the Convention
1.The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination believes that the degree to which acts of racial discrimination and racial insults damage the injured party’s perception of his/her own worth and reputation is often underestimated.
2.The Committee notifies States parties that, in its opinion, the right to seek just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination, which is embodied in article 6 of the Convention, is not necessarily secured solely by the punishment of the perpetrator of the discrimination; at the same time, the courts and other competent authorities should consider awarding financial compensation for damage, material or moral, suffered by a victim, whenever appropriate.
1399th meeting, 24 March 2000
Fifty-seventh session (2000)
General recommendation XXVII on discrimination against Roma
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Having in mind the submissions from States parties to the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, their periodic reports submitted under article 9 of the Convention, as well as the concluding observations adopted by the Committee in connection with the consideration of States parties’ periodic reports,
Having organized a thematic discussion on the issue of discrimination against Roma and received the contributions of members of the Committee, as well as contributions by experts from United Nations bodies and other treaty bodies and from regional organizations,
Having also received the contributions of interested non‑governmental organizations, both orally during the informal meeting organized with them and through written information,
Taking into account the provisions of the Convention,
Recommends that the States parties to the Convention, taking into account their specific situations, adopt for the benefit of members of the Roma communities, inter alia, all or part of the following measures, as appropriate.
1. Measures of a general nature
1.To review and enact or amend legislation, as appropriate, in order to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination against Roma as against other persons or groups, in accordance with the Convention.
2.To adopt and implement national strategies and programmes and express determined political will and moral leadership, with a view to improving the situation of Roma and their protection against discrimination by State bodies, as well as by any person or organization.
3.To respect the wishes of Roma as to the designation they want to be given and the group to which they want to belong.
4.To ensure that legislation regarding citizenship and naturalization does not discriminate against members of Roma communities.
5.To take all necessary measures in order to avoid any form of discrimination against immigrants or asylum-seekers of Roma origin.
6.To take into account, in all programmes and projects planned and implemented and in all measures adopted, the situation of Roma women, who are often victims of double discrimination.
7.To take appropriate measures to secure for members of Roma communities effective remedies and to ensure that justice is fully and promptly done in cases concerning violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.
8.To develop and encourage appropriate modalities of communication and dialogue between Roma communities and central and local authorities.
9.To endeavour, by encouraging a genuine dialogue, consultations or other appropriate means, to improve the relations between Roma communities and non-Roma communities, in particular at local levels, with a view to promoting tolerance and overcoming prejudices and negative stereotypes on both sides, to promoting efforts for adjustment and adaptation and to avoiding discrimination and ensuring that all persons fully enjoy their human rights and freedoms.
10.To acknowledge wrongs done during the Second World War to Roma communities by deportation and extermination and consider ways of compensating for them.
11.To take the necessary measures, in cooperation with civil society, and initiate projects to develop the political culture and educate the population as a whole in a spirit of non‑discrimination, respect for others and tolerance, in particular concerning Roma.
2. Measures for protection against racial violence
12.To ensure protection of the security and integrity of Roma, without any discrimination, by adopting measures for preventing racially motivated acts of violence against them; to ensure prompt action by the police, the prosecutors and the judiciary for investigating and punishing such acts; and to ensure that perpetrators, be they public officials or other persons, do not enjoy any degree of impunity.
13.To take measures to prevent the use of illegal force by the police against Roma, in particular in connection with arrest and detention.
14.To encourage appropriate arrangements for communication and dialogue between the police and Roma communities and associations, with a view to preventing conflicts based on racial prejudice and combating acts of racially motivated violence against members of these communities, as well as against other persons.
15.To encourage recruitment of members of Roma communities into the police and other law enforcement agencies.
16.To promote action in post‑conflict areas, by States parties and from other responsible States or authorities in order to prevent violence against and forced displacement of members of the Roma communities.
3. Measures in the field of education
17.To support the inclusion in the school system of all children of Roma origin and to act to reduce drop‑out rates, in particular among Roma girls, and, for these purposes, to cooperate actively with Roma parents, associations and local communities.
18.To prevent and avoid as much as possible the segregation of Roma students, while keeping open the possibility for bilingual or mother‑tongue tuition; to this end, to endeavour to raise the quality of education in all schools and the level of achievement in schools by the minority community, to recruit school personnel from among members of Roma communities and to promote intercultural education.
19.To consider adopting measures in favour of Roma children, in cooperation with their parents, in the field of education.
20.To act with determination to eliminate any discrimination or racial harassment of Roma students.
21.To take the necessary measures to ensure a process of basic education for Roma children of travelling communities, including by admitting them temporarily to local schools, by temporary classes in their places of encampment, or by using new technologies for distance education.
22.To ensure that their programmes, projects and campaigns in the field of education take into account the disadvantaged situation of Roma girls and women.
23.To take urgent and sustained measures in training teachers, educators and assistants from among Roma students.
24.To act to improve dialogue and communication between the teaching personnel and Roma children, Roma communities and parents, using more often assistants chosen from among the Roma.
25.To ensure adequate forms and schemes of education for members of Roma communities beyond school age, in order to improve adult literacy among them.
26.To include in textbooks, at all appropriate levels, chapters about the history and culture of Roma, and encourage and support the publication and distribution of books and other print materials as well as the broadcasting of television and radio programmes, as appropriate, about their history and culture, including in languages spoken by them.
4. Measures to improve living conditions
27.To adopt or make more effective legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment and all discriminatory practices in the labour market affecting members of Roma communities, and to protect them against such practices.
28.To take special measures to promote the employment of Roma in the public administration and institutions, as well as in private companies.
29.To adopt and implement, whenever possible, at the central or local level, special measures in favour of Roma in public employment such as public contracting and other activities undertaken or funded by the Government, or training Roma in various skills and professions.
30.To develop and implement policies and projects aimed at avoiding segregation of Roma communities in housing; to involve Roma communities and associations as partners together with other persons in housing project construction, rehabilitation and maintenance.
31.To act firmly against any discriminatory practices affecting Roma, mainly by local authorities and private owners, with regard to taking up residence and access to housing; to act firmly against local measures denying residence to and unlawful expulsion of Roma, and to refrain from placing Roma in camps outside populated areas that are isolated and without access to health care and other facilities.
32.To take the necessary measures, as appropriate, for offering Roma nomadic groups or Travellers camping places for their caravans, with all necessary facilities.
33.To ensure Roma equal access to health care and social security services and to eliminate any discriminatory practices against them in this field.
34.To initiate and implement programmes and projects in the field of health for Roma, mainly women and children, having in mind their disadvantaged situation due to extreme poverty and low level of education, as well as to cultural differences; to involve Roma associations and communities and their representatives, mainly women, in designing and implementing health programmes and projects concerning Roma groups.
35.To prevent, eliminate and adequately punish any discriminatory practices concerning the access of members of the Roma communities to all places and services intended for the use of the general public, including restaurants, hotels, theatres and music halls, discotheques and others.
5. Measures in the field of the media
36.To act as appropriate for the elimination of any ideas of racial or ethnic superiority, of racial hatred and incitement to discrimination and violence against Roma in the media, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.
37.To encourage awareness among professionals of all media of the particular responsibility to not disseminate prejudices and to avoid reporting incidents involving individual members of Roma communities in a way which blames such communities as a whole.
38.To develop educational and media campaigns to educate the public about Roma life, society and culture and the importance of building an inclusive society while respecting the human rights and the identity of the Roma.
39.To encourage and facilitate access by Roma to the media, including newspapers and television and radio programmes, the establishment of their own media, as well as the training of Roma journalists.
40.To encourage methods of self‑monitoring by the media, through a code of conduct for media organizations, in order to avoid racial, discriminatory or biased language.
6. Measures concerning participation in public life
41.To take the necessary steps, including special measures, to secure equal opportunities for the participation of Roma minorities or groups in all central and local governmental bodies.
42.To develop modalities and structures of consultation with Roma political parties, associations and representatives, both at central and local levels, when considering issues and adopting decisions on matters of concern to Roma communities.
43.To involve Roma communities and associations and their representatives at the earliest stages in the development and implementation of policies and programmes affecting them and to ensure sufficient transparency about such policies and programmes.
44.To promote more awareness among members of Roma communities of the need for their more active participation in public and social life and in promoting their own interests, for instance the education of their children and their participation in professional training.
45.To organize training programmes for Roma public officials and representatives, as well as for prospective candidates to such responsibilities, aimed at improving their political, policy‑making and public administration skills.
The Committee also recommends that:
46.States parties include in their periodic reports, in an appropriate form, data about the Roma communities within their jurisdiction, including statistical data about Roma participation in political life and about their economic, social and cultural situation, including from a gender perspective, and information about the implementation of this general recommendation.
47.Intergovernmental organizations, in their projects of cooperation and assistance to the various States parties, as appropriate, address the situation of Roma communities and favour their economic, social and cultural advancement.
48.The High Commissioner for Human Rights consider establishing a focal point for Roma issues within the Office of the High Commissioner.
The Committee further recommends that:
49.The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance give due consideration to the above recommendations, taking into account the place of the Roma communities among those most disadvantaged and most subject to discrimination in the contemporary world.
1424th meeting, 16 August 2000
Sixtieth session (2002)
General recommendation XXVIII on the follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Welcoming the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the provisions of General Assembly resolution 56/266 which endorse or are designed to ensure the follow-up of those instruments,
Welcoming the fact that the instruments adopted at Durban strongly reaffirm all the fundamental values and standards of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action refer to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as the principal instrument to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,
Noting in particular the affirmation in the Durban Declaration that universal adherence to and full implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination are of paramount importance for promoting equality and non‑discrimination in the world,
Expressing its satisfaction at the recognition of the role and contribution of the Committee to the struggle against racial discrimination,
Conscious of its own responsibilities in the follow-up to the World Conference and of the need to strengthen its capacity to undertake these responsibilities,
Stressing the vital role of non-governmental organizations in the struggle against racial discrimination and welcoming their contribution during the World Conference,
Taking note of the recognition by the World Conference of the important role that national human rights institutions play in combating racism and racial discrimination, and of the need to strengthen such institutions and provide them with greater resources,
1.Recommends to States:
I.Measures to strengthen the implementationof the Convention
(a)If they have not yet done so, to accede to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination with a view to universal ratification by the year 2005;
(b)If they have not yet done so, to consider making the optional declaration envisaged under article 14 of the Convention;
(c)To comply with their reporting obligations under the Convention by presenting reports in a timely manner in conformity with the relevant guidelines;
(d)To consider withdrawing their reservations to the Convention;
(e)To make increased efforts to inform the public of the existence of the complaints mechanism under article 14 of the Convention;
(f)To take into account the relevant parts of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action when implementing the Convention in the domestic legal order, in particular in respect of articles 2 to 7 of the Convention;
(g)To include in their periodic reports information on action plans or other measures they have taken to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action at the national level;
(h)To disseminate the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in an appropriate manner and provide the Committee with information on the efforts in this respect under the section of their periodic reports concerning article 7 of the Convention;
II.Measures to strengthen the functioning of the Committee
(i)To consider setting up appropriate national monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken to follow-up the concluding observations and general recommendations of the Committee;
(j)To include in their periodic reports to the Committee appropriate information on the follow-up to such concluding observations and recommendations;
(k)To ratify the amendment to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention adopted on 15 January 1992 at the 14th meeting of States parties to the Convention and endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/111 of 15 December 1992;
(l)To continue cooperating with the Committee with a view to promoting the effective implementation of the Convention;
(a)That national human rights institutions assist their respective States to comply with their reporting obligations and closely monitor the follow-up to the concluding observations and recommendations of the Committee;
(b)That non-governmental organizations continue to provide the Committee in good time with relevant information in order to enhance its cooperation with them;
(c)That the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continue its efforts to increase awareness of the work of the Committee;
(d)That the competent United Nations bodies provide the Committee with adequate resources to enable it to discharge its mandate fully;
3.Expresses its willingness:
(a)To cooperate fully with all relevant institutions of the United Nations system, in particular the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in following up the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;
(b)To cooperate with the five independent eminent experts to be appointed by the Secretary-General to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;
(c)To coordinate its activities with the other human rights treaty bodies with a view to achieving a more effective follow-up of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;
(d)To take into consideration all aspects of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action concerning the fulfilment of its mandate.
1517th meeting, 19 March 2002
Sixty-first session (2002)
General recommendation XXIX on article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention (Descent)
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights according to which all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are entitled to the rights and freedoms therein without distinction of any kind, including race, colour, sex, language, religion, social origin, birth or other status,
Recalling also the terms of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights according to which it is the duty of States, regardless of political, economic and cultural system, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Reaffirming its general recommendation XXVIII in which the Committee expresses wholehearted support for the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,
Reaffirming also the condemnation of discrimination against persons of Asian and African descent and indigenous and other forms of descent in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action,
Basing its action on the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which seeks to eliminate discrimination based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin,
Confirming the consistent view of the Committee that the term “descent” in article 1, paragraph 1, the Convention does not solely refer to “race” and has a meaning and application which complement the other prohibited grounds of discrimination,
Strongly reaffirming that discrimination based on “descent” includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights,
Noting that the existence of such discrimination has become evident from the Committee’s examination of reports of a number of States parties to the Convention,
Having organized a thematic discussion on descent-based discrimination and received the contributions of members of the Committee, as well as contributions from some Governments and members of other United Nations bodies, notably experts of the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights,
Having received contributions from a great number of concerned non-governmental organizations and individuals, orally and through written information, providing the Committee with further evidence of the extent and persistence of descent-based discrimination in different regions of the world,
Concluding that fresh efforts need to be made as well as existing efforts intensified at the level of domestic law and practice to eliminate the scourge of descent-based discrimination and empower communities affected by it,
Commending the efforts of those States that have taken measures to eliminate descent‑based discrimination and remedy its consequences,
Strongly encouraging those affected States that have yet to recognize and address this phenomenon to take steps to do so,
Recalling the positive spirit in which the dialogues between the Committee and Governments have been conducted on the question of descent-based discrimination and anticipating further such constructive dialogues,
Attaching the highest importance to its ongoing work in combating all forms of descent‑based discrimination,
Strongly condemning descent-based discrimination, such as discrimination on the basis of caste and analogous systems of inherited status, as a violation of the Convention,
Recommends that the States parties, as appropriate for their particular circumstances, adopt some or all of the following measures:
1. Measures of a general nature
(a)Steps to identify those descent-based communities under their jurisdiction who suffer from discrimination, especially on the basis of caste and analogous systems of inherited status, and whose existence may be recognized on the basis of various factors including some or all of the following: inability or restricted ability to alter inherited status; socially enforced restrictions on marriage outside the community; private and public segregation, including in housing and education, access to public spaces, places of worship and public sources of food and water; limitation of freedom to renounce inherited occupations or degrading or hazardous work; subjection to debt bondage; subjection to dehumanizing discourses referring to pollution or untouchability; and generalized lack of respect for their human dignity and equality;
(b)Consider the incorporation of an explicit prohibition of descent-based discrimination in the national constitution;
(c)Review and enact or amend legislation in order to outlaw all forms of discrimination based on descent in accordance with the Convention;
(d)Resolutely implement legislation and other measures already in force;
(e)Formulate and put into action a comprehensive national strategy with the participation of members of affected communities, including special measures in accordance with articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, in order to eliminate discrimination against members of descent-based groups;
(f)Adopt special measures in favour of descent-based groups and communities in order to ensure their enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular concerning access to public functions, employment and education;
(g)Establish statutory mechanisms, through the strengthening of existing institutions or the creation of specialized institutions, to promote respect for the equal human rights of members of descent-based communities;
(h)Educate the general public on the importance of affirmative action programmes to address the situation of victims of descent-based discrimination;
(i)Encourage dialogue between members of descent-based communities and members of other social groups;
(j)Conduct periodic surveys on the reality of descent-based discrimination and provide disaggregated information in their reports to the Committee on the geographical distribution and economic and social conditions of descent-based communities, including a gender perspective;
2.Multiple discrimination against women members of descent-based communities
(k)Take into account, in all programmes and projects planned and implemented and in measures adopted, the situation of women members of the communities, as victims of multiple discrimination, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution;
(l)Take all measures necessary in order to eliminate multiple discrimination including descent-based discrimination against women, particularly in the areas of personal security, employment and education;
(m)Provide disaggregated data for the situation of women affected by descent-based discrimination;
(n)Monitor and report on trends which give rise to the segregation of descent-based communities and work for the eradication of the negative consequences resulting from such segregation;
(o)Undertake to prevent, prohibit and eliminate practices of segregation directed against members of descent-based communities including in housing, education and employment;
(p)Secure for everyone the right of access on an equal and non-discriminatory basis to any place or service intended for use by the general public;
(q)Take steps to promote mixed communities in which members of affected communities are integrated with other elements of society and ensure that services to such settlements are accessible on an equal basis for all;
4.Dissemination of hate speech including through the mass media and the Internet
(r)Take measures against any dissemination of ideas of caste superiority and inferiority or which attempt to justify violence, hatred or discrimination against descent-based communities;
(s)Take strict measures against any incitement to discrimination or violence against the communities, including through the Internet;
(t)Take measures to raise awareness among media professionals of the nature and incidence of descent-based discrimination;
5. Administration of justice
(u)Take the necessary steps to secure equal access to the justice system for all members of descent-based communities, including by providing legal aid, facilitating of group claims and encouraging non-governmental organizations to defend community rights;
(v)Ensure, where relevant, that judicial decisions and official actions take the prohibition of descent-based discrimination fully into account;
(w)Ensure the prosecution of persons who commit crimes against members of descent‑based communities and the provision of adequate compensation for the victims of such crimes;
(x)Encourage the recruitment of members of descent-based communities into the police and other law enforcement agencies;
(y)Organize training programmes for public officials and law enforcement agencies with a view to preventing injustices based on prejudice against descent-based communities;
(z)Encourage and facilitate constructive dialogue between the police and other law enforcement agencies and members of the communities;
6. Civil and political rights
(aa)Ensure that authorities at all levels in the country concerned involve members of descent-based communities in decisions which affect them;
(bb)Take special and concrete measures to guarantee to members of descent-based communities the right to participate in elections, to vote and stand for election on the basis of equal and universal suffrage, and to have due representation in Government and legislative bodies;
(cc)Promote awareness among members of the communities of the importance of their active participation in public and political life, and eliminate obstacles to such participation;
(dd)Organize training programmes to improve the political policy-making and public administration skills of public officials and political representatives who belong to descent-based communities;
(ee)Take steps to identify areas prone to descent-based violence in order to prevent the recurrence of such violence;
(ff)Take resolute measures to secure rights of marriage for members of descent-based communities who wish to marry outside the community;
7. Economic and social rights
(gg)Elaborate, adopt and implement plans and programmes of economic and social development on an equal and non-discriminatory basis;
(hh)Take substantial and effective measures to eradicate poverty among descent-based communities and combat their social exclusion or marginalization;
(ii)Work with intergovernmental organizations, including international financial institutions, to ensure that development or assistance projects which they support take into account the economic and social situation of members of descent-based communities;
(jj)Take special measures to promote the employment of members of affected communities in the public and private sectors;
(kk)Develop or refine legislation and practice specifically prohibiting all discriminatory practices based on descent in employment and the labour market;
(ll)Take measures against public bodies, private companies and other associations that investigate the descent background of applicants for employment;
(mm)Take measures against discriminatory practices of local authorities or private owners with regard to residence and access to adequate housing for members of affected communities;
(nn)Ensure equal access to health care and social security services for members of descent-based communities;
(oo)Involve affected communities in designing and implementing health programmes and projects;
(pp)Take measures to address the special vulnerability of children of descent-based communities to exploitative child labour;
(qq)Take resolute measures to eliminate debt bondage and degrading conditions of labour associated with descent-based discrimination;
8. Right to education
(rr)Ensure that public and private education systems include children of all communities and do not exclude any children on the basis of descent;
(ss)Reduce school drop-out rates for children of all communities, in particular for children of affected communities, with special attention to the situation of girls;
(tt)Combat discrimination by public or private bodies and any harassment of students who are members of descent-based communities;
(uu)Take necessary measures in cooperation with civil society to educate the population as a whole in a spirit of non-discrimination and respect for the communities subject to descent-based discrimination;
(vv)Review all language in textbooks which conveys stereotyped or demeaning images, references, names or opinions concerning descent-based communities and replace it by images, references, names and opinions which convey the message of the inherent dignity of all human beings and their equality of human rights.
Sixty-fifth session (2005)
General recommendation XXX on discrimination against non-citizens
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are entitled to the rights and freedoms enshrined therein without distinction of any kind, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling the Durban Declaration in which the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, recognized that xenophobia against non‑nationals, particularly migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, constitutes one of the main sources of contemporary racism and that human rights violations against members of such groups occur widely in the context of discriminatory, xenophobic and racist practices,
Noting that, based on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and general recommendations XI and XX, it has become evident from the examination of the reports of States parties to the Convention that groups other than migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are also of concern, including undocumented non-citizens and persons who cannot establish the nationality of the State on whose territory they live, even where such persons have lived all their lives on the same territory,
Having organized a thematic discussion on the issue of discrimination against non‑citizens and received the contributions of members of the Committee and States parties, as well as contributions from experts of other United Nations organs and specialized agencies and from non-governmental organizations,
Recognizing the need to clarify the responsibilities of States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination with regard to non‑citizens,
Basing its action on the provisions of the Convention, in particular article 5, which requires States parties to prohibit and eliminate discrimination based on race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin in the enjoyment by all persons of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms,
I. Responsibilities of States parties to the Convention
1.Article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention defines racial discrimination. Article 1, paragraph 2 provides for the possibility of differentiating between citizens and non-citizens. Article 1, paragraph 3 declares that, concerning nationality, citizenship or naturalization, the legal provisions of States parties must not discriminate against any particular nationality;
2.Article 1, paragraph 2, must be construed so as to avoid undermining the basic prohibition of discrimination; hence, it should not be interpreted to detract in any way from the rights and freedoms recognized and enunciated in particular in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
3.Article 5 of the Convention incorporates the obligation of States parties to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Although some of these rights, such as the right to participate in elections, to vote and to stand for election, may be confined to citizens, human rights are, in principle, to be enjoyed by all persons. States parties are under an obligation to guarantee equality between citizens and non-citizens in the enjoyment of these rights to the extent recognized under international law;
4.Under the Convention, differential treatment based on citizenship or immigration status will constitute discrimination if the criteria for such differentiation, judged in the light of the objectives and purposes of the Convention, are not applied pursuant to a legitimate aim, and are not proportional to the achievement of this aim. Differentiation within the scope of article 1, paragraph 4, of the Convention relating to special measures is not considered discriminatory;
5.States parties are under an obligation to report fully upon legislation on non‑citizens and its implementation. Furthermore, States parties should include in their periodic reports, in an appropriate form, socio-economic data on the non-citizen population within their jurisdiction, including data disaggregated by gender and national or ethnic origin;
Based on these general principles, that the States parties to the Convention, as appropriate to their specific circumstances, adopt the following measures:
II. Measures of a general nature
6.Review and revise legislation, as appropriate, in order to guarantee that such legislation is in full compliance with the Convention, in particular regarding the effective enjoyment of the rights mentioned in article 5, without discrimination;
7.Ensure that legislative guarantees against racial discrimination apply to non‑citizens regardless of their immigration status, and that the implementation of legislation does not have a discriminatory effect on non-citizens;
8.Pay greater attention to the issue of multiple discrimination faced by non-citizens, in particular concerning the children and spouses of non-citizen workers, to refrain from applying different standards of treatment to female non-citizen spouses of citizens and male non‑citizen spouses of citizens, to report on any such practices and to take all necessary steps to address them;
9.Ensure that immigration policies do not have the effect of discriminating against persons on the basis of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin;
10.Ensure that any measures taken in the fight against terrorism do not discriminate, in purpose or effect, on the grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin and that non-citizens are not subjected to racial or ethnic profiling or stereotyping;
III.Protection against hate speech and racial violence
11.Take steps to address xenophobic attitudes and behaviour towards non-citizens, in particular hate speech and racial violence, and to promote a better understanding of the principle of non-discrimination in respect of the situation of non-citizens;
12. Take resolute action to counter any tendency to target, stigmatize, stereotype or profile, on the basis of race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin, members of “non‑citizen” population groups, especially by politicians, officials, educators and the media, on the Internet and other electronic communications networks and in society at large;
IV. Access to citizenship
13.Ensure that particular groups of non-citizens are not discriminated against with regard to access to citizenship or naturalization, and to pay due attention to possible barriers to naturalization that may exist for long-term or permanent residents;
14.Recognize that deprivation of citizenship on the basis of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin is a breach of States parties’ obligations to ensure non-discriminatory enjoyment of the right to nationality;
15.Take into consideration that in some cases denial of citizenship for long-term or permanent residents could result in creating disadvantage for them in access to employment and social benefits, in violation of the Convention’s anti-discrimination principles;
16.Reduce statelessness, in particular statelessness among children, by, for example, encouraging their parents to apply for citizenship on their behalf and allowing both parents to transmit their citizenship to their children;
17.Regularize the status of former citizens of predecessor States who now reside within the jurisdiction of the State party;
V. Administration of justice
18.Ensure that non-citizens enjoy equal protection and recognition before the law and in this context, to take action against racially motivated violence and to ensure the access of victims to effective legal remedies and the right to seek just and adequate reparation for any damage suffered as a result of such violence;
19.Ensure the security of non-citizens, in particular with regard to arbitrary detention, as well as ensure that conditions in centres for refugees and asylum-seekers meet international standards;
20.Ensure that non-citizens detained or arrested in the fight against terrorism are properly protected by domestic law that complies with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law;
21.Combat ill-treatment of and discrimination against non-citizens by police and other law enforcement agencies and civil servants by strictly applying relevant legislation and regulations providing for sanctions and by ensuring that all officials dealing with non-citizens receive special training, including training in human rights;
22. Introduce in criminal law the provision that committing an offence with racist motivation or aim constitutes an aggravating circumstance allowing for a more severe punishment;
23.Ensure that claims of racial discrimination brought by non-citizens are investigated thoroughly and that claims made against officials, notably those concerning discriminatory or racist behaviour, are subject to independent and effective scrutiny;
24.Regulate the burden of proof in civil proceedings involving discrimination based on race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin so that once a non-citizen has established a prima facie case that he or she has been a victim of such discrimination, it shall be for the respondent to provide evidence of an objective and reasonable justification for the differential treatment;
VI. Expulsion and deportation of non-citizens
25.Ensure that laws concerning deportation or other forms of removal of non-citizens from the jurisdiction of the State party do not discriminate in purpose or effect among non‑citizens on the basis of race, colour or ethnic or national origin, and that non-citizens have equal access to effective remedies, including the right to challenge expulsion orders, and are allowed effectively to pursue such remedies;
26.Ensure that non-citizens are not subject to collective expulsion, in particular in situations where there are insufficient guarantees that the personal circumstances of each of the persons concerned have been taken into account;
27.Ensure that non-citizens are not returned or removed to a country or territory where they are at risk of being subject to serious human rights abuses, including torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
28.Avoid expulsions of non-citizens, especially of long-term residents, that would result in disproportionate interference with the right to family life;
VII. Economic, social and cultural rights
29.Remove obstacles that prevent the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by non-citizens, notably in the areas of education, housing, employment and health;
30.Ensure that public educational institutions are open to non-citizens and children of undocumented immigrants residing in the territory of a State party;
31.Avoid segregated schooling and different standards of treatment being applied to non‑citizens on grounds of race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin in elementary and secondary school and with respect to access to higher education;
32.Guarantee the equal enjoyment of the right to adequate housing for citizens and non‑citizens, especially by avoiding segregation in housing and ensuring that housing agencies refrain from engaging in discriminatory practices;
33.Take measures to eliminate discrimination against non-citizens in relation to working conditions and work requirements, including employment rules and practices with discriminatory purposes or effects;
34.Take effective measures to prevent and redress the serious problems commonly faced by non-citizen workers, in particular by non-citizen domestic workers, including debt bondage, passport retention, illegal confinement, rape and physical assault;
35.Recognize that, while States parties may refuse to offer jobs to non-citizens without a work permit, all individuals are entitled to the enjoyment of labour and employment rights, including the freedom of assembly and association, once an employment relationship has been initiated until it is terminated;
36.Ensure that States parties respect the right of non-citizens to an adequate standard of physical and mental health by, inter alia, refraining from denying or limiting their access to preventive, curative and palliative health services;
37.Take the necessary measures to prevent practices that deny non-citizens their cultural identity, such as legal or de facto requirements that non-citizens change their name in order to obtain citizenship, and to take measures to enable non-citizens to preserve and develop their culture;
38.Ensure the right of non-citizens, without discrimination based on race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin, to have access to any place or service intended for use by the general public, such as transport, hotels, restaurants, cafés, theatres and parks;
39.The present general recommendation replaces general recommendation XI (1993).
Sixty-fifth session (2005)
General recommendation XXXI on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling the definition of racial discrimination set out in article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
Recalling the provisions of article 5 (a) of the Convention, under which States parties have an obligation to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice,
Recalling that article 6 of the Convention requires States parties to assure to everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination, as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination,
Referring to paragraph 25 of the declaration adopted by the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, which expressed “profound repudiation of the racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that persist in some States in the functioning of the penal system and in the application of the law, as well as in the actions and attitudes of institutions and individuals responsible for law enforcement, especially where this has contributed to certain groups being overrepresented among persons under detention or imprisoned”,
Referring to the work of the Commission on Human Rights and of the Sub‑Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (see E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/7) concerning discrimination in the criminal justice system,
Bearing in mind the reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,
Referring to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, in particular article 16, which stipulates that “[a] refugee shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all Contracting States”,
Bearing in mind the observations relating to the functioning of the system of justice made in the Committee’s conclusions concerning reports submitted by States parties and in general recommendations XXVII (2000) on discrimination against Roma, XXIX (2002) on discrimination based on descent and XXX (2004) on discrimination against non‑citizens,
Convinced that, even though the system of justice may be regarded as impartial and not affected by racism, racial discrimination or xenophobia, when racial or ethnic discrimination does exist in the administration and functioning of the system of justice, it constitutes a particularly serious violation of the rule of law, the principle of equality before the law, the principle of fair trial and the right to an independent and impartial tribunal, through its direct effect on persons belonging to groups which it is the very role of justice to protect,
Considering that no country is free from racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system, regardless of the type of law applied or the judicial system in force, whether accusatorial, inquisitorial or mixed,
Considering that the risks of discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system have increased in recent years, partly as a result of the rise in immigration and population movements, which have prompted prejudice and feelings of xenophobia or intolerance among certain sections of the population and certain law enforcement officials, and partly as a result of the security policies and anti‑terrorism measures adopted by many States, which among other things have encouraged the emergence of anti‑Arab or anti‑Muslim feelings, or, as a reaction, anti‑Semitic feelings, in a number of countries,
Determined to combat all forms of discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system which may be suffered, in all countries of the world, by persons belonging to racial or ethnic groups, in particular non‑citizens ‑ including immigrants, refugees, asylum‑seekers and stateless persons ‑ Roma/Gypsies, indigenous peoples, displaced populations, persons discriminated against because of their descent, as well as other vulnerable groups which are particularly exposed to exclusion, marginalization and non‑integration in society, paying particular attention to the situation of women and children belonging to the aforementioned groups, who are susceptible to multiple discrimination because of their race and because of their sex or their age,
Formulates the following recommendations addressed to States parties:
I. General steps
A.Steps to be taken in order to better gauge the existence and extent of racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system; the search for indicators attesting to such discrimination
1. Factual indicators
1.States parties should pay the greatest attention to the following possible indicators of racial discrimination:
(a)The number and percentage of persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble who are victims of aggression or other offences, especially when they are committed by police officers or other State officials;
(b)The absence or small number of complaints, prosecutions and convictions relating to acts of racial discrimination in the country. Such a statistic should not be viewed as necessarily positive, contrary to the belief of some States. It may also reveal either that victims have inadequate information concerning their rights, or that they fear social censure or reprisals, or that victims with limited resources fear the cost and complexity of the judicial process, or that there is a lack of trust in the police and judicial authorities, or that the authorities are insufficiently alert to or aware of offences involving racism;
(c)Insufficient or no information on the behaviour of law enforcement personnel vis‑à‑vis persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble;
(d)The proportionately higher crime rates attributed to persons belonging to those groups, particularly as regards petty street crime and offences related to drugs and prostitution, as indicators of the exclusion or the non‑integration of such persons into society;
(e)The number and percentage of persons belonging to those groups who are held in prison or preventive detention, including internment centres, penal establishments, psychiatric establishments or holding areas in airports;
(f)The handing down by the courts of harsher or inappropriate sentences against persons belonging to those groups;
(g)The insufficient representation of persons belonging to those groups among the ranks of the police, in the system of justice, including judges and jurors, and in other law enforcement departments.
2.In order for these factual indicators to be well known and used, States parties should embark on regular and public collection of information from police, judicial and prison authorities and immigration services, while respecting standards of confidentiality, anonymity and protection of personal data.
3.In particular, States parties should have access to comprehensive statistical or other information on complaints, prosecutions and convictions relating to acts of racism and xenophobia, as well as on compensation awarded to the victims of such acts, whether such compensation is paid by the perpetrators of the offences or under State compensation plans financed from public funds.
2. Legislative indicators
4.The following should be regarded as indicators of potential causes of racial discrimination:
(a)Any gaps in domestic legislation on racial discrimination. In this regard, States parties should fully comply with the requirements of article 4 of the Convention and criminalize all acts of racism as provided by that article, in particular the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial hatred, violence or incitement to racial violence, but also racist propaganda activities and participation in racist organizations. States parties are also encouraged to incorporate a provision in their criminal legislation to the effect that committing offences for racial reasons generally constitutes an aggravating circumstance;
(b)The potential indirect discriminatory effects of certain domestic legislation, particularly legislation on terrorism, immigration, nationality, banning or deportation of non‑citizens from a country, as well as legislation that has the effect of penalizing without legitimate grounds certain groups or membership of certain communities. States should seek to eliminate the discriminatory effects of such legislation and in any case to respect the principle of proportionality in its application to persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble.
B.Strategies to be developed to prevent racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system
5.States parties should pursue national strategies the objectives of which include the following:
(a)To eliminate laws that have an impact in terms of racial discrimination, particularly those which target certain groups indirectly by penalizing acts which can be committed only by persons belonging to such groups, or laws that apply only to non‑nationals without legitimate grounds or which do not respect the principle of proportionality;
(b)To develop, through appropriate education programmes, training in respect for human rights, tolerance and friendship among racial or ethnic groups, as well as sensitization to intercultural relations, for law enforcement officials: police personnel, persons working in the system of justice, prison institutions, psychiatric establishments, social and medical services, etc.;
(c)To foster dialogue and cooperation between the police and judicial authorities and the representatives of the various groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble, in order to combat prejudice and create a relationship of trust;
(d)To promote proper representation of persons belonging to racial and ethnic groups in the police and the system of justice;
(e)To ensure respect for, and recognition of the traditional systems of justice of indigenous peoples, in conformity with international human rights law;
(f)To make the necessary changes to the prison regime for prisoners belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble, so as to take into account their cultural and religious practices;
(g)To institute, in situations of mass population movements, the interim measures and arrangements necessary for the operation of the justice system in order to take account of the particularly vulnerable situation of displaced persons, in particular by setting up decentralized courts at the places where the displaced persons are staying or by organizing mobile courts;
(h)To set up, in post‑conflict situations, plans for the reconstruction of the legal system and the re‑establishment of the rule of law throughout the territory of the countries concerned, by availing themselves, in particular, of the international technical assistance provided by the relevant United Nations entities;
(i)To implement national strategies or plans of action aimed at the elimination of structural racial discrimination. These long‑term strategies should include specific objectives and actions as well as indicators against which progress can be measured. They should include, in particular, guidelines for prevention, recording, investigation and prosecution of racist or xenophobic incidents, assessment of the level of satisfaction among all communities concerning their relations with the police and the system of justice, and recruitment and promotion in the judicial system of persons belonging to various racial or ethnic groups;
(j)To entrust an independent national institution with the task of tracking, monitoring and measuring progress made under the national plans of action and guidelines against racial discrimination, identifying undetected manifestations of racial discrimination and submitting recommendations and proposals for improvement.
II.Steps to be taken to prevent racial discrimination with regard to victims of racism
A. Access to the law and to justice
6.In accordance with article 6 of the Convention, States parties are obliged to guarantee the right of every person within their jurisdiction to an effective remedy against the perpetrators of acts of racial discrimination, without discrimination of any kind, whether such acts are committed by private individuals or State officials, as well as the right to seek just and adequate reparation for the damage suffered.
7.In order to facilitate access to justice for the victims of racism, States parties should strive to supply the requisite legal information to persons belonging to the most vulnerable social groups, who are often unaware of their rights.
8.In that regard, States parties should promote, in the areas where such persons live, institutions such as free legal help and advice centres, legal information centres and centres for conciliation and mediation.
9.States parties should also expand their cooperation with associations of lawyers, university institutions, legal advice centres and non‑governmental organizations specializing in protecting the rights of marginalized communities and in the prevention of discrimination.
B.Reporting of incidents to the authorities competent for receiving complaints
10.States parties should take the necessary steps to ensure that the police services have an adequate and accessible presence in the neighbourhoods, regions, collective facilities, camps or centres where the persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble reside, so that complaints from such persons can be expeditiously received.
11.The competent services should be instructed to receive the victims of acts of racism in police stations in a satisfactory manner, so that complaints are recorded immediately, investigations are pursued without delay and in an effective, independent and impartial manner, and files relating to racist or xenophobic incidents are retained and incorporated into databases.
12.Any refusal by a police official to accept a complaint involving an act of racism should lead to disciplinary or penal sanctions, and those sanctions should be increased if corruption is involved.
13.Conversely, it should be the right and duty of any police official or State employee to refuse to obey orders or instructions that require him or her to commit violations of human rights, particularly those based on racial discrimination. States parties should guarantee the freedom of any official to invoke this right without fear of punishment.
14.In cases of allegations of torture, ill‑treatment or executions, investigations should be conducted in accordance with the Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra‑legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions and the Principles on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
C. Initiation of judicial proceedings
15.States parties should remind public prosecutors and members of the prosecution service of the general importance of prosecuting racist acts, including minor offences committed with racist motives, since any racially motivated offence undermines social cohesion and society as a whole.
16.In advance of the initiation of proceedings, States parties could also encourage, with a view to respecting the rights of the victims, the use of parajudicial procedures for conflict resolution, including customary procedures compatible with human rights, mediation or conciliation, which can serve as useful options for the victims of acts of racism and to which less stigma may be attached.
17.In order to make it easier for the victims of acts of racism to bring actions in the courts, the steps to be taken should include the following:
(a)Offering procedural status for the victims of racism and xenophobia and associations for the protection of the rights of such victims, such as an opportunity to associate themselves with the criminal proceedings, or other similar procedures that might enable them to assert their rights in the criminal proceedings, at no cost to themselves;
(b)Granting victims effective judicial cooperation and legal aid, including the assistance of counsel and an interpreter free of charge;
(c)Ensuring that victims have information about the progress of the proceedings;
(d)Guaranteeing protection for the victim or the victim’s family against any form of intimidation or reprisals;
(e)Providing for the possibility of suspending the functions, for the duration of the investigation, of the agents of the State against whom the complaints were made.
18.In countries where there are assistance and compensation plans for victims, States parties should ensure that such plans are available to all victims without discrimination and regardless of their nationality or residential status.
D. Functioning of the system of justice
19.States parties should ensure that the system of justice:
(a)Grants a proper place to victims and their families, as well as witnesses, throughout the proceedings, by enabling complainants to be heard by the judges during the examination proceedings and the court hearing, to have access to information, to confront hostile witnesses, to challenge evidence and to be informed of the progress of proceedings;
(b)Treats the victims of racial discrimination without discrimination or prejudice, while respecting their dignity, through ensuring in particular that hearings, questioning or confrontations are carried out with the necessary sensitivity as far as racism is concerned;
(c)Guarantees the victim a court judgement within a reasonable period;
(d)Guarantees victims just and adequate reparation for the material and moral harm suffered as a result of racial discrimination.
III. Steps to be taken to prevent racial discriminationin regard to accused persons who are subject to judicial proceedings
A. Questioning, interrogation and arrest
20.States parties should take the necessary steps to prevent questioning, arrests and searches which are in reality based solely on the physical appearance of a person, that person’s colour or features or membership of a racial or ethnic group, or any profiling which exposes him or her to greater suspicion.
21.States parties should prevent and most severely punish violence, acts of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and all violations of human rights affecting persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble which are committed by State officials, particularly police and army personnel, customs authorities, and persons working in airports, penal institutions and social, medical and psychiatric services.
22.States parties should ensure the observance of the general principle of proportionality and strict necessity in recourse to force against persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble, in accordance with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.
23.States parties should also guarantee to all arrested persons, whatever the racial, national or ethnic group to which they belong, enjoyment of the fundamental rights of the defence enshrined in the relevant international human rights instruments (especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), in particular the right not to be arbitrarily arrested or detained, the right to be informed of the reasons for their arrest, the right to the assistance of an interpreter, the right to the assistance of counsel, the right to be brought promptly before a judge or an authority empowered by the law to perform judicial functions, the right to consular protection guaranteed by article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and, in the case of refugees, the right to contact the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
24.As regards persons placed in administrative holding centres or in holding areas in airports, States parties should ensure that they enjoy sufficiently decent living conditions.
25.Lastly, as regards the questioning or arrest of persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble, States parties should bear in mind the special precautions to be taken when dealing with women or minors, because of their particular vulnerability.
B. Pretrial detention
26.Bearing in mind statistics which show that persons held awaiting trial include an excessively high number of non‑nationals and persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble, States parties should ensure:
(a)That the mere fact of belonging to a racial or ethnic group or one of the aforementioned groups is not a sufficient reason, de jure or de facto, to place a person in pretrial detention. Such pretrial detention can be justified only on objective grounds stipulated in the law, such as the risk of flight, the risk that the person might destroy evidence or influence witnesses, or the risk of a serious disturbance of public order;
(b)That the requirement to deposit a guarantee or financial security in order to obtain release pending trial is applied in a manner appropriate to the situation of persons belonging to such groups, who are often in straitened economic circumstances, so as to prevent this requirement from leading to discrimination against such persons;
(c)That the guarantees often required of accused persons as a condition of their remaining at liberty pending trial (fixed address, declared employment, stable family ties) are weighed in the light of the insecure situation which may result from their membership of such groups, particularly in the case of women and minors;
(d)That persons belonging to such groups who are held pending trial enjoy all the rights to which prisoners are entitled under the relevant international norms, and particularly the rights specially adapted to their circumstances: the right to respect for their traditions as regards religion, culture and food, the right to relations with their families, the right to the assistance of an interpreter and, where appropriate, the right to consular assistance.
C. The trial and the court judgement
27.Prior to the trial, States parties may, where appropriate, give preference to non‑judicial or parajudicial procedures for dealing with the offence, taking into account the cultural or customary background of the perpetrator, especially in the case of persons belonging to indigenous peoples.
28.In general, States parties must ensure that persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble, like all other persons, enjoy all the guarantees of a fair trial and equality before the law, as enshrined in the relevant international human rights instruments, and specifically.
1. The right to the presumption of innocence
29.This right implies that the police authorities, the judicial authorities and other public authorities must be forbidden to express their opinions publicly concerning the guilt of the accused before the court reaches a decision, much less to cast suspicion in advance on the members of a specific racial or ethnic group. These authorities have an obligation to ensure that the mass media do not disseminate information which might stigmatize certain categories of persons, particularly those belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble.
2. The right to the assistance of counsel and the right to an interpreter
30.Effectively guaranteeing these rights implies that States parties must set up a system under which counsel and interpreters will be assigned free of charge, together with legal help or advice and interpretation services for persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble.
3. The right to an independent and impartial tribunal
31.States parties should strive firmly to ensure a lack of any racial or xenophobic prejudice on the part of judges, jury members and other judicial personnel.
32.They should prevent all direct influence by pressure groups, ideologies, religions and churches on the functioning of the system of justice and on the decisions of judges, which may have a discriminatory effect on certain groups.
33.States parties may, in this regard, take into account the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct adopted in 2002 (E/CN.4/2003/65, annex), which recommend in particular that:
Judges should be aware of the diversity of society and differences linked with background, in particular racial origins;
They should not, by words or conduct, manifest any bias towards persons or groups on the grounds of their racial or other origin;
They should carry out their duties with appropriate consideration for all persons, such as the parties, witnesses, lawyers, court staff and their colleagues, without unjustified differentiation; and
They should oppose the manifestation of prejudice by the persons under their direction and by lawyers or their adoption of discriminatory behaviour towards a person or group on the basis of their colour, racial, national, religious or sexual origin, or on other irrelevant grounds.
D. Guarantee of fair punishment
34.In this regard, States should ensure that the courts do not apply harsher punishments solely because of an accused person’s membership of a specific racial or ethnic group.
35.Special attention should be paid in this regard to the system of minimum punishments and obligatory detention applicable to certain offences and to capital punishment in countries which have not abolished it, bearing in mind reports that this punishment is imposed and carried out more frequently against persons belonging to specific racial or ethnic groups.
36.In the case of persons belonging to indigenous peoples, States parties should give preference to alternatives to imprisonment and to other forms of punishment that are better adapted to their legal system, bearing in mind in particular International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries.
37.Punishments targeted exclusively at non‑nationals that are additional to punishments under ordinary law, such as deportation, expulsion or banning from the country concerned, should be imposed only in exceptional circumstances and in a proportionate manner, for serious reasons related to public order which are stipulated in the law, and should take into account the need to respect the private family life of those concerned and the international protection to which they are entitled.
E. Execution of sentences
38.When persons belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble are serving prison terms, the States parties should:
(a)Guarantee such persons the enjoyment of all the rights to which prisoners are entitled under the relevant international norms, in particular rights specially adapted to their situation: the right to respect for their religious and cultural practices, the right to respect for their customs as regards food, the right to relations with their families, the right to the assistance of an interpreter, the right to basic welfare benefits and, where appropriate, the right to consular assistance. The medical, psychological or social services offered to prisoners should take their cultural background into account;
(b)Guarantee to all prisoners whose rights have been violated the right to an effective remedy before an independent and impartial authority;
(c)Comply, in this regard, with the United Nations norms in this field, and particularly the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment;
(d)Allow such persons to benefit, where appropriate, from the provisions of domestic legislation and international or bilateral conventions relating to the transfer of foreign prisoners, offering them an opportunity to serve the prison term in their countries of origin.
39.Further, the independent authorities in the States parties that are responsible for supervising prison institutions should include members who have expertise in the field of racial discrimination and sound knowledge of the problems of racial and ethnic groups and the other vulnerable groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble; when necessary, such supervisory authorities should have an effective visit and complaint mechanism.
40.When non‑nationals are sentenced to deportation, expulsion or banning from their territory, States parties should comply fully with the obligation of non‑refoulement arising out of the international norms concerning refugees and human rights, and ensure that such persons will not be sent back to a country or territory where they would run the risk of serious violations of their human rights.
41.Lastly, with regard to women and children belonging to the groups referred to in the last paragraph of the preamble, States parties should pay the greatest attention possible with a view to ensuring that such persons benefit from the special regime to which they are entitled in relation to the execution of sentences, bearing in mind the particular difficulties faced by mothers of families and women belonging to certain communities, particularly indigenous communities.
IV.GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS ADOPTED BYTHE COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OFDISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
According to article 21, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee may make suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of the reports and information received from the States parties. Such suggestions and general recommendations shall be included in the report of the Committee together with comments, if any, from States parties. The Committee has so far adopted a total of 20 general recommendations.
Fifth session (1986)*
General recommendation No. 1: Reporting by States parties
Initial reports submitted under article 18 of the Convention should cover the situation up to the date of submission. Thereafter, reports should be submitted at least every four years after the first report was due and should include obstacles encountered in implementing the Convention fully and the measures adopted to overcome such obstacles.
Sixth session (1987)**
General recommendation No. 2: Reporting by States parties
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Bearing in mind that the Committee had been faced with difficulties in its work because some initial reports of States parties under article 18 of the Convention did not reflect adequately the information available in the State party concerned in accordance with the guidelines,
(a)That the States parties, in preparing reports under article 18 of the Convention, should follow the general guidelines adopted in August 1983 (CEDAW/C/7) as to the form, content and date of reports;
(b)That the States parties should follow the general recommendation adopted in 1986 in these terms:
“Initial reports submitted under article 18 of the Convention should cover the situation up to the date of submission. Thereafter, reports should be submitted at least every four years after the first report was due and should include obstacles encountered in implementing the Convention fully and the measures adopted to overcome such obstacles.”
(c)That additional information supplementing the report of a State party should be sent to the Secretariat at least three months before the session at which the report is due to be considered.
Sixth session (1987)*
General recommendation No. 3: Education and public information campaigns
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Considering that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has considered 34 reports from States parties since 1983,
Further considering that, although the reports have come from States with different levels of development, they present features in varying degrees showing the existence of stereotyped conceptions of women, owing to sociocultural factors, that perpetuate discrimination based on sex and hinder the implementation of article 5 of the Convention,
Urges all States parties effectively to adopt education and public information programmes, which will help eliminate prejudices and current practices that hinder the full operation of the principle of the social equality of women.
Sixth session (1987) *
General recommendation No. 4: Reservations
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Having examined reports from States parties at its sessions,
Expressed concern in relation to the significant number of reservations that appeared to be incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention,
Welcomes the decision of the States parties to consider reservations at its next meeting in New York in 1988, and to that end suggests that all States parties concerned reconsider such reservations with a view to withdrawing them.
Seventh session (1988)*
General recommendation No. 5: Temporary special measures
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Taking note that the reports, the introductory remarks and the replies by States parties reveal that while significant progress has been achieved in regard to repealing or modifying discriminatory laws, there is still a need for action to be taken to implement fully the Convention by introducing measures to promote de facto equality between men and women,
Recalling article 4.1 of the Convention,
Recommends that States parties make more use of temporary special measures such as positive action, preferential treatment or quota systems to advance women’s integration into education, the economy, politics and employment.
Seventh session (1988) *
General recommendation No. 6: Effective national machinery and publicity
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Having considered the reports of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
Noting United Nations General Assembly resolution 42/60 of 30 November 1987,
Recommends that States parties:
1.Establish and/or strengthen effective national machinery, institutions and procedures, at a high level of Government, and with adequate resources, commitment and authority to:
(a)Advise on the impact on women of all government policies;
(b)Monitor the situation of women comprehensively;
(c)Help formulate new policies and effectively carry out strategies and measures to eliminate discrimination;
2.Take appropriate steps to ensure the dissemination of the Convention, the reports of the States parties under article 18 and the reports of the Committee in the language of the States concerned;
3.Seek the assistance of the Secretary-General and the Department of Public Information in providing translations of the Convention and the reports of the Committee;
4.Include in their initial and periodic reports the action taken in respect of this recommendation.
Seventh session (1988)*
General recommendation No. 7: Resources
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Noting General Assembly resolutions 40/39, 41/108 and in particular 42/60, paragraph 14, which invited the Committee and the States parties to consider the question of holding future sessions of the Committee at Vienna,
Bearing in mind General Assembly resolution 42/105 and, in particular, paragraph 11, which requests the Secretary-General to strengthen coordination between the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs of the secretariat in relation to the implementation of human rights treaties and servicing treaty bodies,
Recommends to the States parties:
1.That they continue to support proposals for strengthening the coordination between the Centre for Human Rights at Geneva and the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs at Vienna, in relation to the servicing of the Committee;
2.That they support proposals that the Committee meet in New York and Vienna;
3.That they take all necessary and appropriate steps to ensure that adequate resources and services are available to the Committee to assist it in its functions under the Convention and in particular that full-time staff are available to help the Committee to prepare for its sessions and during its session;
4.That they ensure that supplementary reports and materials are submitted to the Secretariat in due time to be translated into the official languages of the United Nations in time for distribution and consideration by the Committee.
Seventh session (1988)*
General recommendation No. 8: Implementation of article 8 of the Convention
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Having considered the reports of States parties submitted in accordance with article 18 of the Convention,
Recommends that States parties take further direct measures in accordance with article 4 of the Convention to ensure the full implementation of article 8 of the Convention and to ensure to women on equal terms with men and without any discrimination the opportunities to represent their Government at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations.
Eighth session (1989)**
General recommendation No. 9: Statistical data concerning the situation of women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Considering that statistical information is absolutely necessary in order to understand the real situation of women in each of the States parties to the Convention,
Having observed that many of the States parties that present their reports for consideration by the Committee do not provide statistics,
Recommends that States parties should make every effort to ensure that their national statistical services responsible for planning national censuses and other social and economic surveys formulate their questionnaires in such a way that data can be disaggregated according to gender, with regard to both absolute numbers and percentages, so that interested users can easily obtain information on the situation of women in the particular sector in which they are interested.
Eighth session (1989)*
General recommendation No. 10: Tenth anniversary of theadoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Considering that 18 December 1989 marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
Considering further that in those 10 years the Convention has proved to be one of the most effective instruments that the United Nations has adopted to promote equality between the sexes in the societies of its States Members,
Recalling general recommendation No. 6 (Seventh session, 1988) on effective national machinery and publicity,
Recommends that, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention, the States parties should consider:
1.Undertaking programmes including conferences and seminars to publicize the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in the main languages of and providing information on the Convention in their respective countries;
2.Inviting their national women’s organizations to cooperate in the publicity campaigns regarding the Convention and its implementation and encouraging non-governmental organizations at the national, regional and international levels to publicize the Convention and its implementation;
3.Encouraging action to ensure the full implementation of the principles of the Convention, and in particular article 8, which relates to the participation of women at all levels of activity of the United Nations and the United Nations system;
4.Requesting the Secretary-General to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention by publishing and disseminating, in cooperation with the specialized agencies, printed and other materials regarding the Convention and its implementation in all official languages of the United Nations, preparing television documentaries about the Convention, and making the necessary resources available to the Division for the Advancement of Women, Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations Office at Vienna, to prepare an analysis of the information provided by States parties in order to update and publish the report of the Committee (A/CONF.116/13), which was first published for the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, held at Nairobi in 1985.
Eighth session (1989)*
General recommendation No. 11: Technical advisory servicesfor reporting obligations
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Bearing in mind that, as at 3 March 1989, 96 States had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
Taking into account the fact that by that date 60 initial and 19 second periodic reports had been received,
Noting that 36 initial and 36 second periodic reports were due by 3 March 1989 and had not yet been received,
Welcoming the request in General Assembly resolution 43/115, paragraph 9, that the Secretary-General should arrange, within existing resources and taking into account the priorities of the programme of advisory services, further training courses for those countries experiencing the most serious difficulties in meeting their reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights,
Recommends to States parties that they should encourage, support and cooperate in projects for technical advisory services, including training seminars, to assist States parties on their request in fulfilling their reporting obligations under article 18 of the Convention.
Eighth session (1989) *
General recommendation No. 12: Violence against women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Considering that articles 2, 5, 11, 12 and 16 of the Convention require the States parties to act to protect women against violence of any kind occurring within the family, at the workplace or in any other area of social life,
Taking into account Economic and Social Council resolution 1988/27,
Recommends to the States parties that they should include in their periodic reports to the Committee information about:
1.The legislation in force to protect women against the incidence of all kinds of violence in everyday life (including sexual violence, abuses in the family, sexual harassment at the workplace, etc.);
2.Other measures adopted to eradicate this violence;
3.The existence of support services for women who are the victims of aggression or abuses;
4.Statistical data on the incidence of violence of all kinds against women and on women who are the victims of violence.
Eighth session (1989)*
General recommendation No. 13: Equal remuneration for work of equal value
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Recalling International Labour Organization Convention No. 100 concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, which has been ratified by a large majority of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
Recalling also that it has considered 51 initial and 5 second periodic reports of States parties since 1983,
Considering that although reports of States parties indicate that, even though the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value has been accepted in the legislation of many countries, more remains to be done to ensure the application of that principle in practice, in order to overcome the gender-segregation in the labour market,
Recommends to the States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women that:
1.In order to implement fully the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, those States parties that have not yet ratified ILO Convention No. 100 should be encouraged to do so;
2.They should consider the study, development and adoption of job evaluation systems based on gender-neutral criteria that would facilitate the comparison of the value of those jobs of a different nature, in which women presently predominate, with those jobs in which men presently predominate, and they should include the results achieved in their reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;
3.They should support, as far as practicable, the creation of implementation machinery and encourage the efforts of the parties to collective agreements, where they apply, to ensure the application of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value.
Ninth session (1990)*
General recommendation No. 14: Female circumcision
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Concerned about the continuation of the practice of female circumcision and other traditional practices harmful to the health of women,
Noting with satisfaction that Governments, where such practices exist, national women’s organizations, non-governmental organizations, specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, as well as the Commission on Human Rights and its Submission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, remain seized of the issue having particularly recognized that such traditional practices as female circumcision have serious health and other consequences for women and children,
Noting with interest the study of the Special Rapporteur on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, as well as the study of the Special Working Group on Traditional Practices,
Recognizing that women are taking important action themselves to identify and to combat practices that are prejudicial to the health and well-being of women and children,
Convinced that the important action that is being taken by women and by all interested groups needs to be supported and encouraged by Governments,
Noting with grave concern that there are continuing cultural, traditional and economic pressures which help to perpetuate harmful practices, such as female circumcision,
Recommends to States parties:
(a)That States parties take appropriate and effective measures with a view to eradicating the practice of female circumcision. Such measures could include:
The collection and dissemination by universities, medical or nursing associations, national women’s organizations or other bodies of basic data about such traditional practices;
The support of women’s organizations at the national and local levels working for the elimination of female circumcision and other practices harmful to women;
The encouragement of politicians, professionals, religious and community leaders at all levels including the media and the arts to cooperate in influencing attitudes towards the eradication of female circumcision;
The introduction of appropriate educational and training programmes and seminars based on research findings about the problems arising from female circumcision;
(b)That States parties include in their national health policies appropriate strategies aimed at eradicating female circumcision in public health care. Such strategies could include the special responsibility of health personnel including traditional birth attendants to explain the harmful effects of female circumcision;
(c)That States parties invite assistance, information and advice from the appropriate organizations of the United Nations system to support and assist efforts being deployed to eliminate harmful traditional practices;
(d)That States parties include in their reports to the Committee under articles 10 and 12 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women information about measures taken to eliminate female circumcision.
Ninth session (1990)*
General recommendation No. 15: Avoidance of discrimination againstwomen in national strategies for the prevention and control of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Having considered information brought to its attention on the potential effects of both the global pandemic of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and strategies to control it on the exercise of the rights of women,
Having regard to the reports and materials prepared by the World Health Organization and other United Nations organizations, organs and bodies in relation to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and, in particular, the note by the Secretary-General to the Commission on the Status of Women on the effects of AIDS on the advancement of women and the Final Document of the International Consultation on AIDS and Human Rights, held at Geneva from 26 to 28 July 1989,
Noting World Health Assembly resolution WHA 41.24 on the avoidance of discrimination in relation to HIV-infected people and people with AIDS, of 13 May 1988, resolution 1989/11 of the Commission on Human Rights on non-discrimination in the field of health, of 2 March 1989, and in particular the Paris Declaration on Women, Children and AIDS, of 30 November 1989,
Noting that the World Health Organization has announced that the theme of World Aids Day, 1 December 1990, will be “Women and Aids”,
(a)That States parties intensify efforts in disseminating information to increase public awareness of the risk of HIV infection and AIDS, especially in women and children, and of its effect on them;
(b)That programmes to combat AIDS should give special attention to the rights and needs of women and children, and to the factors relating to the reproductive role of women and their subordinate position in some societies which make them especially vulnerable to HIV infection;
(c)That States parties ensure the active participation of women in primary health care and take measures to enhance their role as care providers, health workers and educators in the prevention of infection with HIV;
(d)That all States parties include in their reports under article 12 of the Convention information on the effects of AIDS on the situation of women and on the action taken to cater to the needs of those women who are infected and to prevent specific discrimination against women in response to AIDS.
Tenth session (1991)*
General recommendation No. 16: Unpaid women workersin rural and urban family enterprises
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Bearing in mind articles 2 (c) and 11 (c), (d) and (e) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and general recommendation No. 9 (Eighth session, 1989) on statistical data concerning the situation of women,
Taking into consideration that a high percentage of women in the States parties work without payment, social security and social benefits in enterprises owned usually by a male member of the family,
Noting that the reports presented to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women generally do not refer to the problem of unpaid women workers of family enterprises,
Affirming that unpaid work constitutes a form of women’s exploitation that is contrary to the Convention,
Recommends that States parties:
(a)Include in their reports to the Committee information on the legal and social situation of unpaid women working in family enterprises;
(b)Collect statistical data on women who work without payment, social security and social benefits in enterprises owned by a family member, and include these data in their report to the Committee;
(c)Take the necessary steps to guarantee payment, social security and social benefits for women who work without such benefits in enterprises owned by a family member.
Tenth session (1991)*
General recommendation No. 17: Measurement and quantification ofthe unremunerated domestic activities of women and their recognition in the gross national product
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Bearing in mind article 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
Recalling paragraph 120 of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women,
Affirming that the measurement and quantification of the unremunerated domestic activities of women, which contribute to development in each country, will help to reveal the de facto economic role of women,
Convinced that such measurement and quantification offers a basis for the formulation of further policies related to the advancement of women,
Noting the discussions of the Statistical Commission, at its twenty-first session, on the current revision of the System of National Accounts and the development of statistics on women,
Recommends that States parties:
(a)Encourage and support research and experimental studies to measure and value the unremunerated domestic activities of women; for example, by conducting time-use surveys as part of their national household survey programmes and by collecting statistics disaggregated by gender on time spent on activities both in the household and on the labour market;(b)Take steps, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, to quantify and include the unremunerated domestic activities of women in the gross national product;
(c)Include in their reports submitted under article 18 of the Convention information on the research and experimental studies undertaken to measure and value unremunerated domestic activities, as well as on the progress made in the incorporation of the unremunerated domestic activities of women in national accounts.
Tenth session (1991)*
General recommendation No. 18: Disabled women
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Taking into consideration particularly article 3 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
Having considered more than 60 periodic reports of States parties, and having recognized that they provide scarce information on disabled women,
Concerned about the situation of disabled women, who suffer from a double discrimination linked to their special living conditions,
Recalling paragraph 296 of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, in which disabled women are considered as a vulnerable group under the heading “areas of special concern”,
Affirming its support for the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (1982),
Recommends that States parties provide information on disabled women in their periodic reports, and on measures taken to deal with their particular situation, including special measures to ensure that they have equal access to education and employment, health services and social security, and to ensure that they can participate in all areas of social and cultural life.
Eleventh session (1992)*
General recommendation No. 19: Violence against women
1.Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men.
2.In 1989, the Committee recommended that States should include in their reports information on violence and on measures introduced to deal with it (general recommendation 12, Eighth session).
3.At its tenth session in 1991, it was decided to allocate part of the eleventh session to a discussion and study on article 6 and other articles of the Convention relating to violence towards women and the sexual harassment and exploitation of women. That subject was chosen in anticipation of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, convened by the General Assembly by its resolution 45/155 of 18 December 1990.
4.The Committee concluded that not all the reports of States parties adequately reflected the close connection between discrimination against women, gender-based violence, and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The full implementation of the Convention required States to take positive measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women.
5.The Committee suggested to States parties that in reviewing their laws and policies, and in reporting under the Convention, they should have regard to the following comments of the Committee concerning gender-based violence.
6.The Convention in article 1 defines discrimination against women. The definition of discrimination includes gender-based violence, that is, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty. Gender-based violence may breach specific provisions of the Convention, regardless of whether those provisions expressly mention violence.
7.Gender-based violence, which impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms under general international law or under human rights conventions, is discrimination within the meaning of article 1 of the Convention. These rights and freedoms include:
(a)The right to life;
(b)The right not to be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
(c)The right to equal protection according to humanitarian norms in time of international or internal armed conflict;
(d)The right to liberty and security of person;
(e)The right to equal protection under the law;
(f)The right to equality in the family;
(g)The right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health;
(h)The right to just and favourable conditions of work.
8.The Convention applies to violence perpetrated by public authorities. Such acts of violence may breach that State’s obligations under general international human rights law and under other conventions, in addition to breaching this Convention.
9.It is emphasized, however, that discrimination under the Convention is not restricted to action by or on behalf of Governments (see articles 2 (e), 2 (f) and 5). For example, under article 2 (e) the Convention calls on States parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise. Under general international law and specific human rights covenants, States may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence, and for providing compensation.
Comments on specific articles of the Convention
Articles 2 and 3
10.Articles 2 and 3 establish a comprehensive obligation to eliminate discrimination in all its forms in addition to the specific obligations under articles 5-16.
Articles 2 (f), 5 and 10 (c)
11.Traditional attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men or as having stereotyped roles perpetuate widespread practices involving violence or coercion, such as family violence and abuse, forced marriage, dowry deaths, acid attacks and female circumcision. Such prejudices and practices may justify gender-based violence as a form of protection or control of women. The effect of such violence on the physical and mental integrity of women is to deprive them of the equal enjoyment, exercise and knowledge of human rights and fundamental freedoms. While this comment addresses mainly actual or threatened violence the underlying consequences of these forms of gender-based violence help to maintain women in subordinate roles and contribute to their low level of political participation and to their lower level of education, skills and work opportunities.
12.These attitudes also contribute to the propagation of pornography and the depiction and other commercial exploitation of women as sexual objects, rather than as individuals. This in turn contributes to gender-based violence.
13.States parties are required by article 6 to take measures to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of the prostitution of women.
14.Poverty and unemployment increase opportunities for trafficking in women. In addition to established forms of trafficking there are new forms of sexual exploitation, such as sex tourism, the recruitment of domestic labour from developing countries to work in developed countries, and organized marriages between women from developing countries and foreign nationals. These practices are incompatible with the equal enjoyment of rights by women and with respect for their rights and dignity. They put women at special risk of violence and abuse.
15.Poverty and unemployment force many women, including young girls, into prostitution. Prostitutes are especially vulnerable to violence because their status, which may be unlawful, tends to marginalize them. They need the equal protection of laws against rape and other forms of violence.
16.Wars, armed conflicts and the occupation of territories often lead to increased prostitution, trafficking in women and sexual assault of women, which require specific protective and punitive measures.
17.Equality in employment can be seriously impaired when women are subjected to gender‑specific violence, such as sexual harassment in the workplace.
18.Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as physical contact and advances, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions. Such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem; it is discriminatory when the woman has reasonable ground to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in connection with her employment, including recruitment or promotion, or when it creates a hostile working environment.
19.States parties are required by article 12 to take measures to ensure equal access to health care. Violence against women puts their health and lives at risk.
20.In some States there are traditional practices perpetuated by culture and tradition that are harmful to the health of women and children. These practices include dietary restrictions for pregnant women, preference for male children and female circumcision or genital mutilation.
21.Rural women are at risk of gender-based violence because of traditional attitudes regarding the subordinate role of women that persist in many rural communities. Girls from rural communities are at special risk of violence and sexual exploitation when they leave the rural community to seek employment in towns.
Article 16 (and article 5)
22.Compulsory sterilization or abortion adversely affects women’s physical and mental health, and infringes the right of women to decide on the number and spacing of their children.
23.Family violence is one of the most insidious forms of violence against women. It is prevalent in all societies. Within family relationships women of all ages are subjected to violence of all kinds, including battering, rape, other forms of sexual assault, mental and other forms of violence, which are perpetuated by traditional attitudes. Lack of economic independence forces many women to stay in violent relationships. The abrogation of their family responsibilities by men can be a form of violence, and coercion. These forms of violence put women’s health at risk and impair their ability to participate in family life and public life on a basis of equality.
24.In light of these comments, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends:
(a)States parties should take appropriate and effective measures to overcome all forms of gender-based violence, whether by public or private act;
(b)States parties should ensure that laws against family violence and abuse, rape, sexual assault and other gender-based violence give adequate protection to all women, and respect their integrity and dignity. Appropriate protective and support services should be provided for victims. Gender-sensitive training of judicial and law enforcement officers and other public officials is essential for the effective implementation of the Convention;
(c)States parties should encourage the compilation of statistics and research on the extent, causes and effects of violence, and on the effectiveness of measures to prevent and deal with violence;
(d)Effective measures should be taken to ensure that the media respect and promote respect for women;
(e)States parties in their report should identify the nature and extent of attitudes, customs and practices that perpetuate violence against women, and the kinds of violence that result. They should report the measures that they have undertaken to overcome violence, and the effect of those measures;
(f)Effective measures should be taken to overcome these attitudes and practices. States should introduce education and public information programmes to help eliminate prejudices which hinder women’s equality (recommendation No. 3, 1987);
(g)Specific preventive and punitive measures are necessary to overcome trafficking and sexual exploitation;
(h)States parties in their reports should describe the extent of all these problems and the measures, including penal provisions, preventive and rehabilitation measures, that have been taken to protect women engaged in prostitution or subject to trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation. The effectiveness of these measures should also be described;
(i)Effective complaints procedures and remedies, including compensation, should be provided;
(j)States parties should include in their reports information on sexual harassment, and on measures to protect women from sexual harassment and other forms of violence of coercion in the workplace;
(k)States parties should establish or support services for victims of family violence, rape, sex assault and other forms of gender-based violence, including refuges, specially trained health workers, rehabilitation and counselling;
(l)States parties should take measures to overcome such practices and should take account of the Committee’s recommendation on female circumcision (recommendation No. 14) in reporting on health issues;
(m)States parties should ensure that measures are taken to prevent coercion in regard to fertility and reproduction, and to ensure that women are not forced to seek unsafe medical procedures such as illegal abortion because of lack of appropriate services in regard to fertility control;
(n)States parties in their reports should state the extent of these problems and should indicate the measures that have been taken and their effect;
(o)States parties should ensure that services for victims of violence are accessible to rural women and that where necessary special services are provided to isolated communities;
(p)Measures to protect them from violence should include training and employment opportunities and the monitoring of the employment conditions of domestic workers;
(q)States parties should report on the risks to rural women, the extent and nature of violence and abuse to which they are subject, their need for and access to support and other services and the effectiveness of measures to overcome violence;
(r)Measures that are necessary to overcome family violence should include:
Criminal penalties where necessary and civil remedies in case of domestic violence;
Legislation to remove the defence of honour in regard to the assault or murder of a female family member;
Services to ensure the safety and security of victims of family violence, including refuges, counselling and rehabilitation programmes;
Rehabilitation programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence;
Support services for families where incest or sexual abuse has occurred;
(s)States parties should report on the extent of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and on the preventive, punitive and remedial measures that have been taken;
(t)That States parties should take all legal and other measures that are necessary to provide effective protection of women against gender-based violence, including, inter alia:
Effective legal measures, including penal sanctions, civil remedies compensatory provisions to protect women against all kinds of violence, including, inter alia, violence and abuse in the family, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace;
Preventive measures, including public information and education programmes to change attitudes concerning the roles and status of men and women;
Protective measures, including refuges, counselling, rehabilitation and support services for women who are the victims of violence or who are at risk of violence;
(u)That States parties should report on all forms of gender-based violence, and that such reports should include all available data on the incidence of each form of violence, and on the effects of such violence on the women who are victims;
(v)That the reports of States parties should include information on the legal, preventive and protective measures that have been taken to overcome violence against women, and on the effectiveness of such measures.
Eleventh session (1992)*
General recommendation No. 20: Reservations to the Convention
1.The Committee recalled the decision of the Fourth Meeting of States parties on reservations to the Convention with regard to article 28.2, which was welcomed in general recommendation No. 4 of the Committee.
2.The Committee recommended that, in connection with preparations for the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, States parties should:
(a)Raise the question of the validity and the legal effect of reservations to the Convention in the context of reservations to other human rights treaties;
(b)Reconsider such reservations with a view to strengthening the implementation of all human rights treaties;
(c)Consider introducing a procedure on reservations to the Convention comparable with that of other human rights treaties.
Thirteenth session (1994)*
General recommendation No. 21: Equality in marriage and family relations
1.The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (General Assembly resolution 34/180, annex) affirms the equality of human rights for women and men in society and in the family. The Convention has an important place among international treaties concerned with human rights.
2.Other conventions and declarations also confer great significance on the family and woman’s status within it. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (General Assembly resolution 217/A (III)), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (resolution 2200 A (XXI), annex), the Convention on the Nationality of Married Women (resolution 1040 (XI), annex), the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (resolution 1763 A (XVII), annex) and the subsequent Recommendation thereon (resolution 2018 (XX)) and the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women.
3.The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women recalls the inalienable rights of women which are already embodied in the above-mentioned conventions and declarations, but it goes further by recognizing the importance of culture and tradition in shaping the thinking and behaviour of men and women and the significant part they play in restricting the exercise of basic rights by women.
4.The year 1994 has been designated by the General Assembly in its resolution 44/82 as the International Year of the Family. The Committee wishes to take the opportunity to stress the significance of compliance with women’s basic rights within the family as one of the measures which will support and encourage the national celebrations that will take place.
5.Having chosen in this way to mark the International Year of the Family, the Committee wishes to analyse three articles in the Convention that have special significance for the status of women in the family.
1.States parties shall grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality. They shall ensure in particular that neither marriage to an alien nor change of nationality by the husband during marriage shall automatically change the nationality of the wife, render her stateless or force upon her the nationality of the husband.
2.States parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.
6.Nationality is critical to full participation in society. In general, States confer nationality on those who are born in that country. Nationality can also be acquired by reason of settlement or granted for humanitarian reasons such as statelessness. Without status as nationals or citizens, women are deprived of the right to vote or to stand for public office and may be denied access to public benefits and a choice of residence. Nationality should be capable of change by an adult woman and should not be arbitrarily removed because of marriage or dissolution of marriage or because her husband or father changes his nationality.
1.States parties shall accord to women equality with men before the law.
2.States parties shall accord to women, in civil matters, a legal capacity identical to that of men and the same opportunities to exercise that capacity. In particular, they shall give women equal rights to conclude contracts and to administer property and shall treat them equally in all stages of procedure in courts and tribunals.
3.States parties agree that all contracts and all other private instruments of any kind with a legal effect which is directed at restricting the legal capacity of women shall be deemed null and void.
4.States parties shall accord to men and women the same rights with regard to the law relating to the movement of persons and the freedom to choose their residence and domicile.
7.When a woman cannot enter into a contract at all, or have access to financial credit, or can do so only with her husband’s or a male relative’s concurrence or guarantee, she is denied legal autonomy. Any such restriction prevents her from holding property as the sole owner and precludes her from the legal management of her own business or from entering into any other form of contract. Such restrictions seriously limit the woman’s ability to provide for herself and her dependants.
8.A woman’s right to bring litigation is limited in some countries by law or by her access to legal advice and her ability to seek redress from the courts. In others, her status as a witness or her evidence is accorded less respect or weight than that of a man. Such laws or customs limit the woman’s right effectively to pursue or retain her equal share of property and diminish her standing as an independent, responsible and valued member of her community. When countries limit a woman’s legal capacity by their laws, or permit individuals or institutions to do the same, they are denying women their rights to be equal with men and restricting women’s ability to provide for themselves and their dependants.
9.Domicile is a concept in common law countries referring to the country in which a person intends to reside and to whose jurisdiction she will submit. Domicile is originally acquired by a child through its parents but, in adulthood, denotes the country in which a person normally resides and in which she intends to reside permanently. As in the case of nationality, the examination of States parties’ reports demonstrates that a woman will not always be permitted at law to choose her own domicile. Domicile, like nationality, should be capable of change at will by an adult woman regardless of her marital status. Any restrictions on a woman’s right to choose a domicile on the same basis as a man may limit her access to the courts in the country in which she lives or prevent her from entering and leaving a country freely and in her own right.
10.Migrant women who live and work temporarily in another country should be permitted the same rights as men to have their spouses, partners and children join them.
1.States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
(a)The same right to enter into marriage;
(b)The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
(c)The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
(d)The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(e)The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;
(f)The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(g)The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;
(h)The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration.
2.The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.
Public and private life
11.Historically, human activity in public and private life has been viewed differently and regulated accordingly. In all societies women who have traditionally performed their roles in the private or domestic sphere have long had those activities treated as inferior.
12.As such activities are invaluable for the survival of society, there can be no justification for applying different and discriminatory laws or customs to them. Reports of States parties disclose that there are still countries where de jure equality does not exist. Women are thereby prevented from having equal access to resources and from enjoying equality of status in the family and society. Even where de jure equality exists, all societies assign different roles, which are regarded as inferior, to women. In this way, principles of justice and equality contained in particular in article 16 and also in articles 2, 5 and 24 of the Convention are being violated.
Various forms of family
13.The form and concept of the family can vary from State to State, and even between regions within a State. Whatever form it takes, and whatever the legal system, religion, custom or tradition within the country, the treatment of women in the family both at law and in private must accord with the principles of equality and justice for all people, as article 2 of the Convention requires.
14.States parties’ reports also disclose that polygamy is practised in a number of countries. Polygamous marriage contravenes a woman’s right to equality with men, and can have such serious emotional and financial consequences for her and her dependants that such marriages ought to be discouraged and prohibited. The Committee notes with concern that some States parties, whose constitutions guarantee equal rights, permit polygamous marriage in accordance with personal or customary law. This violates the constitutional rights of women, and breaches the provisions of article 5 (a) of the Convention.
Article 16 (1) (a) and (b)
15.While most countries report that national constitutions and laws comply with the Convention, custom, tradition and failure to enforce these laws in reality contravene the Convention.
16.A woman’s right to choose a spouse and enter freely into marriage is central to her life and to her dignity and equality as a human being. An examination of States parties’ reports discloses that there are countries which, on the basis of custom, religious beliefs or the ethnic origins of particular groups of people, permit forced marriages or remarriages. Other countries allow a woman’s marriage to be arranged for payment or preferment and in others women’s poverty forces them to marry foreign nationals for financial security. Subject to reasonable restrictions based for example on a woman’s youth or consanguinity with her partner, a woman’s right to choose when, if, and whom she will marry must be protected and enforced at law.
Article 16 (1) (c)
17.An examination of States parties’ reports discloses that many countries in their legal systems provide for the rights and responsibilities of married partners by relying on the application of common law principles, religious or customary law, rather than by complying with the principles contained in the Convention. These variations in law and practice relating to marriage have wide-ranging consequences for women, invariably restricting their rights to equal status and responsibility within marriage. Such limitations often result in the husband being accorded the status of head of household and primary decision maker and therefore contravene the provisions of the Convention.
18.Moreover, generally a de facto union is not given legal protection at all. Women living in such relationships should have their equality of status with men both in family life and in the sharing of income and assets protected by law. Such women should share equal rights and responsibilities with men for the care and raising of dependent children or family members.
Article 16 (1) (d) and (f)
19.As provided in article 5 (b), most States recognize the shared responsibility of parents for the care, protection and maintenance of children. The principle that “the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration” has been included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (General Assembly resolution 44/25, annex) and seems now to be universally accepted. However, in practice, some countries do not observe the principle of granting the parents of children equal status, particularly when they are not married. The children of such unions do not always enjoy the same status as those born in wedlock and, where the mothers are divorced or living apart, many fathers fail to share the responsibility of care, protection and maintenance of their children.
20.The shared rights and responsibilities enunciated in the Convention should be enforced at law and as appropriate through legal concepts of guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption. States parties should ensure that by their laws both parents, regardless of their marital status and whether they live with their children or not, share equal rights and responsibilities for their children.
Article 16 (1) (e)
21.The responsibilities that women have to bear and raise children affect their right of access to education, employment and other activities related to their personal development. They also impose inequitable burdens of work on women. The number and spacing of their children have a similar impact on women’s lives and also affect their physical and mental health, as well as that of their children. For these reasons, women are entitled to decide on the number and spacing of their children.
22.Some reports disclose coercive practices which have serious consequences for women, such as forced pregnancies, abortions or sterilization. Decisions to have children or not, while preferably made in consultation with spouse or partner, must not nevertheless be limited by spouse, parent, partner or Government. In order to make an informed decision about safe and reliable contraceptive measures, women must have information about contraceptive measures and their use, and guaranteed access to sex education and family planning services, as provided in article 10 (h) of the Convention.
23.There is general agreement that where there are freely available appropriate measures for the voluntary regulation of fertility, the health, development and well-being of all members of the family improve. Moreover, such services improve the general quality of life and health of the population, and the voluntary regulation of population growth helps preserve the environment and achieve sustainable economic and social development.
Article 16 (1) (g)
24.A stable family is one which is based on principles of equity, justice and individual fulfilment for each member. Each partner must therefore have the right to choose a profession or employment that is best suited to his or her abilities, qualifications and aspirations, as provided in article 11 (a) and (c) of the Convention. Moreover, each partner should have the right to choose his or her name, thereby preserving individuality and identity in the community and distinguishing that person from other members of society. When by law or custom a woman is obliged to change her name on marriage or at its dissolution, she is denied these rights.
Article 16 (1) (h)
25.The rights provided in this article overlap with and complement those in article 15 (2) in which an obligation is placed on States to give women equal rights to enter into and conclude contracts and to administer property.
26.Article 15 (1) guarantees women equality with men before the law. The right to own, manage, enjoy and dispose of property is central to a woman’s right to enjoy financial independence, and in many countries will be critical to her ability to earn a livelihood and to provide adequate housing and nutrition for herself and for her family.
27.In countries that are undergoing a programme of agrarian reform or redistribution of land among groups of different ethnic origins, the right of women, regardless of marital status, to share such redistributed land on equal terms with men should be carefully observed.
28.In most countries, a significant proportion of the women are single or divorced and many have the sole responsibility to support a family. Any discrimination in the division of property that rests on the premise that the man alone is responsible for the support of the women and children of his family and that he can and will honourably discharge this responsibility is clearly unrealistic. Consequently, any law or custom that grants men a right to a greater share of property at the end of a marriage or de facto relationship, or on the death of a relative, is discriminatory and will have a serious impact on a woman’s practical ability to divorce her husband, to support herself or her family and to live in dignity as an independent person.
29.All of these rights should be guaranteed regardless of a woman’s marital status.
30.There are countries that do not acknowledge that right of women to own an equal share of the property with the husband during a marriage or de facto relationship and when that marriage or relationship ends. Many countries recognize that right, but the practical ability of women to exercise it may be limited by legal precedent or custom.
31.Even when these legal rights are vested in women, and the courts enforce them, property owned by a woman during marriage or on divorce may be managed by a man. In many States, including those where there is a community-property regime, there is no legal requirement that a woman be consulted when property owned by the parties during marriage or de facto relationship is sold or otherwise disposed of. This limits the woman’s ability to control disposition of the property or the income derived from it.
32.In some countries, on division of marital property, greater emphasis is placed on financial contributions to property acquired during a marriage, and other contributions, such as raising children, caring for elderly relatives and discharging household duties are diminished. Often, such contributions of a non-financial nature by the wife enable the husband to earn an income and increase the assets. Financial and non-financial contributions should be accorded the same weight.
33.In many countries, property accumulated during a de facto relationship is not treated at law on the same basis as property acquired during marriage. Invariably, if the relationship ends, the woman receives a significantly lower share than her partner. Property laws and customs that discriminate in this way against married or unmarried women with or without children should be revoked and discouraged.
34.Reports of States parties should include comment on the legal or customary provisions relating to inheritance laws as they affect the status of women as provided in the Convention and in Economic and Social Council resolution 884D (XXXIV), in which the Council recommended that States ensure that men and women in the same degree of relationship to a deceased are entitled to equal shares in the estate and to equal rank in the order of succession. That provision has not been generally implemented.
35.There are many countries where the law and practice concerning inheritance and property result in serious discrimination against women. As a result of this uneven treatment, women may receive a smaller share of the husband’s or father’s property at his death than would widowers and sons. In some instances, women are granted limited and controlled rights and receive income only from the deceased’s property. Often inheritance rights for widows do not reflect the principles of equal ownership of property acquired during marriage. Such provisions contravene the Convention and should be abolished.
Article 16 (2)
36.In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, held at Vienna from 14 to 25 June 1993, States are urged to repeal existing laws and regulations and to remove customs and practices which discriminate against and cause harm to the girl child. Article 16 (2) and the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child preclude States parties from permitting or giving validity to a marriage between persons who have not attained their majority. In the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”. Notwithstanding this definition, and bearing in mind the provisions of the Vienna Declaration, the Committee considers that the minimum age for marriage should be 18 years for both man and woman. When men and women marry, they assume important responsibilities. Consequently, marriage should not be permitted before they have attained full maturity and capacity to act. According to the World Health Organization, when minors, particularly girls, marry and have children, their health can be adversely affected and their education is impeded. As a result their economic autonomy is restricted.
37.This not only affects women personally but also limits the development of their skills and independence and reduces access to employment, thereby detrimentally affecting their families and communities.
38.Some countries provide for different ages for marriage for men and women. As such provisions assume incorrectly that women have a different rate of intellectual development from men, or that their stage of physical and intellectual development at marriage is immaterial, these provisions should be abolished. In other countries, the betrothal of girls or undertakings by family members on their behalf is permitted. Such measures contravene not only the Convention, but also a woman’s right freely to choose her partner.
39.States parties should also require the registration of all marriages whether contracted civilly or according to custom or religious law. The State can thereby ensure compliance with the Convention and establish equality between partners, a minimum age for marriage, prohibition of bigamy and polygamy and the protection of the rights of children.
Violence against women
40.In considering the place of women in family life, the Committee wishes to stress that the provisions of general recommendation 19 (Eleventh session) concerning violence against women have great significance for women’s abilities to enjoy rights and freedoms on an equal basis with men. States parties are urged to comply with that general recommendation to ensure that, in both public and family life, women will be free of the gender-based violence that so seriously impedes their rights and freedoms as individuals.
41.The Committee has noted with alarm the number of States parties which have entered reservations to the whole or part of article 16, especially when a reservation has also been entered to article 2, claiming that compliance may conflict with a commonly held vision of the family based, inter alia, on cultural or religious beliefs or on the country’s economic or political status.
42.Many of these countries hold a belief in the patriarchal structure of a family which places a father, husband or son in a favourable position. In some countries where fundamentalist or other extremist views or economic hardships have encouraged a return to old values and traditions, women’s place in the family has deteriorated sharply. In others, where it has been recognized that a modern society depends for its economic advance and for the general good of the community on involving all adults equally, regardless of gender, these taboos and reactionary or extremist ideas have progressively been discouraged.
43.Consistent with articles 2, 3 and 24 in particular, the Committee requires that all States parties gradually progress to a stage where, by its resolute discouragement of notions of the inequality of women in the home, each country will withdraw its reservation, in particular to articles 9, 15 and 16 of the Convention.
44.States parties should resolutely discourage any notions of inequality of women and men which are affirmed by laws, or by religious or private law or by custom, and progress to the stage where reservations, particularly to article 16, will be withdrawn.
45.The Committee noted, on the basis of its examination of initial and subsequent periodic reports, that in some States parties to the Convention that had ratified or acceded without reservation, certain laws, especially those dealing with family, do not actually conform to the provisions of the Convention.
46.Their laws still contain many measures which discriminate against women based on norms, customs and sociocultural prejudices. These States, because of their specific situation regarding these articles, make it difficult for the Committee to evaluate and understand the status of women.
47.The Committee, in particular on the basis of articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, requests that those States parties make the necessary efforts to examine the de facto situation relating to the issues and to introduce the required measures in their national legislations still containing provisions discriminatory to women.
48.Assisted by the comments in the present general recommendation, in their reports States parties should:
(a)Indicate the stage that has been reached in the country’s progress to removal of all reservations to the Convention, in particular reservations to article 16;
(b)Set out whether their laws comply with the principles of articles 9, 15 and 16 and where, by reason of religious or private law or custom, compliance with the law or with the Convention is impeded.
49.States parties should, where necessary to comply with the Convention, in particular in order to comply with articles 9, 15 and 16, enact and enforce legislation.
Encouraging compliance with the Convention
50.Assisted by the comments in the present general recommendation, and as required by articles 2, 3 and 24, States parties should introduce measures directed at encouraging full compliance with the principles of the Convention, particularly where religious or private law or custom conflict with those principles.
Fourteenth session (1995)*
General recommendation No. 22: Amending article 20 of the Convention
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Noting that the States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, at the request of the General Assembly, will meet during 1995 to consider amending article 20 of the Convention,
Recalling its previous decision, taken at its tenth session, to ensure effectiveness in its work and prevent the building up of an undesirable backlog in the consideration of reports of States parties,
Recalling that the Convention is one of the international human rights instruments that has been ratified by the largest number of States parties,
Considering that the articles of the Convention address the fundamental human rights of women in all aspects of their daily lives and in all areas of society and the State,
Concerned about the workload of the Committee as a result of the growing number of ratifications, in addition to the backlog of reports pending consideration, as reflected in annex I,
Concerned also about the long lapse of time between the submission of reports of States parties and their consideration, resulting in the need for States to provide additional information for updating their reports,
Bearing in mind that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is the only human rights treaty body whose meeting time is limited by its Convention, and that it has the shortest duration of meeting time of all the human rights treaty bodies, as reflected in annex II,
Noting that the limitation on the duration of sessions, as contained in the Convention has become a serious obstacle to the effective performance by the Committee of its functions under the Convention,
1.Recommends that the States parties favourably consider amending article 20 of the Convention in respect of the meeting time of the Committee, so as to allow it to meet annually for such duration as is necessary for the effective performance of its functions under the Convention, with no specific restriction except for that which the General Assembly shall decide;
2.Recommends also that the General Assembly, pending the completion of an amendment process, authorize the Committee to meet exceptionally in 1996 for two sessions, each of three weeks’ duration and each being preceded by pre-session working groups;
3.Recommends further that the meeting of States parties receive an oral report from the Chairperson of the Committee on the difficulties faced by the Committee in performing its functions;
4.Recommends that the Secretary-General make available to the States parties at their meeting all relevant information on the workload of the Committee and comparative information in respect of the other human rights treaty bodies.
Sixteenth session (1997)*
General recommendation No. 23: Political and public life
States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right:
(a)To vote in all elections and public referendums and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies;
(b)To participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;
(c)To participate in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.
1.The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women places special importance on the participation of women in the public life of their countries. The preamble to the Convention states in part:
“Recalling that discrimination against women violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity, is an obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their countries, hampers the growth of the prosperity of society and the family and makes more difficult the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity.”
2.The Convention further reiterates in its preamble the importance of women’s participation in decision-making as follows:
“Convinced that the full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields.”
3.Moreover, in article 1 of the Convention, the term “discrimination against women” is interpreted to mean:
“any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
4.Other conventions, declarations and international analyses place great importance on the participation of women in public life and have set a framework of international standards of equality. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, the Vienna Declaration, paragraph 13 of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, general recommendations 5 and 8 under the Convention, general comment No. 25 adopted by the Human Rights Committee, the recommendation adopted by the Council of the European Union on balanced participation of women and men in the decision-making process and the European Commission’s “How to Create a Gender Balance in Political Decision-making”.
5.Article 7 obliges States parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life and to ensure that they enjoy equality with men in political and public life. The obligation specified in article 7 extends to all areas of public and political life and is not limited to those areas specified in subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c). The political and public life of a country is a broad concept. It refers to the exercise of political power, in particular the exercise of legislative, judicial, executive and administrative powers. The term covers all aspects of public administration and the formulation and implementation of policy at the international, national, regional and local levels. The concept also includes many aspects of civil society, including public boards and local councils and the activities of organizations such as political parties, trade unions, professional or industry associations, women’s organizations, community-based organizations and other organizations concerned with public and political life.
6.The Convention envisages that, to be effective, this equality must be achieved within the framework of a political system in which each citizen enjoys the right to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections held on the basis of universal suffrage and by secret ballot, in such a way as to guarantee the free expression of the will of the electorate, as provided for under international human rights instruments, such as article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
7.The Convention’s emphasis on the importance of equality of opportunity and of participation in public life and decision-making has led the Committee to review article 7 and to suggest to States parties that in reviewing their laws and policies and in reporting under the Convention, they should take into account the comments and recommendations set out below.
8.Public and private spheres of human activity have always been considered distinct, and have been regulated accordingly. Invariably, women have been assigned to the private or domestic sphere, associated with reproduction and the raising of children, and in all societies these activities have been treated as inferior. By contrast, public life, which is respected and honoured, extends to a broad range of activity outside the private and domestic sphere. Men historically have both dominated public life and exercised the power to confine and subordinate women within the private sphere.
9.Despite women’s central role in sustaining the family and society and their contribution to development, they have been excluded from political life and the decision-making process, which nonetheless determine the pattern of their daily lives and the future of societies. Particularly in times of crisis, this exclusion has silenced women’s voices and rendered invisible their contribution and experiences.
10.In all nations, the most significant factors inhibiting women’s ability to participate in public life have been the cultural framework of values and religious beliefs, the lack of services and men’s failure to share the tasks associated with the organization of the household and with the care and raising of children. In all nations, cultural traditions and religious beliefs have played a part in confining women to the private spheres of activity and excluding them from active participation in public life.
11.Relieving women of some of the burdens of domestic work would allow them to engage more fully in the life of their communities. Women’s economic dependence on men often prevents them from making important political decisions and from participating actively in public life. Their double burden of work and their economic dependence, coupled with the long or inflexible hours of both public and political work, prevent women from being more active.
12.Stereotyping, including that perpetrated by the media, confines women in political life to issues such as the environment, children and health, and excludes them from responsibility for finance, budgetary control and conflict resolution. The low involvement of women in the professions from which politicians are recruited can create another obstacle. In countries where women leaders do assume power this can be the result of the influence of their fathers, husbands or male relatives rather than electoral success in their own right.
13.The principle of equality of women and men has been affirmed in the constitutions and laws of most countries and in all international instruments. Nonetheless, in the last 50 years, women have not achieved equality, and their inequality has been reinforced by their low level of participation in public and political life. Policies developed and decisions made by men alone reflect only part of human experience and potential. The just and effective organization of society demands the inclusion and participation of all its members.
14.No political system has conferred on women both the right to and the benefit of full and equal participation. While democratic systems have improved women’s opportunities for involvement in political life, the many economic, social and cultural barriers they continue to face have seriously limited their participation. Even historically stable democracies have failed to integrate fully and equally the opinions and interests of the female half of the population. Societies in which women are excluded from public life and decision-making cannot be described as democratic. The concept of democracy will have real and dynamic meaning and lasting effect only when political decision-making is shared by women and men and takes equal account of the interests of both. The examination of States parties’ reports shows that where there is full and equal participation of women in public life and decision-making, the implementation of their rights and compliance with the Convention improves.
Temporary special measures
15.While removal of de jure barriers is necessary, it is not sufficient. Failure to achieve full and equal participation of women can be unintentional and the result of outmoded practices and procedures which inadvertently promote men. Under article 4, the Convention encourages the use of temporary special measures in order to give full effect to articles 7 and 8. Where countries have developed effective temporary strategies in an attempt to achieve equality of participation, a wide range of measures has been implemented, including recruiting, financially assisting and training women candidates, amending electoral procedures, developing campaigns directed at equal participation, setting numerical goals and quotas and targeting women for appointment to public positions such as the judiciary or other professional groups that play an essential part in the everyday life of all societies. The formal removal of barriers and the introduction of temporary special measures to encourage the equal participation of both men and women in the public life of their societies are essential prerequisites to true equality in political life. In order, however, to overcome centuries of male domination of the public sphere, women also require the encouragement and support of all sectors of society to achieve full and effective participation, encouragement which must be led by States parties to the Convention, as well as by political parties and public officials. States parties have an obligation to ensure that temporary special measures are clearly designed to support the principle of equality and therefore comply with constitutional principles which guarantee equality to all citizens.
16.The critical issue, emphasized in the Beijing Platform for Action,5 is the gap between the de jure and de facto, or the right as against the reality of women’s participation in politics
and public life generally. Research demonstrates that if women’s participation reaches 30 to 35 per cent (generally termed a “critical mass”), there is a real impact on political style and the content of decisions, and political life is revitalized.
17.In order to achieve broad representation in public life, women must have full equality in the exercise of political and economic power; they must be fully and equally involved in decision-making at all levels, both nationally and internationally, so that they may make their contribution to the goals of equality, development and the achievement of peace. A gender perspective is critical if these goals are to be met and if true democracy is to be assured. For these reasons, it is essential to involve women in public life to take advantage of their contribution, to assure their interests are protected and to fulfil the guarantee that the enjoyment of human rights is for all people regardless of gender. Women’s full participation is essential not only for their empowerment but also for the advancement of society as a whole.
The right to vote and to be elected (art. 7, para. (a))
18.The Convention obliges States parties in constitutions or legislation to take appropriate steps to ensure that women, on the basis of equality with men, enjoy the right to vote in all elections and referendums, and to be elected. These rights must be enjoyed both de jure and de facto.
19.The examination of the reports of States parties demonstrates that, while almost all have adopted constitutional or other legal provisions that grant to both women and men the equal right to vote in all elections and public referendums, in many nations women continue to experience difficulties in exercising this right.
20.Factors which impede these rights include the following:
(a)Women frequently have less access than men to information about candidates and about party political platforms and voting procedures, information which Governments and political parties have failed to provide. Other important factors that inhibit women’s full and equal exercise of their right to vote include their illiteracy, their lack of knowledge and understanding of political systems or about the impact that political initiatives and policies will have upon their lives. Failure to understand the rights, responsibilities and opportunities for change conferred by franchise also means that women are not always registered to vote;
(b)Women’s double burden of work, as well as financial constraints, will limit women’s time or opportunity to follow electoral campaigns and to have the full freedom to exercise their vote;
(c)In many nations, traditions and social and cultural stereotypes discourage women from exercising their right to vote. Many men influence or control the votes of women by persuasion or direct action, including voting on their behalf. Any such practices should be prevented;
(d)Other factors that in some countries inhibit women’s involvement in the public or political lives of their communities include restrictions on their freedom of movement or right to participate, prevailing negative attitudes towards women’s political participation, or a lack of confidence in and support for female candidates by the electorate. In addition, some women consider involvement in politics to be distasteful and avoid participation in political campaigns.
21.These factors at least partially explain the paradox that women, who represent half of all electorates, do not wield their political power or form blocs which would promote their interests or change government, or eliminate discriminatory policies.
22.The system of balloting, the distribution of seats in Parliament, the choice of district, all have a significant impact on the proportion of women elected to Parliament. Political parties must embrace the principles of equal opportunity and democracy and endeavour to balance the number of male and female candidates.
23.The enjoyment of the right to vote by women should not be subject to restrictions or conditions that do not apply to men or that have a disproportionate impact on women. For example, limiting the right to vote to persons who have a specified level of education, who possess a minimum property qualification or who are literate is not only unreasonable, it may violate the universal guarantee of human rights. It is also likely to have a disproportionate impact on women, thereby contravening the provisions of the Convention.
The right to participate in formulation of government policy (art. 7, para. (b))
24.The participation of women in government at the policy level continues to be low in general. Although significant progress has been made and in some countries equality has been achieved, in many countries women’s participation has actually been reduced.
25.Article 7 (b) also requires States parties to ensure that women have the right to participate fully in and be represented in public policy formulation in all sectors and at all levels. This would facilitate the mainstreaming of gender issues and contribute a gender perspective to public policy-making.
26.States parties have a responsibility, where it is within their control, both to appoint women to senior decision-making roles and, as a matter of course, to consult and incorporate the advice of groups which are broadly representative of women’s views and interests.
27.States parties have a further obligation to ensure that barriers to women’s full participation in the formulation of government policy are identified and overcome. These barriers include complacency when token women are appointed, and traditional and customary attitudes that discourage women’s participation. When women are not broadly represented in the senior levels of government or are inadequately or not consulted at all, government policy will not be comprehensive and effective.
28.While States parties generally hold the power to appoint women to senior cabinet and administrative positions, political parties also have a responsibility to ensure that women are included in party lists and nominated for election in areas where they have a likelihood of electoral success. States parties should also endeavour to ensure that women are appointed to government advisory bodies on an equal basis with men and that these bodies take into account, as appropriate, the views of representative women’s groups. It is the Government’s fundamental responsibility to encourage these initiatives to lead and guide public opinion and change attitudes that discriminate against women or discourage women’s involvement in political and public life.
29.Measures that have been adopted by a number of States parties in order to ensure equal participation by women in senior cabinet and administrative positions and as members of government advisory bodies include: adoption of a rule whereby, when potential appointees are equally qualified, preference will be given to a woman nominee; the adoption of a rule that neither sex should constitute less than 40 per cent of the members of a public body; a quota for women members of cabinet and for appointment to public office; and consultation with women’s organizations to ensure that qualified women are nominated for membership in public bodies and offices and the development and maintenance of registers of such women in order to facilitate the nomination of women for appointment to public bodies and posts. Where members are appointed to advisory bodies upon the nomination of private organizations, States parties should encourage these organizations to nominate qualified and suitable women for membership in these bodies.
The right to hold public office and to perform all public functions (art. 7, para. (b))
30.The examination of the reports of States parties demonstrates that women are excluded from top-ranking positions in cabinets, the civil service and in public administration, in the judiciary and in justice systems. Women are rarely appointed to these senior or influential positions and while their numbers may in some States be increasing at the lower levels and in posts usually associated with the home or the family, they form only a tiny minority in decision‑making positions concerned with economic policy or development, political affairs, defence, peacemaking missions, conflict resolution or constitutional interpretation and determination.
31.Examination of the reports of States parties also demonstrates that in certain cases the law excludes women from exercising royal powers, from serving as judges in religious or traditional tribunals vested with jurisdiction on behalf of the State or from full participation in the military. These provisions discriminate against women, deny to society the advantages of their involvement and skills in these areas of the life of their communities and contravene the principles of the Convention.
The right to participate in non-governmental and public and political organizations(art. 7, para. (c))
32.An examination of the reports of States parties demonstrates that, on the few occasions when information concerning political parties is provided, women are underrepresented or concentrated in less influential roles than men. As political parties are an important vehicle in decision-making roles, Governments should encourage political parties to examine the extent to which women are full and equal participants in their activities and, where this is not the case, should identify the reasons for this. Political parties should be encouraged to adopt effective measures, including the provision of information, financial and other resources, to overcome obstacles to women’s full participation and representation and ensure that women have an equal opportunity in practice to serve as party officials and to be nominated as candidates for election.
33.Measures that have been adopted by some political parties include setting aside for women a certain minimum number or percentage of positions on their executive bodies, ensuring that there is a balance between the number of male and female candidates nominated for election, and ensuring that women are not consistently assigned to less favourable constituencies or to the least advantageous positions on a party list. States parties should ensure that such temporary special measures are specifically permitted under anti-discrimination legislation or other constitutional guarantees of equality.
34.Other organizations such as trade unions and political parties have an obligation to demonstrate their commitment to the principle of gender equality in their constitutions, in the application of those rules and in the composition of their memberships with gender-balanced representation on their executive boards so that these bodies may benefit from the full and equal participation of all sectors of society and from contributions made by both sexes. These organizations also provide a valuable training ground for women in political skills, participation and leadership, as do non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Article 8 (international level)
States parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure to women, on equal terms with men and without any discrimination, the opportunity to represent their Governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations.
35.Under article 8, Governments are obliged to ensure the presence of women at all levels and in all areas of international affairs. This requires that they be included in economic and military matters, in both multilateral and bilateral diplomacy, and in official delegations to international and regional conferences.
36.From an examination of the reports of States parties, it is evident that women are grossly underrepresented in the diplomatic and foreign services of most Governments, and particularly at the highest ranks. Women tend to be assigned to embassies of lesser importance to the country’s foreign relations and in some cases women are discriminated against in terms of their appointments by restrictions pertaining to their marital status. In other instances spousal and family benefits accorded to male diplomats are not available to women in parallel positions. Opportunities for women to engage in international work are often denied because of assumptions about their domestic responsibilities, including that the care of family dependants will prevent them accepting appointment.
37.Many Permanent Missions to the United Nations and to other international organizations have no women among their diplomats and very few at senior levels. The situation is similar at expert meetings and conferences that establish international and global goals, agendas and priorities. Organizations of the United Nations system and various economic, political and military structures at the regional level have become important international public employers, but here, too, women have remained a minority concentrated in lower-level positions.
38.There are few opportunities for women and men, on equal terms, to represent Governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations. This is frequently the result of an absence of objective criteria and processes for appointment and promotion to relevant positions and official delegations.
39.The globalization of the contemporary world makes the inclusion of women and their participation in international organizations, on equal terms with men, increasingly important. The integration of a gender perspective and women’s human rights into the agenda of all international bodies is a government imperative. Many crucial decisions on global issues, such as peacemaking and conflict resolution, military expenditure and nuclear disarmament, development and the environment, foreign aid and economic restructuring, are taken with limited participation of women. This is in stark contrast to their participation in these areas at the non‑governmental level.
40.The inclusion of a critical mass of women in international negotiations, peacekeeping activities, all levels of preventive diplomacy, mediation, humanitarian assistance, social reconciliation, peace negotiations and the international criminal justice system will make a difference. In addressing armed or other conflicts, a gender perspective and analysis is necessary to understand their differing effects on women and men.
Articles 7 and 8
41.States parties should ensure that their constitutions and legislation comply with the principles of the Convention, and in particular with articles 7 and 8.
42.States parties are under an obligation to take all appropriate measures, including the enactment of appropriate legislation that complies with their Constitution, to ensure that organizations such as political parties and trade unions, which may not be subject directly to obligations under the Convention, do not discriminate against women and respect the principles contained in articles 7 and 8.
43.States parties should identify and implement temporary special measures to ensure the equal representation of women in all fields covered by articles 7 and 8.
44.States parties should explain the reason for, and effect of, any reservations to articles 7 or 8 and indicate where the reservations reflect traditional, customary or stereotyped attitudes towards women’s roles in society, as well as the steps being taken by the States parties to change those attitudes. States parties should keep the necessity for such reservations under close review and in their reports include a timetable for their removal.
45.Measures that should be identified, implemented and monitored for effectiveness include, under article 7, paragraph (a), those designed to:
(a)Achieve a balance between women and men holding publicly elected positions;
(b)Ensure that women understand their right to vote, the importance of this right and how to exercise it;
(c)Ensure that barriers to equality are overcome, including those resulting from illiteracy, language, poverty and impediments to women’s freedom of movement;
(d)Assist women experiencing such disadvantages to exercise their right to vote and to be elected.
46.Under article 7, paragraph (b), such measures include those designed to ensure:
(a)Equality of representation of women in the formulation of government policy;
(b)Women’s enjoyment in practice of the equal right to hold public office;
(c)Recruiting processes directed at women that are open and subject to appeal.
47.Under article 7, paragraph (c), such measures include those designed to:
(a)Ensure that effective legislation is enacted prohibiting discrimination against women;
(b)Encourage non-governmental organizations and public and political associations to adopt strategies that encourage women’s representation and participation in their work.
48.When reporting under article 7, States parties should:
(a)Describe the legal provisions that give effect to the rights contained in article 7;
(b)Provide details of any restrictions to those rights, whether arising from legal provisions or from traditional, religious or cultural practices;
(c)Describe the measures introduced and designed to overcome barriers to the exercise of those rights;
(d)Include statistical data, disaggregated by sex, showing the percentage of women relative to men who enjoy those rights;
(e)Describe the types of policy formulation, including that associated with development programmes, in which women participate and the level and extent of their participation;
(f)Under article 7, paragraph (c), describe the extent to which women participate in non-governmental organizations in their countries, including in women’s organizations;
(g)Analyse the extent to which the State party ensures that those organizations are consulted and the impact of their advice on all levels of government policy formulation and implementation;
(h)Provide information concerning, and analyse factors contributing to, the underrepresentation of women as members and officials of political parties, trade unions, employers’ organizations and professional associations.
49.Measures which should be identified, implemented and monitored for effectiveness include those designed to ensure a better gender balance in membership of all United Nations bodies, including the Main Committees of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and expert bodies, including treaty bodies, and in appointments to independent working groups or as country or special rapporteurs.
50.When reporting under article 8, States parties should:
(a)Provide statistics, disaggregated by sex, showing the percentage of women in their foreign service or regularly engaged in international representation or in work on behalf of the State, including membership in government delegations to international conferences and nominations for peacekeeping or conflict resolution roles, and their seniority in the relevant sector;
(b)Describe efforts to establish objective criteria and processes for appointment and promotion of women to relevant positions and official delegations;
(c)Describe steps taken to disseminate widely information on the Government’s international commitments affecting women and official documents issued by multilateral forums, in particular, to both governmental and non-governmental bodies responsible for the advancement of women;
(d)Provide information concerning discrimination against women because of their political activities, whether as individuals or as members of women’s or other organizations.
Twentieth session (1999)*
General recommendation No. 24: Article 12 of the Convention (women and health)
1.The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, affirming that access to health care, including reproductive health, is a basic right under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, decided at its twentieth session, pursuant to article 21, to elaborate a general recommendation on article 12 of the Convention.
2.States parties’ compliance with article 12 of the Convention is central to the health and well-being of women. It requires States to eliminate discrimination against women in their access to health-care services throughout the life cycle, particularly in the areas of family planning, pregnancy and confinement and during the post-natal period. The examination of reports submitted by States parties pursuant to article 18 of the Convention demonstrates that women’s health is an issue that is recognized as a central concern in promoting the health and well-being of women. For the benefit of States parties and those who have a particular interest in and concern with the issues surrounding women’s health, the present general recommendation seeks to elaborate the Committee’s understanding of article 12 and to address measures to eliminate discrimination in order to realize the right of women to the highest attainable standard of health.
3.Recent United Nations world conferences have also considered these objectives. In preparing this general recommendation, the Committee has taken into account relevant programmes of action adopted at United Nations world conferences and, in particular, those of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women. The Committee has also noted the work of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other United Nations bodies. It has collaborated with a large number of non‑governmental organizations with a special expertise in women’s health in preparing this general recommendation.
4.The Committee notes the emphasis that other United Nations instruments place on the right to health and to the conditions that enable good health to be achieved. Among such instruments are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
5.The Committee refers also to its earlier general recommendations on female circumcision, human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), disabled women, violence against women and equality in family relations, all of which refer to issues that are integral to full compliance with article 12 of the Convention.
6.While biological differences between women and men may lead to differences in health status, there are societal factors that are determinative of the health status of women and men and can vary among women themselves. For that reason, special attention should be given to the health needs and rights of women belonging to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as migrant women, refugee and internally displaced women, the girl child and older women, women in prostitution, indigenous women and women with physical or mental disabilities.
7.The Committee notes that the full realization of women’s right to health can be achieved only when States parties fulfil their obligation to respect, protect and promote women’s fundamental human right to nutritional well-being throughout their lifespan by means of a food supply that is safe, nutritious and adapted to local conditions. To this end, States parties should take steps to facilitate physical and economic access to productive resources, especially for rural women, and to otherwise ensure that the special nutritional needs of all women within their jurisdiction are met.
8.Article 12 reads as follows:
“1.States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health-care services, including those related to family planning.
“2.Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 1 of this article, States parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.”
States parties are encouraged to address the issue of women’s health throughout the woman’s lifespan. For the purposes of the present general recommendation, therefore, “women” includes girls and adolescents. The general recommendation will set out the Committee’s analysis of the key elements of article 12.
Article 12 (1)
9.States parties are in the best position to report on the most critical health issues affecting women in that country. Therefore, in order to enable the Committee to evaluate whether measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care are appropriate, States parties must report on their health legislation, plans and policies for women with reliable data disaggregated by sex on the incidence and severity of diseases and conditions hazardous to women’s health and nutrition and on the availability and cost-effectiveness of preventive and curative measures. Reports to the Committee must demonstrate that health legislation, plans and policies are based on scientific and ethical research and assessment of the health status and needs of women in that country and take into account any ethnic, regional or community variations or practices based on religion, tradition or culture.
10.States parties are encouraged to include in their reports information on diseases, health conditions and conditions hazardous to health that affect women or certain groups of women differently from men, as well as information on possible intervention in this regard.
11.Measures to eliminate discrimination against women are considered to be inappropriate if a health-care system lacks services to prevent, detect and treat illnesses specific to women. It is discriminatory for a State party to refuse to provide legally for the performance of certain reproductive health services for women. For instance, if health service providers refuse to perform such services based on conscientious objection, measures should be introduced to ensure that women are referred to alternative health providers.
12.States parties should report on their understanding of how policies and measures on health care address the health rights of women from the perspective of women’s needs and interests and how it addresses distinctive features and factors that differ for women in comparison to men, such as:
(a)Biological factors that differ for women in comparison with men, such as their menstrual cycle, their reproductive function and menopause. Another example is the higher risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases that women face;
(b)Socio-economic factors that vary for women in general and some groups of women in particular. For example, unequal power relationships between women and men in the home and workplace may negatively affect women’s nutrition and health. They may also be exposed to different forms of violence which can affect their health. Girl children and adolescent girls are often vulnerable to sexual abuse by older men and family members, placing them at risk of physical and psychological harm and unwanted and early pregnancy. Some cultural or traditional practices such as female genital mutilation also carry a high risk of death and disability;
(c)Psychosocial factors that vary between women and men include depression in general and post-partum depression in particular as well as other psychological conditions, such as those that lead to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia;
(d)While lack of respect for the confidentiality of patients will affect both men and women, it may deter women from seeking advice and treatment and thereby adversely affect their health and well-being. Women will be less willing, for that reason, to seek medical care for diseases of the genital tract, for contraception or for incomplete abortion and in cases where they have suffered sexual or physical violence.
13.The duty of States parties to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health-care services, information and education implies an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil women’s rights to health care. States parties have the responsibility to ensure that legislation and executive action and policy comply with these three obligations. They must also put in place a system that ensures effective judicial action. Failure to do so will constitute a violation of article 12.
14.The obligation to respect rights requires States parties to refrain from obstructing action taken by women in pursuit of their health goals. States parties should report on how public and private health-care providers meet their duties to respect women’s rights to have access to health care. For example, States parties should not restrict women’s access to health services or to the clinics that provide those services on the ground that women do not have the authorization of husbands, partners, parents or health authorities, because they are unmarried* or because they are women. Other barriers to women’s access to appropriate health care include laws that criminalize medical procedures only needed by women punish women who undergo those procedures.
15.The obligation to protect rights relating to women’s health requires States parties, their agents and officials to take action to prevent and impose sanctions for violations of rights by private persons and organizations. Since gender-based violence is a critical health issue for women, States parties should ensure:
(a)The enactment and effective enforcement of laws and the formulation of policies, including health-care protocols and hospital procedures to address violence against women and sexual abuse of girl children and the provision of appropriate health services;
(b)Gender-sensitive training to enable health-care workers to detect and manage the health consequences of gender-based violence;
(c)Fair and protective procedures for hearing complaints and imposing appropriate sanctions on health-care professionals guilty of sexual abuse of women patients;
(d)The enactment and effective enforcement of laws that prohibit female genital mutilation and marriage of girl children.
16.States parties should ensure that adequate protection and health services, including trauma treatment and counselling, are provided for women in especially difficult circumstances, such as those trapped in situations of armed conflict and women refugees.
17.The duty to fulfil rights places an obligation on States parties to take appropriate legislative, judicial, administrative, budgetary, economic and other measures to the maximum extent of their available resources to ensure that women realize their rights to health care. Studies such as those that emphasize the high maternal mortality and morbidity rates worldwide and the large numbers of couples who would like to limit their family size but lack access to or do not use any form of contraception provide an important indication for States parties of possible breaches of their duties to ensure women’s access to health care. The Committee asks States parties to report on what they have done to address the magnitude of women’s ill-health, in particular when it arises from preventable conditions, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. The Committee is concerned about the evidence that States are relinquishing these obligations as they transfer State health functions to private agencies. States and parties cannot absolve themselves of responsibility in these areas by delegating or transferring these powers to private sector agencies. States parties should therefore report on what they have done to organize governmental processes and all structures through which public power is exercised to promote and protect women’s health. They should include information on positive measures taken to curb violations of women’s rights by third parties and to protect their health and the measures they have taken to ensure the provision of such services.
18.The issues of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are central to the rights of women and adolescent girls to sexual health. Adolescent girls and women in many countries lack adequate access to information and services necessary to ensure sexual health. As a consequence of unequal power relations based on gender, women and adolescent girls are often unable to refuse sex or insist on safe and responsible sex practices. Harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, polygamy, as well as marital rape, may also expose girls and women to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Women in prostitution are also particularly vulnerable to these diseases. States parties should ensure, without prejudice or discrimination, the right to sexual health information, education and services for all women and girls, including those who have been trafficked, even if they are not legally resident in the country. In particular, States parties should ensure the rights of female and male adolescents to sexual and reproductive health education by properly trained personnel in specially designed programmes that respect their right to privacy and confidentiality.
19.In their reports, States parties should identify the test by which they assess whether women have access to health care on a basis of equality of men and women in order to demonstrate compliance with article 12. In applying these tests, States parties should bear in mind the provisions of article 1 of the Convention. Reports should therefore include comments on the impact that health policies, procedures, laws and protocols have on women when compared with men.
20.Women have the right to be fully informed, by properly trained personnel, of their options in agreeing to treatment or research, including likely benefits and potential adverse effects of proposed procedures and available alternatives.
21.States parties should report on measures taken to eliminate barriers that women face in access to health-care services and what measures they have taken to ensure women timely and affordable access to such services. Barriers include requirements or conditions that prejudice women’s access, such as high fees for health-care services, the requirement for preliminary authorization by spouse, parent or hospital authorities, distance from health facilities and the absence of convenient and affordable public transport.
22.States parties should also report on measures taken to ensure access to quality health-care services, for example, by making them acceptable to women. Acceptable services are those that are delivered in a way that ensures that a woman gives her fully informed consent, respects her dignity, guarantees her confidentiality and is sensitive to her needs and perspectives. States parties should not permit forms of coercion, such as non-consensual sterilization, mandatory testing for sexually transmitted diseases or mandatory pregnancy testing as a condition of employment that violate women’s rights to informed consent and dignity.
23.In their reports, States parties should state what measures they have taken to ensure timely access to the range of services that are related to family planning, in particular, and to sexual and reproductive health in general. Particular attention should be paid to the health education of adolescents, including information and counselling on all methods of family planning. *
24.The Committee is concerned about the conditions of health-care services for older women, not only because women often live longer than men and are more likely than men to suffer from disabling and degenerative chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis and dementia, but because they often have the responsibility for their ageing spouses. Therefore, States parties should take appropriate measures to ensure the access of older women to health services that address the handicaps and disabilities associated with ageing.
25.Women with disabilities, of all ages, often have difficulty with physical access to health services. Women with mental disabilities are particularly vulnerable, while there is limited understanding, in general, of the broad range of risks to mental health to which women are disproportionately susceptible as a result of gender discrimination, violence, poverty, armed conflict, dislocation and other forms of social deprivation. States parties should take appropriate measures to ensure that health services are sensitive to the needs of women with disabilities and are respectful of their human rights and dignity.
Article 12 (2)
26.Reports should also include what measures States parties have taken to ensure women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period. Information on the rates at which these measures have reduced maternal mortality and morbidity in their countries, in general, and in vulnerable groups, regions and communities, in particular, should also be included.
27.States parties should include in their reports how they supply free services where necessary to ensure safe pregnancies, childbirth and post-partum periods for women. Many women are at risk of death or disability from pregnancy-related causes because they lack the funds to obtain or access the necessary services, which include antenatal, maternity and post‑natal services. The Committee notes that it is the duty of States parties to ensure women’s right to safe motherhood and emergency obstetric services and they should allocate to these services the maximum extent of available resources.
Other relevant articles in the Convention
28.When reporting on measures taken to comply with article 12, States parties are urged to recognize its interconnection with other articles in the Convention that have a bearing on women’s health. Those articles include article 5 (b), which requires States parties to ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function; article 10, which requires States parties to ensure equal access to education, thus enabling women to access health care more readily and reducing female student drop-out rates, which are often a result of premature pregnancy; article 10 (h), which requires that States parties provide to women and girls access to specific educational information to help ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning; article 11, which is concerned, in part, with the protection of women’s health and safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the reproductive function, special protection from harmful types of work during pregnancy and with the provision of paid maternity leave; article 14, paragraph 2 (b), which requires States parties to ensure access for rural women to adequate health-care facilities, including information, counselling and services in family planning, and (h), which obliges States parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure adequate living conditions, particularly housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications, all of which are critical for the prevention of disease and the promotion of good health care; and article 16, paragraph 1 (e), which requires States parties to ensure that women have the same rights as men to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise those rights. Article 16, paragraph 2, proscribes the betrothal and marriage of children, an important factor in preventing the physical and emotional harm which arise from early childbirth.
Recommendations for government action
29.States parties should implement a comprehensive national strategy to promote women’s health throughout their lifespan. This will include interventions aimed at both the prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions affecting women, as well as responding to violence against women, and will ensure universal access for all women to a full range of high-quality and affordable health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.
30.States parties should allocate adequate budgetary, human and administrative resources to ensure that women’s health receives a share of the overall health budget comparable with that for men’s health, taking into account their different health needs.
31.States parties should also, in particular:
(a)Place a gender perspective at the centre of all policies and programmes affecting women’s health and should involve women in the planning, implementation and monitoring of such policies and programmes and in the provision of health services to women;
(b)Ensure the removal of all barriers to women’s access to health services, education and information, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health, and, in particular, allocate resources for programmes directed at adolescents for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS;
(c)Prioritize the prevention of unwanted pregnancy through family planning and sex education and reduce maternal mortality rates through safe motherhood services and prenatal assistance. When possible, legislation criminalizing abortion should be amended, in order to withdraw punitive measures imposed on women who undergo abortion;
(d)Monitor the provision of health services to women by public, non-governmental and private organizations, to ensure equal access and quality of care;
(e)Require all health services to be consistent with the human rights of women, including the rights to autonomy, privacy, confidentiality, informed consent and choice;
(f)Ensure that the training curricula of health workers include comprehensive, mandatory, gender-sensitive courses on women’s health and human rights, in particular gender‑based violence.
Thirtieth session (2004)
General recommendation No. 25: Article 4, paragraph 1,of the Convention (temporary special measures)
1.The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women decided at its twentieth session (1999), pursuant to article 21 of the Convention, to elaborate a general recommendation on article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This new general recommendation would build, inter alia, on earlier general recommendations, including general recommendation No. 5 (seventh session, 1988), on temporary special measures, No. 8 (seventh session, 1988), on implementation of article 8 of the Convention, and No. 23 (sixteenth session, 1997), on women in public life, as well as on reports of States parties to the Convention and on the Committee’s concluding comments to those reports.
2.With the present general recommendation, the Committee aims to clarify the nature and meaning of article 4, paragraph 1, in order to facilitate and ensure its full utilization by States parties in the implementation of the Convention. The Committee encourages States parties to translate this general recommendation into national and local languages and to disseminate it widely to the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, including their administrative structures, as well as civil society, including the media, academia, and human rights and women’s associations and institutions.
II.Background: the object and purpose of the Convention
3.The Convention is a dynamic instrument. Since the adoption of the Convention in 1979, the Committee, as well as other actors at the national and international levels, have contributed through progressive thinking to the clarification and understanding of the substantive content of the Convention’s articles and the specific nature of discrimination against women and the instruments for combating such discrimination.
4.The scope and meaning of article 4, paragraph 1, must be determined in the context of the overall object and purpose of the Convention, which is to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women with a view to achieving women’s de jure and de facto equality with men in the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. States parties to the Convention are under a legal obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfil this right to non-discrimination for women and to ensure the development and advancement of women in order to improve their position to one of de jure as well as de facto equality with men.
5.The Convention goes beyond the concept of discrimination used in many national and international legal standards and norms. While such standards and norms prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sex and protect both men and women from treatment based on arbitrary, unfair and/or unjustifiable distinctions, the Convention focuses on discrimination against women, emphasizing that women have suffered, and continue to suffer from various forms of discrimination because they are women.
6.A joint reading of articles 1 to 5 and 24, which form the general interpretative framework for all of the Convention’s substantive articles, indicates that three obligations are central to States parties’ efforts to eliminate discrimination against women. These obligations should be implemented in an integrated fashion and extend beyond a purely formal legal obligation of equal treatment of women with men.
7.Firstly, States parties’ obligation is to ensure that there is no direct or indirect discrimination against women in their laws and that women are protected against discrimination - committed by public authorities, the judiciary, organizations, enterprises or private individuals - in the public as well as the private spheres by competent tribunals as well as sanctions and other remedies. Secondly, States parties’ obligation is to improve the de facto position of women through concrete and effective policies and programmes. Thirdly, States parties’ obligation is to address prevailing gender relations and the persistence of gender‑based stereotypes that affect women not only through individual acts by individuals but also in law, and legal and societal structures and institutions.
8.In the Committee’s view, a purely formal legal or programmatic approach is not sufficient to achieve women’s de facto equality with men, which the Committee interprets as substantive equality. In addition, the Convention requires that women be given an equal start and that they be empowered by an enabling environment to achieve equality of results. It is not enough to guarantee women treatment that is identical to that of men. Rather, biological as well as socially and culturally constructed differences between women and men must be taken into account. Under certain circumstances, non-identical treatment of women and men will be required in order to address such differences. Pursuit of the goal of substantive equality also calls for an effective strategy aimed at overcoming underrepresentation of women and a redistribution of resources and power between men and women.
9.Equality of results is the logical corollary of de facto or substantive equality. These results may be quantitative and/or qualitative in nature; that is, women enjoying their rights in various fields in fairly equal numbers with men, enjoying the same income levels, equality in decision-making and political influence, and women enjoying freedom from violence.
10.The position of women will not be improved as long as the underlying causes of discrimination against women, and of their inequality, are not effectively addressed. The lives of women and men must be considered in a contextual way, and measures adopted towards a real transformation of opportunities, institutions and systems so that they are no longer grounded in historically determined male paradigms of power and life patterns.
11.Women’s biologically determined permanent needs and experiences should be distinguished from other needs that may be the result of past and present discrimination against women by individual actors, the dominant gender ideology, or by manifestations of such discrimination in social and cultural structures and institutions. As steps are being taken to eliminate discrimination against women, women’s needs may change or disappear, or become the needs of both women and men. Thus, continuous monitoring of laws, programmes and practices directed at the achievement of women’s de facto or substantive equality is needed so as to avoid a perpetuation of non-identical treatment that may no longer be warranted.
12.Certain groups of women, in addition to suffering from discrimination directed against them as women, may also suffer from multiple forms of discrimination based on additional grounds such as race, ethnic or religious identity, disability, age, class, caste or other factors. Such discrimination may affect these groups of women primarily, or to a different degree or in different ways than men. States parties may need to take specific temporary special measures to eliminate such multiple forms of discrimination against women and its compounded negative impact on them.
13.In addition to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, other international human rights instruments and policy documents adopted in the United Nations system contain provisions on temporary special measures to support the achievement of equality. Such measures are described in different terminology, and the meaning and interpretation given to such measures also differs. It is the Committee’s hope that the present general recommendation on article 4, paragraph 1, will contribute to a clarification of terminology.
14.The Convention targets discriminatory dimensions of past and current societal and cultural contexts which impede women’s enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. It aims at the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, including the elimination of the causes and consequences of their de facto or substantive inequality. Therefore, the application of temporary special measures in accordance with the Convention is one of the means to realize de facto or substantive equality for women, rather than an exception to the norms of non-discrimination and equality.
III.The meaning and scope of temporary special measuresin the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms ofDiscrimination against Women
Article 4, paragraph 1
Adoption by States parties of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination as defined in the present Convention, but shall in no way entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate standards; these measures shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved.
Article 4, paragraph 2
Adoption by States parties of special measures, including those measures contained in the present Convention, aimed at protecting maternity shall not be considered discriminatory.
A. Relationship between paragraphs 1 and 2 of article 4
15.There is a clear difference between the purpose of the “special measures” under article 4, paragraph 1, and those of paragraph 2. The purpose of article 4, paragraph 1, is to accelerate the improvement of the position of women to achieve their de facto or substantive equality with men, and to effect the structural, social and cultural changes necessary to correct past and current forms and effects of discrimination against women, as well as to provide them with compensation. These measures are of a temporary nature.
16.Article 4, paragraph 2, provides for non-identical treatment of women and men due to their biological differences. These measures are of a permanent nature, at least until such time as the scientific and technological knowledge referred to in article 11, paragraph 3, would warrant a review.
17.The travaux préparatoires of the Convention use different terms to describe the “temporary special measures” included in article 4, paragraph 1. The Committee itself, in its previous general recommendations, used various terms. States parties often equate “special measures” in its corrective, compensatory and promotional sense with the terms “affirmative action”, “positive action”, “positive measures”, “reverse discrimination”, and “positive discrimination”. These terms emerge from the discussions and varied practices found in different national contexts. In the present general recommendation, and in accordance with its practice in the consideration of reports of States parties, the Committee uses solely the term “temporary special measures”, as called for in article 4, paragraph 1.
C. Key elements of article 4, paragraph 1
18.Measures taken under article 4, paragraph 1, by States parties should aim to accelerate the equal participation of women in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. The Committee views the application of these measures not as an exception to the norm of non-discrimination, but rather as an emphasis that temporary special measures are part of a necessary strategy by States parties directed towards the achievement of de facto or substantive equality of women with men in the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. While the application of temporary special measures often remedies the effects of past discrimination against women, the obligation of States parties under the Convention to improve the position of women to one of de facto or substantive equality with men exists irrespective of any proof of past discrimination. The Committee considers that States parties that adopt and implement such measures under the Convention do not discriminate against men.
19.States parties should clearly distinguish between temporary special measures taken under article 4, paragraph 1, to accelerate the achievement of a concrete goal for women of de facto or substantive equality, and other general social policies adopted to improve the situation of women and the girl child. Not all measures that potentially are, or will be, favourable to women are temporary special measures. The provision of general conditions in order to guarantee the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of women and the girl child, designed to ensure for them a life of dignity and non-discrimination, cannot be called temporary special measures.
20.Article 4, paragraph 1, explicitly states the “temporary” nature of such special measures. Such measures should therefore not be deemed necessary forever, even though the meaning of “temporary” may, in fact, result in the application of such measures for a long period of time. The duration of a temporary special measure should be determined by its functional result in response to a concrete problem and not by a predetermined passage of time. Temporary special measures must be discontinued when their desired results have been achieved and sustained for a period of time.
21.The term “special”, though being in conformity with human rights discourse, also needs to be carefully explained. Its use sometimes casts women and other groups who are subject to discrimination as weak, vulnerable and in need of extra or “special” measures in order to participate or compete in society. However, the real meaning of “special” in the formulation of article 4, paragraph 1, is that the measures are designed to serve a specific goal.
22.The term “measures” encompasses a wide variety of legislative, executive, administrative and other regulatory instruments, policies and practices, such as outreach or support programmes; allocation and/or reallocation of resources; preferential treatment; targeted recruitment, hiring and promotion; numerical goals connected with time frames; and quota systems. The choice of a particular “measure” will depend on the context in which article 4, paragraph 1, is applied and on the specific goal it aims to achieve.
23.The adoption and implementation of temporary special measures may lead to a discussion of qualifications and merit of the group or individuals so targeted, and an argument against preferences for allegedly lesser-qualified women over men in areas such as politics, education and employment. As temporary special measures aim at accelerating achievement of de facto or substantive equality, questions of qualification and merit, in particular in the area of employment in the public and private sectors, need to be reviewed carefully for gender bias as they are normatively and culturally determined. For appointment, selection or election to public and political office, factors other than qualification and merit, including the application of the principles of democratic fairness and electoral choice, may also have to play a role.
24.Article 4, paragraph 1, read in conjunction with articles 1, 2, 3, 5 and 24, needs to be applied in relation to articles 6 to 16 which stipulate that States parties “shall take all appropriate measures”. Consequently, the Committee considers that States parties are obliged to adopt and implement temporary special measures in relation to any of these articles if such measures can be shown to be necessary and appropriate in order to accelerate the achievement of the overall, or a specific goal of, women’s de facto or substantive equality.
IV. Recommendations to States parties
25.Reports of States parties should include information on the adoption, or lack thereof, of temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, and States parties should preferably adhere to the terminology “temporary special measures”, to avoid confusion.
26.States parties should clearly distinguish between temporary special measures aimed at accelerating the achievement of a concrete goal of women’s de facto or substantive equality, and other general social policies adopted and implemented in order to improve the situation of women and the girl child. States parties should bear in mind that not all measures which potentially are or would be favourable to women qualify as temporary special measures.
27.States parties should analyse the context of women’s situation in all spheres of life, as well as in the specific, targeted area, when applying temporary special measures to accelerate achievement of women’s de facto or substantive equality. They should evaluate the potential impact of temporary special measures with regard to a particular goal within their national context and adopt those temporary special measures which they consider to be the most appropriate in order to accelerate the achievement of de facto or substantive equality for women.
28.States parties should explain the reasons for choosing one type of measure over another. The justification for applying such measures should include a description of the actual life situation of women, including the conditions and influences which shape their lives and opportunities - or that of a specific group of women, suffering from multiple forms of discrimination - and whose position the State party intends to improve in an accelerated manner with the application of such temporary special measures. At the same time, the relationship between such measures and general measures and efforts to improve the position of women should be clarified.
29.States parties should provide adequate explanations with regard to any failure to adopt temporary special measures. Such failures may not be justified simply by averring powerlessness, or by explaining inaction through predominant market or political forces, such as those inherent in the private sector, private organizations, or political parties. States parties are reminded that article 2 of the Convention, which needs to be read in conjunction with all other articles, imposes accountability on the State party for action by these actors.
30.States parties may report on temporary special measures under several articles. Under article 2, States parties are invited to report on the legal or other basis for such measures, and their justification for choosing a particular approach. States parties are further invited to give details about any legislation concerning temporary special measures, and in particular whether such legislation provides for the mandatory or voluntary nature of temporary special measures.
31.States parties should include, in their constitutions or in their national legislation, provisions that allow for the adoption of temporary special measures. The Committee reminds States parties that legislation, such as comprehensive anti-discrimination acts, equal opportunities acts or executive orders on women’s equality, can give guidance on the type of temporary special measures that should be applied to achieve a stated goal, or goals, in given
areas. Such guidance can also be contained in specific legislation on employment or education. Relevant legislation on non-discrimination and temporary special measures should cover governmental actors as well as private organizations or enterprises.
32.The Committee draws the attention of States parties to the fact that temporary special measures may also be based on decrees, policy directives and/or administrative guidelines formulated and adopted by national, regional or local executive branches of government to cover the public employment and education sectors. Such temporary special measures may include the civil service, the political sphere and the private education and employment sectors. The Committee further draws the attention of States parties to the fact that such measures may also be negotiated between social partners of the public or private employment sector or be applied on a voluntary basis by public or private enterprises, organizations, institutions and political parties.
33.The Committee reiterates that action plans for temporary special measures need to be designed, applied and evaluated within the specific national context and against the background of the specific nature of the problem which they are intended to overcome. The Committee recommends that States parties provide in their reports details of any action plans which may be directed at creating access for women and overcoming their underrepresentation in certain fields, at redistributing resources and power in particular areas, and/or at initiating institutional change to overcome past or present discrimination and accelerate the achievement of de facto equality. Reports should also explain whether such action plans include considerations of unintended potential adverse side-effects of such measures as well as on possible action to protect women against them. States parties should also describe in their reports the results of temporary special measures and assess the causes of the possible failure of such measures.
34.Under article 3, States parties are invited to report on the institution(s) responsible for designing, implementing, monitoring, evaluating and enforcing such temporary special measures. Such responsibility may be vested in existing or planned national institutions, such as women’s ministries, women’s departments within ministries or presidential offices, ombudspersons, tribunals or other entities of a public or private nature with the requisite mandate to design specific programmes, monitor their implementation, and evaluate their impact and outcomes. The Committee recommends that States parties ensure that women in general, and affected groups of women in particular, have a role in the design, implementation and evaluation of such programmes. Collaboration and consultation with civil society and non-governmental organizations representing various groups of women is especially recommended.
35.The Committee draws attention to and reiterates its general recommendation 9, on statistical data concerning the situation of women, and recommends that States parties provide statistical data disaggregated by sex in order to measure the achievement of progress towards women’s de facto or substantive equality and the effectiveness of temporary special measures.
36.States parties should report on the type of temporary special measures taken in specific fields under the relevant article(s) of the Convention. Reporting under the respective article(s) should include references to concrete goals and targets, timetables, the reasons for choosing particular measures, steps to enable women to access such measures, and the institution accountable for monitoring implementation and progress. States parties are also asked to
describe how many women are affected by a measure, how many would gain access and participate in a certain field because of a temporary special measure, or the amount of resources and power it aims to redistribute to how many women, and within what time frame.
37.The Committee reiterates its general recommendations 5, 8 and 23, wherein it recommended the application of temporary special measures in the fields of education, the economy, politics and employment, in the area of women representing their Governments at the international level and participating in the work of international organizations, and in the area of political and public life. States parties should intensify, within their national contexts, such efforts especially with regard to all facets of education at all levels as well as all facets and levels of training, employment and representation in public and political life. The Committee recalls that in all instances, but particularly in the area of health, States parties should carefully distinguish in each field between measures of an ongoing and permanent nature and those of a temporary nature.
38.States parties are reminded that temporary special measures should be adopted to accelerate the modification and elimination of cultural practices and stereotypical attitudes and behaviour that discriminate against or are disadvantageous for women. Temporary special measures should also be implemented in the areas of credit and loans, sports, culture and recreation, and legal awareness. Where necessary, such measures should be directed at women subjected to multiple discrimination, including rural women.
39.Although the application of temporary special measures may not be possible under all the articles of the Convention, the Committee recommends that their adoption be considered whenever issues of accelerating access to equal participation, on the one hand, and accelerating the redistribution of power and resources, on the other hand, are involved as well as where it can be shown that these measures will be necessary and most appropriate under the circumstances.
V.GENERAL COMMENTS ADOPTED BY THECOMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
1.The Committee against Torture at its sixteenth session decided, on 10 May 1996, to set up a working group to examine questions relating to articles 3 and 22 of the Convention. The Committee had noticed that most of the individual communications received under article 22 of the Convention in recent years had concerned cases of persons under an order of expulsion, return or extradition who alleged that they would have been in danger of being subjected to torture if they were expelled, returned or extradited. The Committee felt that some guidance should be given to the States parties and to the authors of communications to enable them to apply correctly the provisions of article 3 in the context of the procedure set forth in article 22 of the Convention. On 21 November 1997, the Committee adopted the general comment on the implementation of article 3 in the context of article 22 of the Convention (A/53/44, para. 258).
Sixteenth session (1996)*
General comment No. 1: Implementation of article 3 of the Convention in the context of article 22 (Refoulement and communications)
In view of the requirements of article 22, paragraph 4, of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that the Committee against Torture “shall consider communications received under article 22 in the light of all information made available to it by or on behalf of the individual and by the State party concerned”,
In view of the need arising as a consequence of the application of rule 111, paragraph 3, of the rules of procedure of the Committee (CAT/C/3/Rev.2), and
In view of the need for guidelines for the implementation of article 3 under the procedure foreseen in article 22 of the Convention,
The Committee against Torture, at its nineteenth session, 317th meeting, held on 21 November 1997, adopted the following general comment for the guidance of States parties and authors of communications:
1.Article 3 is confined in its application to cases where there are substantial grounds for believing that the author would be in danger of being subjected to torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention.
2.The Committee is of the view that the phrase “another State” in article 3 refers to the State to which the individual concerned is being expelled, returned or extradited, as well as to any State to which the author may subsequently be expelled, returned or extradited.
3.Pursuant to article 1, the criterion, mentioned in article 3, paragraph 2, of “a consistent pattern or gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights” refers only to violations by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
4.The Committee is of the opinion that it is the responsibility of the author to establish a prima facie case for the purpose of admissibility of his or her communication under article 22 of the Convention by fulfilling each of the requirements of rule 107 of the rules of procedure of the Committee.
5.With respect to the application of article 3 of the Convention to the merits of a case, the burden is upon the author to present an arguable case. This means that there must be a factual basis for the author’s position sufficient to require a response from the State party.
6.Bearing in mind that the State party and the Committee are obliged to assess whether there are substantial grounds for believing that the author would be in danger of being subjected to torture were he/she to be expelled, returned or extradited, the risk of torture must be assessed on grounds that go beyond mere theory or suspicion. However, the risk does not have to meet the test of being highly probable.
7.The author must establish that he/she would be in danger of being tortured and that the grounds for so believing are substantial in the way described, and that such danger is personal and present. All pertinent information may be introduced by either party to bear on this matter.
8.The following information, while not exhaustive, would be pertinent:
(a)Is the State concerned one in which there is evidence of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights (see article 3, paragraph 2)?
(b)Has the author been tortured or maltreated by or at the instigation of or with the consent of acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity in the past? If so, was this the recent past?
(c)Is there medical or other independent evidence to support a claim by the author that he/she has been tortured or maltreated in the past? Has the torture had after-effects?
(d)Has the situation referred to in (a) above changed? Has the internal situation in respect of human rights altered?
(e)Has the author engaged in political or other activity within or outside the State concerned which would appear to make him/her particularly vulnerable to the risk of being placed in danger of torture were he/she to be expelled, returned or extradited to the State in question?
(f)Is there any evidence as to the credibility of the author?
(g)Are there factual inconsistencies in the claim of the author? If so, are they relevant?
9.Bearing in mind that the Committee against Torture is not an appellate, a quasi‑judicial or an administrative body, but rather a monitoring body created by the States parties themselves with declaratory powers only, it follows that:
(a)Considerable weight will be given, in exercising the Committee’s jurisdiction pursuant to article 3 of the Convention, to findings of fact that are made by organs of the State party concerned; but
(b)The Committee is not bound by such findings and instead has the power, provided by article 22, paragraph 4, of the Convention, of free assessment of the facts based upon the full set of circumstances in every case.
Thirty-ninth session (2007)
General comment No. 2: Implementation of article 2 by States parties
1.This general comment addresses the three parts of article 2, each of which identifies distinct interrelated and essential principles that undergird the Convention’s absolute prohibition against torture. Since the adoption of the Convention against Torture, the absolute and non‑derogable character of this prohibition has become accepted as a matter of customary international law. The provisions of article 2 reinforce this peremptory jus cogens norm against torture and constitute the foundation of the Committee’s authority to implement effective means of prevention, including but not limited to those measures contained in the subsequent articles 3 to 16, in response to evolving threats, issues, and practices.
2.Article 2, paragraph 1, obliges each State party to take actions that will reinforce the prohibition against torture through legislative, administrative, judicial, or other actions that must, in the end, be effective in preventing it. To ensure that measures are in fact taken that are known to prevent or punish any acts of torture, the Convention outlines in subsequent articles obligations for the State party to take measures specified therein.
3.The obligation to prevent torture in article 2 is wide-ranging. The obligations to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (hereinafter “ill‑treatment”) under article 16, paragraph 1, are indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. The obligation to prevent ill-treatment in practice overlaps with and is largely congruent with the obligation to prevent torture. Article 16, identifying the means of prevention of ill-treatment, emphasizes “in particular” the measures outlined in articles 10 to 13, but does not limit effective prevention to these articles, as the Committee has explained, for example, with respect to compensation in article 14. In practice, the definitional threshold between ill-treatment and torture is often not clear. Experience demonstrates that the conditions that give rise to ill‑treatment frequently facilitate torture and therefore the measures required to prevent torture must be applied to prevent ill-treatment. Accordingly, the Committee has considered the prohibition of ill-treatment to be likewise non-derogable under the Convention and its prevention to be an effective and non-derogable measure.
4.States parties are obligated to eliminate any legal or other obstacles that impede the eradication of torture and ill-treatment; and to take positive effective measures to ensure that such conduct and any recurrences thereof are effectively prevented. States parties also have the obligation continually to keep under review and improve their national laws and performance under the Convention in accordance with the Committee’s concluding observations and views adopted on individual communications. If the measures adopted by the State party fail to accomplish the purpose of eradicating acts of torture, the Convention requires that they be revised and/or that new, more effective measures be adopted. Likewise, the Committee’s understanding of and recommendations in respect of effective measures are in a process of continual evolution, as, unfortunately, are the methods of torture and ill-treatment.
II. Absolute prohibition
5.Article 2, paragraph 2, provides that the prohibition against torture is absolute and non‑derogable. It emphasizes that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked by a State Party to justify acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. The Convention identifies as among such circumstances a state of war or threat thereof, internal political instability or any other public emergency. This includes any threat of terrorist acts or violent crime as well as armed conflict, international or non-international. The Committee is deeply concerned at and rejects absolutely any efforts by States to justify torture and ill-treatment as a means to protect public safety or avert emergencies in these and all other situations. Similarly, it rejects any religious or traditional justification that would violate this absolute prohibition. The Committee considers that amnesties or other impediments which preclude or indicate unwillingness to provide prompt and fair prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of torture or ill-treatment violate the principle of non-derogability.
6.The Committee reminds all States parties to the Convention of the non-derogable nature of the obligations undertaken by them in ratifying the Convention. In the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001, the Committee specified that the obligations in articles 2 (whereby “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever…may be invoked as a justification of torture”), 15 (prohibiting confessions extorted by torture being admitted in evidence, except against the torturer), and 16 (prohibiting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) are three such provisions that “must be observed in all circumstances”. The Committee considers that articles 3 to 15 are likewise obligatory as applied to both torture and ill-treatment. The Committee recognizes that States parties may choose the measures through which they fulfill these obligations, so long as they are effective and consistent with the object and purpose of the Convention.
7.The Committee also understands that the concept of “any territory under its jurisdiction,” linked as it is with the principle of non-derogability, includes any territory or facilities and must be applied to protect any person, citizen or non-citizen without discrimination subject to the de jureorde facto control of a State party. The Committee emphasizes that the State’s obligation to prevent torture also applies to all persons who act, de jure or de facto, in the name of, in conjunction with, or at the behest of the State party. It is a matter of urgency that each State party should closely monitor its officials and those acting on its behalf and should identify and report to the Committee any incidents of torture or ill-treatment as a consequence of anti-terrorism measures, among others, and the measures taken to investigate, punish, and prevent further torture or ill-treatment in the future, with particular attention to the legal responsibility of both the direct perpetrators and officials in the chain of command, whether by acts of instigation, consent or acquiescence.
III.Content of the obligation to take effective measures to prevent torture
8.States parties must make the offence of torture punishable as an offence under its criminal law, in accordance, at a minimum, with the elements of torture as defined in article 1 of the Convention, and the requirements of article 4.
9.Serious discrepancies between the Convention’s definition and that incorporated into domestic law create actual or potential loopholes for impunity. In some cases, although similar language may be used, its meaning may be qualified by domestic law or by judicial interpretation and thus the Committee calls upon each State party to ensure that all parts of its Government adhere to the definition set forth in the Convention for the purpose of defining the obligations of the State. At the same time, the Committee recognizes that broader domestic definitions also advance the object and purpose of this Convention so long as they contain and are applied in accordance with the standards of the Convention, at a minimum. In particular, the Committee emphasizes that elements of intent and purpose in article 1 do not involve a subjective inquiry into the motivations of the perpetrators, but rather must be objective determinations under the circumstances. It is essential to investigate and establish the responsibility of persons in the chain of command as well as that of the direct perpetrator(s).
10.The Committee recognizes that most States parties identify or define certain conduct as ill‑treatment in their criminal codes. In comparison to torture, ill-treatment may differ in the severity of pain and suffering and does not require proof of impermissible purposes. The Committee emphasizes that it would be a violation of the Convention to prosecute conduct solely as ill-treatment where the elements of torture are also present.
11.By defining the offence of torture as distinct from common assault or other crimes, the Committee considers that States parties will directly advance the Convention’s overarching aim of preventing torture and ill-treatment. Naming and defining this crime will promote the Convention’s aim, inter alia, by alerting everyone, including perpetrators, victims, and the public, to the special gravity of the crime of torture. Codifying this crime will also (a) emphasize the need for appropriate punishment that takes into account the gravity of the offence, (b) strengthen the deterrent effect of the prohibition itself, (c) enhance the ability of responsible officials to track the specific crime of torture and (d) enable and empower the public to monitor and, when required, to challenge State action as well as State inaction that violates the Convention.
12.Through review of successive reports from States parties, the examination of individual communications, and monitoring of developments, the Committee has, in its concluding observations, articulated its understanding of what constitute effective measures, highlights of which we set forth here. In terms of both the principles of general application of article 2 and developments that build upon specific articles of the Convention, the Committee has recommended specific actions designed to enhance each State party’s ability swiftly and effectively to implement measures necessary and appropriate to prevent acts of torture and ill‑treatment and thereby assist States parties in bringing their law and practice into full compliance with the Convention.
13.Certain basic guarantees apply to all persons deprived of their liberty. Some of these are specified in the Convention, and the Committee consistently calls upon States parties to use them. The Committee’s recommendations concerning effective measures aim to clarify the current baseline and are not exhaustive. Such guarantees include, inter alia, maintaining an official register of detainees, the right of detainees to be informed of their rights, the right promptly to receive independent legal assistance, independent medical assistance, and to contact relatives, the need to establish impartial mechanisms for inspecting and visiting places of detention and confinement, and the availability to detainees and persons at risk of torture and ill‑treatment of judicial and other remedies that will allow them to have their complaints promptly and impartially examined, to defend their rights, and to challenge the legality of their detention or treatment.
14.Experience since the Convention came into force has enhanced the Committee’s understanding of the scope and nature of the prohibition against torture, of the methodologies of torture, of the contexts and consequences in which it occurs, as well as of evolving effective measures to prevent it in different contexts. For example, the Committee has emphasized the importance of having same sex guards when privacy is involved. As new methods of prevention (e.g. videotaping all interrogations, utilizing investigative procedures such as the Istanbul Protocol of 1999, or new approaches to public education or the protection of minors) are discovered, tested and found effective, article 2 provides authority to build upon the remaining articles and to expand the scope of measures required to prevent torture.
IV. Scope of State obligations and responsibility
15.The Convention imposes obligations on States parties and not on individuals. States bear international responsibility for the acts and omissions of their officials and others, including agents, private contractors, and others acting in official capacity or acting on behalf of the State, in conjunction with the State, under its direction or control, or otherwise under colour of law. Accordingly, each State party should prohibit, prevent and redress torture and ill-treatment in all contexts of custody or control, for example, in prisons, hospitals, schools, institutions that engage in the care of children, the aged, the mentally ill or disabled, in military service, and other institutions as well as contexts where the failure of the State to intervene encourages and enhances the danger of privately inflicted harm. The Convention does not, however, limit the international responsibilitythat States or individuals can incur for perpetrating torture and ill‑treatment under international customary law and other treaties.
16.Article 2, paragraph 1, requires that each State party shall take effective measures to prevent acts of torture not only in its sovereign territory but also “in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The Committee has recognized that “any territory” includes all areas where the State party exercises, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, de jure or de facto effective control, in accordance with international law. The reference to “any territory” in article 2, like that in articles 5, 11, 12, 13 and 16, refers to prohibited acts committed not only on board a ship or aircraft registered by a State party, but also during military occupation or peacekeeping operations and in such places as embassies, military bases, detention facilities, or other areas over which a State exercises factual or effective control. The Committee notes that this interpretation reinforces article 5, paragraph 1 (b), which requires that a State party must take measures to exercise jurisdiction “when the alleged offender is a national of the State.” The Committee considers that the scope of “territory” under article 2 must also include situations where a State party exercises, directly or indirectly, de facto or de jure control over persons in detention.
17.The Committee observes that States parties are obligated to adopt effective measures to prevent public authorities and other persons acting in an official capacity from directly committing, instigating, inciting, encouraging, acquiescing in or otherwise participating or being complicit in acts of torture as defined in the Convention. Thus, States parties should adopt effective measures to prevent such authorities or others acting in an official capacity or under colour of law, from consenting to or acquiescing in any acts of torture. The Committee has concluded that States parties are in violation of the Convention when they fail to fulfil these obligations. For example, where detention centres are privately owned or run, the Committee considers that personnel are acting in an official capacity on account of their responsibility for carrying out the State function without derogation of the obligation of State officials to monitor and take all effective measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment.
18.The Committee has made clear that where State authorities or others acting in official capacity or under colour of law, know or have reasonable grounds to believe that acts of torture or ill-treatment are being committed by non-State officials or private actors and they fail to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish such non-State officials or private actors consistently with the Convention, the State bears responsibility and its officials should be considered as authors, complicit or otherwise responsible under the Convention for consenting to or acquiescing in such impermissible acts. Since the failure of the State to exercise due diligence to intervene to stop, sanction and provide remedies to victims of torture facilitates and enables non-State actors to commit acts impermissible under the Convention with impunity, the State’s indifference or inaction provides a form of encouragement and/or de factopermission. The Committee has applied this principle to States parties’ failure to prevent and protect victims from gender-based violence, such as rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and trafficking.
19.Additionally, if a person is to be transferred or sent to the custody or control of an individual or institution known to have engaged in torture or ill-treatment, or has not implemented adequate safeguards, the State is responsible, and its officials subject to punishment for ordering, permitting or participating in this transfer contrary to the State’s obligation to take effective measures to prevent torture in accordance with article 2, paragraph 1. The Committee has expressed its concern when States parties send persons to such places without due process of law as required by articles 2 and 3.
V.Protection for individuals and groups made vulnerable by discrimination or marginalization
20.The principle of non-discrimination is a basic and general principle in the protection of human rights and fundamental to the interpretation and application of the Convention. Non‑discrimination is included within the definition of torture itself in article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention, which explicitly prohibits specified acts when carried out for “any reason based on discrimination of any kind…”. The Committee emphasizes that the discriminatory use of mental or physical violence or abuse is an important factor in determining whether an act constitutes torture.
21.The protection of certain minority or marginalized individuals or populations especially at risk of torture is a part of the obligation to prevent torture or ill-treatment. States parties must ensure that, insofar as the obligations arising under the Convention are concerned,their laws are in practice applied to all persons, regardless of race, colour, ethnicity, age, religious belief or affiliation, political or other opinion, national or social origin, gender, sexual orientation, transgender identity, mental or other disability, health status, economic or indigenous status, reason for which the person is detained, including persons accused of political offences or terrorist acts, asylum-seekers, refugees or others under international protection, or any other status or adverse distinction. States parties should, therefore, ensure the protection of members of groups especially at risk of being tortured, by fully prosecuting and punishing all acts of violence and abuse against these individuals and ensuring implementation of other positive measures of prevention and protection, including but not limited to those outlined above.
22.State reports frequently lack specific and sufficient information on the implementation of the Convention with respect to women. The Committee emphasizes that gender is a key factor. Being female intersects with other identifying characteristics or status of the person such as race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, age, immigrant status etc. to determine the ways that women and girls are subject to or at risk of torture or ill-treatment and the consequences thereof. The contexts in which females are at risk include deprivation of liberty, medical treatment, particularly involving reproductive decisions, and violence by private actors in communities and homes. Men are also subject to certain gendered violations of the Convention such as rape or sexual violence and abuse. Both men and women and boys and girls may be subject to violations of the Convention on the basis of their actual or perceived non-conformity with socially determined gender roles. States parties are requested to identify these situations and the measures taken to punish and prevent them in their reports.
23.Continual evaluation is therefore a crucial component of effective measures. The Committee has consistently recommended that States parties provide data disaggregated by age, gender and other key factors in their reports to enable the Committee to adequately evaluate the implementation of the Convention. Disaggregated data permits the States parties and the Committee to identify, compare and take steps to remedy discriminatory treatment that may otherwise go unnoticed and unaddressed. States parties are requested to describe, as far as possible, factors affecting the incidence and prevention of torture or ill-treatment, as well as the difficulties experienced in preventing torture or ill-treatment against specific relevant sectors of the population, such as minorities, victims of torture, children and women, taking into account the general and particular forms that such torture and ill-treatment may take.
24.Eliminating employment discrimination and conducting ongoing sensitization training in contexts where torture or ill-treatment is likely to be committed is also key to preventing such violations and building a culture of respect for women and minorities. States are encouraged to promote the hiring of persons belonging to minority groups and women, particularly in the medical, educational, prison/detention, law enforcement, judicial and legal fields, within State institutions as well as the private sector. States parties should include in their reports information on their progress in these matters, disaggregated by gender, race, national origin, and other relevant status.
VI.Other preventive measures required by the Convention
25.Articles 3 to 15 of the Convention constitute specific preventive measures that the States parties deemed essential to prevent torture and ill-treatment, particularly in custody or detention. The Committee emphasizes that the obligation to take effective preventive measures transcends the items enumerated specifically in the Convention or the demands of this general comment. For example, it is important that the general population be educated on the history, scope, and necessity of the non-derogable prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, as well as that law enforcement and other personnel receive education on recognizing and preventing torture and ill‑treatment. Similarly, in light of its long experience in reviewing and assessing State reports on officially inflicted or sanctioned torture or ill-treatment, the Committee acknowledges the importance of adapting the concept of monitoring conditions to prevent torture and ill-treatment to situations where violence is inflicted privately. States parties should specifically include in their reports to the Committee detailed information on their implementation of preventive measures, disaggregated by relevant status.
VII. Superior orders
26.The non-derogability of the prohibition of torture is underscored by the long-standing principle embodied in article 2, paragraph 3, that an order of a superior or public authority can never be invoked as a justification of torture. Thus, subordinates may not seek refuge in superior authority and should be held to account individually. At the same time, those exercising superior authority - including public officials - cannot avoid accountability or escape criminal responsibility for torture or ill-treatment committed by subordinates where they knew or should have known that such impermissible conduct was occurring, or was likely to occur, and they failed to take reasonable and necessary preventive measures. The Committee considers it essential that the responsibility of any superior officials, whether for direct instigation or encouragement of torture or ill-treatment or for consent or acquiescence therein, be fully investigated through competent, independent and impartial prosecutorial and judicial authorities. Persons who resist what they view as unlawful orders or who cooperate in the investigation of torture or ill-treatment, including by superior officials, should be protected against retaliation of any kind.
27.The Committee reiterates that this general comment has to be considered without prejudice to any higher degree of protection contained in any international instrument or national law, as long as they contain, as a minimum, the standards of the Convention.
vi.general commentS adopted by THE COMMITTEEon the rights of the child
Twenty-sixth session (2001)
General comment No. 1: The aims of education
The significance of article 29 (1)
1.Article 29, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is of far-reaching importance. The aims of education that it sets out, which have been agreed to by all States parties, promote, support and protect the core value of the Convention: the human dignity innate in every child and his or her equal and inalienable rights. These aims, set out in the five subparagraphs of article 29 (1), are all linked directly to the realization of the child’s human dignity and rights, taking into account the child’s special developmental needs and diverse evolving capacities. The aims are: the holistic development of the full potential of the child (29 (1) (a)), including development of respect for human rights (29 (1) (b)), an enhanced sense of identity and affiliation (29 (1) (c)), and his or her socialization and interaction with others (29 (1) (d)) and with the environment (29 (1) (e)).
2.Article 29 (1) not only adds to the right to education recognized in article 28 a qualitative dimension which reflects the rights and inherent dignity of the child; it also insists upon the need for education to be child‑centred, child‑friendly and empowering, and it highlights the need for educational processes to be based upon the very principles it enunciates. The education to which every child has a right is one designed to provide the child with life skills, to strengthen the child’s capacity to enjoy the full range of human rights and to promote a culture which is infused by appropriate human rights values. The goal is to empower the child by developing his or her skills, learning and other capacities, human dignity, self‑esteem and self‑confidence. “Education” in this context goes far beyond formal schooling to embrace the broad range of life experiences and learning processes which enable children, individually and collectively, to develop their personalities, talents and abilities and to live a full and satisfying life within society.
3.The child’s right to education is not only a matter of access (art. 28) but also of content. An education with its contents firmly rooted in the values of article 29 (1) is for every child an indispensable tool for her or his efforts to achieve in the course of her or his life a balanced, human rights‑friendly response to the challenges that accompany a period of fundamental change driven by globalization, new technologies and related phenomena. Such challenges include the tensions between, inter alia, the global and the local; the individual and the collective; tradition and modernity; long‑ and short‑term considerations; competition and equality of opportunity; the expansion of knowledge and the capacity to assimilate it; and the spiritual and the material. And yet, in the national and international programmes and policies on education that really count, the elements embodied in article 29 (1) seem all too often to be either largely missing or present only as a cosmetic afterthought.
4.Article 29 (1) states that the States parties agree that education should be directed to a wide range of values. This agreement overcomes the boundaries of religion, nation and culture built across many parts of the world. At first sight, some of the diverse values expressed in article 29 (1) might be thought to be in conflict with one another in certain situations. Thus, efforts to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all peoples, to which paragraph (1) (d) refers, might not always be automatically compatible with policies designed, in accordance with paragraph (1) (c), to develop respect for the child’s own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own. But in fact, part of the importance of this provision lies precisely in its recognition of the need for a balanced approach to education and one which succeeds in reconciling diverse values through dialogue and respect for difference. Moreover, children are capable of playing a unique role in bridging many of the differences that have historically separated groups of people from one another.
The functions of article 29 (1)
5.Article 29 (1) is much more than an inventory or listing of different objectives which education should seek to achieve. Within the overall context of the Convention it serves to highlight, inter alia, the following dimensions.
6.First, it emphasizes the indispensable interconnected nature of the Convention’s provisions. It draws upon, reinforces, integrates and complements a variety of other provisions and cannot be properly understood in isolation from them. In addition to the general principles of the Convention - non‑discrimination (art. 2), the best interest of the child (art. 3), the right to life, survival and development (art. 6) and the right to express views and have them taken into account (art. 12) - many other provisions may be mentioned, such as but not limited to the rights and responsibilities of parents (arts. 5 and 18), freedom of expression (art. 13), freedom of thought (art. 14), the right to information (art. 17), the rights of children with disabilities (art. 23), the right to education for health (art. 24), the right to education (art. 28), and the linguistic and cultural rights of children belonging to minority groups (art. 30).
7.Children’s rights are not detached or isolated values devoid of context, but exist within a broader ethical framework which is partly described in article 29 (1) and in the preamble to the Convention. Many of the criticisms that have been made of the Convention are specifically answered by this provision. Thus, for example, this article underlines the importance of respect for parents, of the need to view rights within their broader ethical, moral, spiritual, cultural or social framework and of the fact that most children’s rights, far from being externally imposed, are embedded within the values of local communities.
8.Second, the article attaches importance to the process by which the right to education is to be promoted. Thus, efforts to promote the enjoyment of other rights must not be undermined, and should be reinforced, by the values imparted in the educational process. This includes not only the content of the curriculum but also the educational processes, the pedagogical methods and the environment within which education takes place, whether it be the home, school, or elsewhere. Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates. Thus, for example, education must be provided in a way that respects the inherent dignity of the child and enables the child to express his or her views freely in accordance with article 12 (1) and to participate in school life. Education must also be provided in a way that respects the strict limits on discipline reflected in article 28 (2) and promotes non‑violence in school. The Committee has repeatedly made clear in its concluding observations that the use of corporal punishment does not respect the inherent dignity of the child nor the strict limits on school discipline. Compliance with the values recognized in article 29 (1) clearly requires that schools be child‑friendly in the fullest sense of the term and that they be consistent in all respects with the dignity of the child. The participation of children in school life, the creation of school communities and student councils, peer education and peer counselling, and the involvement of children in school disciplinary proceedings should be promoted as part of the process of learning and experiencing the realization of rights.
9.Third, while article 28 focuses upon the obligations of State parties in relation to the establishment of educational systems and in ensuring access thereto, article 29 (1) underlies the individual and subjective right to a specific quality of education. Consistent with the Convention’s emphasis on the importance of acting in the best interests of the child, this article emphasizes the message of child‑centred education: that the key goal of education is the development of the individual child’s personality, talents and abilities, in recognition of the fact that every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities, and learning needs. Thus, the curriculum must be of direct relevance to the child’s social, cultural, environmental and economic context and to his or her present and future needs and take full account of the child’s evolving capacities; teaching methods should be tailored to the different needs of different children. Education must also be aimed at ensuring that essential life skills are learnt by every child and that no child leaves school without being equipped to face the challenges that he or she can expect to be confronted with in life. Basic skills include not only literacy and numeracy but also life skills such as the ability to make well‑balanced decisions; to resolve conflicts in a non‑violent manner; and to develop a healthy lifestyle, good social relationships and responsibility, critical thinking, creative talents, and other abilities which give children the tools needed to pursue their options in life.
10.Discrimination on the basis of any of the grounds listed in article 2 of the Convention, whether it is overt or hidden, offends the human dignity of the child and is capable of undermining or even destroying the capacity of the child to benefit from educational opportunities. While denying a child’s access to educational opportunities is primarily a matter which relates to article 28 of the Convention, there are many ways in which failure to comply with the principles contained in article 29 (1) can have a similar effect. To take an extreme example, gender discrimination can be reinforced by practices such as a curriculum which is inconsistent with the principles of gender equality, by arrangements which limit the benefits girls can obtain from the educational opportunities offered, and by unsafe or unfriendly environments which discourage girls’ participation. Discrimination against children with disabilities is also pervasive in many formal educational systems and in a great many informal educational settings, including in the home. Children with HIV/AIDS are also heavily discriminated against in both settings. All such discriminatory practices are in direct contradiction with the requirements in article 29 (1) (a) that education be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
11.The Committee also wishes to highlight the links between article 29 (1) and the struggle against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Racism and related phenomena thrive where there is ignorance, unfounded fears of racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic or other forms of difference, the exploitation of prejudices, or the teaching or dissemination of distorted values. A reliable and enduring antidote to all of these failings is the provision of education which promotes an understanding and appreciation of the values reflected in article 29 (1), including respect for differences, and challenges all aspects of discrimination and prejudice. Education should thus be accorded one of the highest priorities in all campaigns against the evils of racism and related phenomena. Emphasis must also be placed upon the importance of teaching about racism as it has been practised historically, and particularly as it manifests or has manifested itself within particular communities. Racist behaviour is not something engaged in only by “others”. It is therefore important to focus on the child’s own community when teaching human and children’s rights and the principle of non‑discrimination. Such teaching can effectively contribute to the prevention and elimination of racism, ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
12.Fourth, article 29 (1) insists upon a holistic approach to education which ensures that the educational opportunities made available reflect an appropriate balance between promoting the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of education, the intellectual, social and practical dimensions, and the childhood and lifelong aspects. The overall objective of education is to maximize the child’s ability and opportunity to participate fully and responsibly in a free society. It should be emphasized that the type of teaching that is focused primarily on accumulation of knowledge, prompting competition and leading to an excessive burden of work on children, may seriously hamper the harmonious development of the child to the fullest potential of his or her abilities and talents. Education should be child‑friendly, inspiring and motivating the individual child. Schools should foster a humane atmosphere and allow children to develop according to their evolving capacities.
13.Fifth, it emphasizes the need for education to be designed and provided in such a way that it promotes and reinforces the range of specific ethical values enshrined in the Convention, including education for peace, tolerance, and respect for the natural environment, in an integrated and holistic manner. This may require a multidisciplinary approach. The promotion and reinforcement of the values of article 29 (1) are not only necessary because of problems elsewhere, but must also focus on problems within the child’s own community. Education in this regard should take place within the family, but schools and communities must also play an important role. For example, for the development of respect for the natural environment, education must link issues of environmental and sustainable development with socio‑economic, sociocultural and demographic issues. Similarly, respect for the natural environment should be learnt by children at home, in school and within the community, encompass both national and international problems, and actively involve children in local, regional or global environmental projects.
14.Sixth, it reflects the vital role of appropriate educational opportunities in the promotion of all other human rights and the understanding of their indivisibility. A child’s capacity to participate fully and responsibly in a free society can be impaired or undermined not only by outright denial of access to education but also by a failure to promote an understanding of the values recognized in this article.
Human rights education
15.Article 29 (1) can also be seen as a foundation stone for the various programmes of human rights education called for by the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, and promoted by international agencies. Nevertheless, the rights of the child have not always been given the prominence they require in the context of such activities. Human rights education should provide information on the content of human rights treaties. But children should also learn about human rights by seeing human rights standards implemented in practice, whether at home, in school, or within the community. Human rights education should be a comprehensive, lifelong process and start with the reflection of human rights values in the daily life and experiences of children.
16.The values embodied in article 29 (1) are relevant to children living in zones of peace but they are even more important for those living in situations of conflict or emergency. As the Dakar Framework for Action notes, it is important in the context of education systems affected by conflict, natural calamities and instability that educational programmes be conducted in ways that promote mutual understanding, peace and tolerance, and that help to prevent violence and conflict. Education about international humanitarian law also constitutes an important, but all too often neglected, dimension of efforts to give effect to article 29 (1).
Implementation, monitoring and review
17.The aims and values reflected in this article are stated in quite general terms and their implications are potentially very wide‑ranging. This seems to have led many States parties to assume that it is unnecessary, or even inappropriate, to ensure that the relevant principles are reflected in legislation or in administrative directives. This assumption is unwarranted. In the absence of any specific formal endorsement in national law or policy, it seems unlikely that the relevant principles are or will be used to genuinely inform educational policies. The Committee therefore calls upon all States parties to take the necessary steps to formally incorporate these principles into their education policies and legislation at all levels.
18.The effective promotion of article 29 (1) requires the fundamental reworking of curricula to include the various aims of education and the systematic revision of textbooks and other teaching materials and technologies, as well as school policies. Approaches which do no more than seek to superimpose the aims and values of the article on the existing system without encouraging any deeper changes are clearly inadequate. The relevant values cannot be effectively integrated into, and thus be rendered consistent with, a broader curriculum unless those who are expected to transmit, promote, teach and, as far as possible, exemplify the values have themselves been convinced of their importance. Pre‑service and in‑service training schemes which promote the principles reflected in article 29 (1) are thus essential for teachers, educational administrators and others involved in child education. It is also important that the teaching methods used in schools reflect the spirit and educational philosophy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the aims of education laid down in article 29 (1).
19.In addition, the school environment itself must thus reflect the freedom and the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin called for in article 29 (1) (b) and (d). A school which allows bullying or other violent and exclusionary practices to occur is not one which meets the requirements of article 29 (1). The term “human rights education” is too often used in a way which greatly oversimplifies its connotations. What is needed, in addition to formal human rights education, is the promotion of values and policies conducive to human rights not only within schools and universities but also within the broader community.
20.In general terms, the various initiatives that States parties are required to take pursuant to their Convention obligations will be insufficiently grounded in the absence of widespread dissemination of the text of the Convention itself, in accordance with the provisions of article 42. This will also facilitate the role of children as promoters and defenders of children’s rights in their daily lives. In order to facilitate broader dissemination, States parties should report on the measures they have taken to achieve this objective and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should develop a comprehensive database of the language versions of the Convention that have been produced.
21.The media, broadly defined, also have a central role to play, both in promoting the values and aims reflected in article 29 (1) and in ensuring that their activities do not undermine the efforts of others to promote those objectives. Governments are obligated by the Convention, pursuant to article 17 (a), to take all appropriate steps to “encourage the mass media to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child”.
22.The Committee calls upon States parties to devote more attention to education as a dynamic process and to devising means by which to measure changes over time in relation to article 29 (1). Every child has the right to receive an education of good quality which in turn requires a focus on the quality of the learning environment, of teaching and learning processes and materials, and of learning outputs. The Committee notes the importance of surveys that may provide an opportunity to assess the progress made, based upon consideration of the views of all actors involved in the process, including children currently in or out of school, teachers and youth leaders, parents, and educational administrators and supervisors. In this respect, the Committee emphasizes the role of national‑level monitoring which seeks to ensure that children, parents and teachers can have an input in decisions relevant to education.
23.The Committee calls upon States parties to develop a comprehensive national plan of action to promote and monitor realization of the objectives listed in article 29 (1). If such a plan is drawn up in the larger context of a national action plan for children, a national human rights action plan, or a national human rights education strategy, the Government must ensure that it nonetheless addresses all of the issues dealt with in article 29 (1) and does so from a child‑rights perspective. The Committee urges that the United Nations and other international bodies concerned with educational policy and human rights education seek better coordination so as to enhance the effectiveness of the implementation of article 29 (1).
24.The design and implementation of programmes to promote the values reflected in this article should become part of the standard response by Governments to almost all situations in which patterns of human rights violations have occurred. Thus, for example, where major incidents of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance occur which involve those under 18, it can reasonably be presumed that the Government has not done all that it should to promote the values reflected in the Convention generally, and in article 29 (1) in particular. Appropriate additional measures under article 29 (1) should therefore be adopted which include research on and adoption of whatever educational techniques might have a positive impact in achieving the rights recognized in the Convention.
25.States parties should also consider establishing a review procedure which responds to complaints that existing policies or practices are not consistent with article 29 (1). Such review procedures need not necessarily entail the creation of new legal, administrative, or educational bodies. They might also be entrusted to national human rights institutions or to existing administrative bodies. The Committee requests each State party when reporting on this article to identify the genuine possibilities that exist at the national or local level to obtain a review of existing approaches which are claimed to be incompatible with the Convention. Information should be provided as to how such reviews can be initiated and how many such review procedures have been undertaken within the reporting period.
26.In order to better focus the process of examining States parties’ reports dealing with article 29 (1), and in accordance with the requirement in article 44 that reports shall indicate factors and difficulties, the Committee requests each State party to provide a detailed indication in its periodic reports of what it considers to be the most important priorities within its jurisdiction which call for a more concerted effort to promote the values reflected in this provision and to outline the programme of activities which it proposes to take over the succeeding five years in order to address the problems identified.
27.The Committee calls upon United Nations bodies and agencies and other competent bodies whose role is underscored in article 45 of the Convention to contribute more actively and systematically to the Committee’s work in relation to article 29 (1).
28.Implementation of comprehensive national plans of action to enhance compliance with article 29 (1) will require human and financial resources which should be available to the maximum extent possible, in accordance with article 4. Therefore, the Committee considers that resource constraints cannot provide a justification for a State party’s failure to take any, or enough, of the measures that are required. In this context, and in light of the obligations upon States parties to promote and encourage international cooperation both in general terms (articles 4 and 45 of the Convention) and in relation to education (art. 28 (3)), the Committee urges States parties providing development cooperation to ensure that their programmes are designed so as to take full account of the principles contained in article 29 (1).
Thirty-first session (2002)
General comment No. 2: The role of independent national human rightsinstitutions in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child
1.Article 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges States parties to “undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention”. Independent national human rights institutions (NHRIs) are an important mechanism to promote and ensure the implementation of the Convention, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child considers the establishment of such bodies to fall within the commitment made by States parties upon ratification to ensure the implementation of the Convention and advance the universal realization of children’s rights. In this regard, the Committee has welcomed the establishment of NHRIs and children’s ombudspersons/children’s commissioners and similar independent bodies for the promotion and monitoring of the implementation of the Convention in a number of States parties.
2.The Committee issues this general comment in order to encourage States parties to establish an independent institution for the promotion and monitoring of implementation of the Convention and to support them in this regard by elaborating the essential elements of such institutions and the activities which should be carried out by them. Where such institutions have already been established, the Committee calls upon States to review their status and effectiveness for promoting and protecting children’s rights, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant international instruments.
3.The World Conference on Human Rights, held in 1993, in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed “… the important and constructive role played by national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights”, and encouraged “… the establishment and strengthening of national institutions”. The General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights have repeatedly called for the establishment of national human rights institutions, underlining the important role NHRIs play in promoting and protecting human rights and enhancing public awareness of those rights. In its general guidelines for periodic reports, the Committee requires that States parties furnish information on “any independent body established to promote and protect the rights of the child …”, hence, it consistently addresses this issue during its dialogue with States parties.
4.NHRIs should be established in compliance with the Principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the “Paris Principles”) adopted by the General Assembly in 1993 transmitted by the Commission on Human Rights in 1992. These minimum standards provide guidance for the establishment, competence, responsibilities, composition, including pluralism, independence, methods of operation, and quasi-judicial activities of such national bodies.
5.While adults and children alike need independent NHRIs to protect their human rights, additional justifications exist for ensuring that children’s human rights are given special attention. These include the facts that children’s developmental state makes them particularly vulnerable to human rights violations; their opinions are still rarely taken into account; most children have no vote and cannot play a meaningful role in the political process that determines Governments’ response to human rights; children encounter significant problems in using the judicial system to protect their rights or to seek remedies for violations of their rights; and children’s access to organizations that may protect their rights is generally limited.
6.Specialist independent human rights institutions for children, ombudspersons or commissioners for children’s rights have been established in a growing number of States parties. Where resources are limited, consideration must be given to ensuring that the available resources are used most effectively for the promotion and protection of everyone’s human rights, including children’s, and in this context development of a broad-based NHRI that includes a specific focus on children is likely to constitute the best approach. A broad-based NHRI should include within its structure either an identifiable commissioner specifically responsible for children’s rights, or a specific section or division responsible for children’s rights.
7.It is the view of the Committee that every State needs an independent human rights institution with responsibility for promoting and protecting children’s rights. The Committee’s principal concern is that the institution, whatever its form, should be able, independently and effectively, to monitor, promote and protect children’s rights. It is essential that promotion and protection of children’s rights is “mainstreamed” and that all human rights institutions existing in a country work closely together to this end.
Mandate and powers
8.NHRIs should, if possible, be constitutionally entrenched and must at least be legislatively mandated. It is the view of the Committee that their mandate should include as broad a scope as possible for promoting and protecting human rights, incorporating the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocols and other relevant international human rights instruments ‑ thus effectively covering children’s human rights, in particular their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The legislation should include provisions setting out specific functions, powers and duties relating to children linked to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. If the NHRI was established before the existence of the Convention, or without expressly incorporating it, necessary arrangements, including the enactment or amendment of legislation, should be put in place so as to ensure conformity of the institution’s mandate with the principles and provisions of the Convention.9.NHRIs should be accorded such powers as are necessary to enable them to discharge their mandate effectively, including the power to hear any person and obtain any information and document necessary for assessing the situations falling within their competence. These powers should include the promotion and protection of the rights of all children under the jurisdiction of the State party in relation not only to the State but to all relevant public and private entities.
10.The NHRI establishment process should be consultative, inclusive and transparent, initiated and supported at the highest levels of Government and inclusive of all relevant elements of the State, the legislature and civil society. In order to ensure their independence and effective functioning, NHRIs must have adequate infrastructure, funding (including specifically for children’s rights, within broad-based institutions), staff, premises, and freedom from forms of financial control that might affect their independence.
11.While the Committee acknowledges that this is a very sensitive issue and that State parties function with varying levels of economic resources, the Committee believes that it is the duty of States to make reasonable financial provision for the operation of national human rights institutions in light of article 4 of the Convention. The mandate and powers of national institutions may be meaningless, or the exercise of their powers limited, if the national institution does not have the means to operate effectively to discharge its powers.
12.NHRIs should ensure that their composition includes pluralistic representation of the various elements of civil society involved in the promotion and protection of human rights. They should seek to involve, among others, the following: human rights, anti-discrimination and children’s rights, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including child- and youth-led organizations; trade unions; social and professional organizations (of doctors, lawyers, journalists, scientists, etc.); universities and experts, including children’s rights experts. Government departments should be involved in an advisory capacity only. NHRIs should have appropriate and transparent appointment procedures, including an open and competitive selection process.
Providing remedies for breaches of children’s rights
13.NHRIs must have the power to consider individual complaints and petitions and carry out investigations, including those submitted on behalf of or directly by children. In order to be able to effectively carry out such investigations, they must have the powers to compel and question witnesses, access relevant documentary evidence and access places of detention. They also have a duty to seek to ensure that children have effective remedies - independent advice, advocacy and complaints procedures - for any breaches of their rights. Where appropriate, NHRIs should undertake mediation and conciliation of complaints.
14.NHRIs should have the power to support children taking cases to court, including the power (a) to take cases concerning children’s issues in the name of the NHRI and (b) to intervene in court cases to inform the court about the human rights issues involved in the case.
Accessibility and participation
15.NHRIs should be geographically and physically accessible to all children. In the spirit of article 2 of the Convention, they should proactively reach out to all groups of children, in particular the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, such as (but not limited to) children in care or detention, children from minority and indigenous groups, children with disabilities, children living in poverty, refugee and migrant children, street children and children with special needs in areas such as culture, language, health and education. NHRI legislation should include the right of the institution to have access in conditions of privacy to children in all forms of alternative care and to all institutions that include children.
16.NHRIs have a key role to play in promoting respect for the views of children in all matters affecting them, as articulated in article 12 of the Convention, by Government and throughout society. This general principle should be applied to the establishment, organization and activities of national human rights institutions. Institutions must ensure that they have direct contact with children and that children are appropriately involved and consulted. Children’s councils, for example, could be created as advisory bodies for NHRIs to facilitate the participation of children in matters of concern to them.
17.NHRIs should devise specially tailored consultation programmes and imaginative communication strategies to ensure full compliance with article 12 of the Convention. A range of suitable ways in which children can communicate with the institution should be established.
18.NHRIs must have the right to report directly, independently and separately on the state of children’s rights to the public and to parliamentary bodies. In this respect, States parties must ensure that an annual debate is held in Parliament to provide parliamentarians with an opportunity to discuss the work of the NHRI in respect of children’s rights and the State’s compliance with the Convention.
19.The following is an indicative, but not exhaustive, list of the types of activities which NHRIs should carry out in relation to the implementation of children’s rights in light of the general principles of the Convention. They should:
(a)Undertake investigations into any situation of violation of children’s rights, on complaint or on their own initiative, within the scope of their mandate;
(b)Conduct inquiries on matters relating to children’s rights;
(c)Prepare and publicize opinions, recommendations and reports, either at the request of national authorities or on their own initiative, on any matter relating to the promotion and protection of children’s rights;
(d)Keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice relating to the protection of children’s rights;
(e)Promote harmonization of national legislation, regulations and practices with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocols and other international human rights instruments relevant to children’s rights and promote their effective implementation, including through the provision of advice to public and private bodies in construing and applying the Convention;
(f)Ensure that national economic policy makers take children’s rights into account in setting and evaluating national economic and development plans;
(g)Review and report on the Government’s implementation and monitoring of the state of children’s rights, seeking to ensure that statistics are appropriately disaggregated and other information collected on a regular basis in order to determine what must be done to realize children’s rights;
(h)Encourage ratification of or accession to any relevant international human rights instruments;
(i)In accordance with article 3 of the Convention requiring that the best interests of children should be a primary consideration in all actions concerning them, ensure that the impact of laws and policies on children is carefully considered from development to implementation and beyond;
(j)In light of article 12, ensure that the views of children are expressed and heard on matters concerning their human rights and in defining issues relating to their rights;
(k)Advocate for and facilitate meaningful participation by children’s rights NGOs, including organizations comprised of children themselves, in the development of domestic legislation and international instruments on issues affecting children;
(l)Promote public understanding and awareness of the importance of children’s rights and, for this purpose, work closely with the media and undertake or sponsor research and educational activities in the field;
(m)In accordance with article 42 of the Convention which obligates State parties to “make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike”, sensitize the Government, public agencies and the general public to the provisions of the Convention and monitor ways in which the State is meeting its obligations in this regard;
(n)Assist in the formulation of programmes for the teaching of, research into and integration of children’s rights in the curricula of schools and universities and in professional circles;
(o)Undertake human rights education which specifically focuses on children (in addition to promoting general public understanding about the importance of children’s rights);
(p)Take legal proceedings to vindicate children’s rights in the State or provide legal assistance to children;
(q)Engage in mediation or conciliation processes before taking cases to court, where appropriate;
(r)Provide expertise in children’s rights to the courts, in suitable cases as amicus curiae or intervenor;
(s)In accordance with article 3 of the Convention which obliges States parties to “ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision”, undertake visits to juvenile homes (and all places where children are detained for reform or punishment) and care institutions to report on the situation and to make recommendations for improvement;
(t)Undertake such other activities as are incidental to the above.
Reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and cooperation between NHRIs and United Nations agencies and human rights mechanisms
20.NHRIs should contribute independently to the reporting process under the Convention and other relevant international instruments and monitor the integrity of government reports to international treaty bodies with respect to children’s rights, including through dialogue with the Committee on the Rights of the Child at its pre-sessional working group and with other relevant treaty bodies.
21.The Committee requests that States parties include detailed information on the legislative basis and mandate and principal relevant activities of NHRIs in their reports to the Committee. It is appropriate for States parties to consult with independent human rights institutions during the preparation of reports to the Committee. However, States parties must respect the independence of these bodies and their independent role in providing information to the Committee. It is not appropriate to delegate to NHRIs the drafting of reports or to include them in the government delegation when reports are examined by the Committee.
22.NHRIs should also cooperate with the special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights, including country and thematic mechanisms, in particular the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
23.The United Nations has a long-standing programme of assistance for the establishment and strengthening of national human rights institutions. This programme, which is based in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), provides technical assistance and facilitates regional and global cooperation and exchanges among national human rights institutions. States parties should avail themselves of this assistance where necessary. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also offers expertise and technical cooperation in this area.
24.As articulated in article 45 of the Convention, the Committee may also transmit, as it considers appropriate, to any specialized United Nations agency, OHCHR and any other competent body any reports from States parties that contain a request or indicate a need for technical advice or assistance in the establishment of NHRIs.
NHRIs and States parties
25.The State ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child and takes on obligations to implement it fully. The role of NHRIs is to monitor independently the State’s compliance and progress towards implementation and to do all it can to ensure full respect for children’s rights. While this may require the institution to develop projects to enhance the promotion and protection of children’s rights, it should not lead to the Government delegating its monitoring obligations to the national institution. It is essential that institutions remain entirely free to set their own agenda and determine their own activities.
NHRIs and NGOs
26.Non-governmental organizations play a vital role in promoting human rights and children’s rights. The role of NHRIs, with their legislative base and specific powers, is complementary. It is essential that institutions work closely with NGOs and that Governments respect the independence of both NHRIs and NGOs.
Regional and international cooperation
27.Regional and international processes and mechanisms can strengthen and consolidate NHRIs through shared experience and skills, as NHRIs share common problems in the promotion and protection of human rights in their respective countries.
28.In this respect, NHRIs should consult and cooperate with relevant national, regional and international bodies and institutions on children’s rights issues.
29.Children’s human rights issues are not constrained by national borders and it has become increasingly necessary to devise appropriate regional and international responses to a variety of child rights issues (including, but not limited to, the trafficking of women and children, child pornography, child soldiers, child labour, child abuse, refugee and migrant children, etc.). International and regional mechanisms and exchanges are encouraged, as they provide NHRIs with an opportunity to learn from each other’s experience, collectively strengthen each other’s positions and contribute to resolving human rights problems affecting both countries and region.
Thirty-second session (2003)
General comment No. 3: HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child
1.The HIV/AIDS epidemics have drastically changed the world in which children live. Millions of children have been infected and have died and many more are gravely affected as HIV spreads through their families and communities. The epidemics impact on the daily life on younger children, and increase the victimization and marginalization of children especially on those living in particularly difficult circumstances. HIV/AIDS is not a problem of some countries but of the entire world. To truly bring its impact on children under control will require concerted and well-targeted efforts from all countries at all stages of development.
Initially children were considered to be only marginally affected by the epidemic. However, the international community has discovered that unfortunately, children are at the heart of the problem. According to UNAIDS - the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS - the most recent trends are alarming: in most parts of the world the majority of new infections are in young people between the ages of 15 and 24, sometimes younger. Women including young girls are also increasingly becoming infected. In most regions of the world, the vast majority of infected women do not know that they are infected and may unknowingly infect their children. Consequently many States have recently registered an increase in their infant and child mortality rates and child mortality rate. Adolescents are also vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because their first sexual experience may take place in an environment in which they have no access to proper information and guidance. Children who use drugs are at high risk.
Yet all children can be rendered vulnerable by the particular circumstances of their lives being mainly: (a) children who are themselves HIV-infected; (b) children who are affected by the epidemics because the loss of parental caregiver or teacher and/or because their families or communities are severely strained by its consequences; and (c) children who are most vulnerable to be infected or affected.
II. The objectives of this general comment
2.The objectives of this general comment are:
(a)To strengthen the identification and understanding of all the human rights of children in the context of HIV/AIDS;
(b)To promote the realization of human rights of children in the context of HIV/AIDS as guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereafter, the Convention);
(c)To identify measures and good practices to increase the level of implementation by the States of rights related to the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the support, care and protection of children infected with or affected by this pandemic;
(d)To contribute to the formulation and promotion of child oriented Plans of Action, strategies, laws, policies and programmes to combat the spread and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS at the national and international level.
III.The Convention’s perspectives to HIV/AIDS - THE holistic child rights-based approach
3.The issue of children and HIV/AIDS is perceived as mainly a medical or health problem, although in reality it involves a much wider range of issues. In this regard the right to health (article 24 of the Convention) is, however, central. But HIV/AIDS impacts so heavily on the lives of all children that it affects all their rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural. The rights in the general principles of the Convention - the right to non-discrimination, (art. 2), the rights of the child to have her/his interest to be a primary consideration (art. 3), the right to life, survival and development (art. 6) and the rights to have her/his views respected (art. 12) - should therefore be the guiding themes in the consideration of HIV/AIDS at all levels of prevention, treatment, care and support.
4.Adequate measures to address HIV/AIDS can be provided to children and adolescents only if their rights are fully respected. The most relevant rights in this regard are - in addition to the four above-referred general principles - the following: the right to access information and material aimed at the promotion of their social, spiritual and moral well-being, physical and mental health (art.17),their right to preventive health care, sex education and family planning education and services (art. 24 (f)), their right to an appropriate standard of living (art. 27) their rights to privacy (art. 6), the right not to be separated from parents (art. 9), the right to be protected from violence (art. 19), the rights to special protection and assistance by the State (art. 20), the rights of children with disabilities (art. 23), the right to health (art. 24), the right to social security, includingsocial insurance (art. 26), the right to education and leisure (arts. 28 and 31), the right to be protected from economic and sexual exploitation and abuse, from illicit use of narcotic drugs (arts. 32, 33, 34 and 36), the right to be protected from abduction, sale and trafficking as well as torture or other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (arts. 35 and 37) and the right to physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (art. 39). Children are confronted with serious challenges to their above-mentioned rights as a result of the epidemics. The Convention and in particular the four general principles with its comprehensive approach provide a powerful framework for efforts to reduce the negative impact of the pandemic on the lives of children. The holistic rights-based approach required to implement the Convention is the optimal tool to address the broader range of issues that relate to prevention, treatment and care efforts.
(a)The right to non-discrimination (art. 2)
5.Discrimination is responsible for heightening the vulnerability of children to HIV and AIDS, as well as seriously impacting the lives of children who are affected by HIV/AIDS, or are themselves HIV infected. Girls and boys of parents living with HIV/AIDS are often the victims of stigma and discrimination as they too are often assumed to be infected. As a result of discrimination children are denied access to information, education (reference to general comment No. 1 on the aims of education), health or social care services or from community life. At its extreme, discrimination against HIV-infected children has resulted in their abandonment by their family, community and/or society. Discrimination also fuels the epidemic by making children in particular those belonging to certain groups like children living in remote or rural areas where services are less accessible, more vulnerable to infection. These children are thereby doubly victimized.
6.Of particular concern is gender-based discrimination combined with taboos or negative or judgemental attitudes to sexual activity of girls, often limiting their access to preventive measures and other services. Of concern also is discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the design of HIV/AIDS related strategies, and in keeping with their obligations under the Convention, State parties must give careful consideration to prescribed gender norms within their societies with a view to eliminating gender-based discrimination as these impact on the vulnerability of both girls and boys to HIV/AIDS. States parties should in particular recognize that discrimination in the context of HIV/AIDS often impacts girls more severely than boys.
7.All the above-mentioned discriminatory practices are violations of children’s rights under the Convention. Article 2 of the Convention obliges States to ensure all the rights under the Convention without discrimination of any kind, and “irrespective of the child’s or her or his parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status”. The Committee interprets “other status” under article 2 of the Convention to include HIV/AIDS status of the child or her/his parent(s). Laws, policies, strategies and practices should address all forms of discrimination that contribute to increasing the impact of the epidemics. Strategies should also promote education and training programmes explicitly designed to change attitudes of discrimination and stigmatization associated with HIV/AIDS.
(b)Best interests of the child (art. 3)
8.Policies and programmes for prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS have generally been designed for adults with scarce attention to the principle of the best interest of the child as a primary consideration. Article 3 of the CRC, states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” The obligations attached to this right are fundamental to guiding the action of States in relation to HIV/AIDS. The child should be put at the centre of the response to the pandemic, adapting strategies to children’s rights and needs.
(c)The right to survival, life and development (art. 6)
9.Children have the right not to have their lives arbitrarily taken, as well as to benefit from economic and social policies which will allow them to survive into adulthood and develop in the broadest sense of the word. State obligation to realize the right to survival, life and development also highlights the need to give careful attention to sexuality as well as to the behaviours and lifestyle of children, even if they do not conform to the society’s determination of what is acceptable under prevailing cultural norms for a particular age group. In this regard, the female child is often subject to harmful traditional practices such as early and or forced marriage, which violate her rights and make her more vulnerable to HIV infection, including because such practices often interrupt access to education and information. Effective prevention programmes are only those that acknowledge the realities of the lives of adolescents, while addressing sexuality by ensuring equal access to appropriate information, life-skills, and to preventive measures.
(d)The right to express views and have them taken into account (art. l2)
10.Children are rights holders and have a right to participate, in accordance with their evolving capacities, in raising awareness by speaking out about the impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives and in the development of HIV/AIDS policies and programmes. Interventions have been found to benefit children most when they are actively involved in assessing needs, devising solutions, shaping strategies and carrying them out rather than being seen as objects for whom decisions are made. In this regard, the participation of children as peer educators, both within and outside schools, should be actively promoted. States, international agencies and NGOs must provide children with a supportive and enabling environment to carry out their own initiatives, and to fully participate at both community and national levels in HIV policy and programme conceptualization, design, implementation, coordination, monitoring and review. A variety of approaches are likely to be necessary to ensure the participation of children from all sectors of society, including mechanisms which encourage children, consistent with their evolving capacities, to express their views, have them heard, and given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity (art. 12 (1)). Where appropriate, the involvement of children living with HIV/AIDS in raising awareness, by sharing their experiences with their peers and others is critical both to effective prevention and to reduce stigma and discrimination. States parties must ensure that children who participate in these awareness efforts do so voluntarily, after being counselled, and also that these children receive both the social support and legal protection to allow them to lead normal lives during and after their involvement.
11.Experience has shown that many obstacles hinder delivery of effective prevention and care services and the support of community initiatives on HIV/AIDS. These are mainly cultural, structural and financial. Denial that a problem exists, cultural practices and attitudes, including taboos and stigmatization, poverty, patronizing attitudes towards children, are just some of the obstacles that may block the political and individual commitment needed for effective programmes. Concerning financial, technical and human resources, the Committee is aware that those resources may not be immediately available. But with regard to this obstacle the Committee likes to remind the States parties of their obligation under article 4. It further notes that resources constraints should not be used to justify States parties failure to take any or enough of the technical or financial measures required. Finally, the Committee wants to emphasize in this regard the essential role of international cooperation.
IV. Prevention, care,treatment and support
12.The Committee wishes to stress that prevention, care, treatment and support are mutually reinforcing elements and provide a continuum within an effective response to HIV/AIDS.
(a)Information for HIV prevention and raising awareness
13.Consistent with State party obligations in relation to the rights to health and information (arts. 24, 13 and 17), children should have the right to access adequate information related to HIV/AIDS prevention and care, through formal channels (e.g. through educational opportunities and child-targeted media) as well as informal channels (e.g. targeted to street children, institutionalized children or children living in difficult circumstances). States parties are reminded that children require relevant, appropriate and timely information which recognizes the differences in levels of understanding among them, is tailored appropriately to age level and capacity and enables them to deal positively and responsibly with their sexuality in order to protect themselves from HIV infection. The Committee wishes to emphasize that effective HIV/AIDS prevention requires States to refrain from censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting health-related information, including sexual education and information, and that consistent with their obligations to ensure the survival, life and development of the child (art. 6), States parties must ensure children have the ability to acquire the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and others as they begin to express their sexuality.
14.Dialogue with community, family and peer counsellors, and the provision of “life skills” education within schools, including skills in communicating on sexuality and healthy living, have been found to be useful approaches for delivering HIV prevention messages to both girls and boys, but different approaches may be necessary to reach different groups of children. States parties must make efforts to address gender differences as they may impact the access children have to prevention messages, and ensure that children are reached with appropriate prevention messages even if they face constraints due to language, religion, disability or other factors of discrimination. Particular attention must be paid to raising awareness in hard to reach populations. In this respect, the role of the mass-media and/or oral tradition in ensuring children have access to information and material, as recognized in article 17 of the Convention, is crucial both to provide appropriate information and to reduce stigma and discrimination. States parties should support the regular monitoring and evaluation of HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns to ascertain their effectiveness in providing information, reducing ignorance, stigma and discrimination, as well as addressing fear and misperceptions concerning HIV and its transmission among children, including adolescents.
(b)The role of education
15.Education plays a critical role in providing children with relevant and appropriate information on HIV/AIDS which can contribute to a better awareness and understanding of this phenomenon and prevent negative attitudes towards victims of HIV/AIDS (see also the Committee’s general comment No. 1 on the aims of education). Furthermore, education can and should empower children to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection. In this regard, the Committee wants to remind the States parties of their obligation to ensure that primary education is available to all children, whether infected, orphaned or otherwise affected by HIV/AIDS. In many communities where HIV has spread widely, children from affected families, in particular girls, are facing serious difficulties staying in school and the number of teachers and other school employees lost to AIDS is limiting and threatening to destroy the ability of children to access education. States parties must make adequate provision to ensure children affected by HIV/AIDS can stay in school and ensure the qualified replacement of sick teachers so that children’s regular attendance at schools is not affected, and that the right to education (art. 28) of all children living within these communities is fully protected.
16.States parties must make every effort to ensure that schools are safe places for children, which offer them security and do not contribute to their vulnerability to HIV infection. In accordance with article 34 of the Convention, States parties are obliged to take all appropriate measures to prevent, inter alia, the inducement or coercion of any child to engage in unlawful sexual activity.
(c)Child and adolescent sensitive health services
17.The Committee is concerned that health services are generally still insufficiently responsive to the needs of human beings below 18 years old, in particular adolescents. As the Committee has noted on numerous occasions, children are more likely to use services that are friendly and supportive, provide a range of services and information, are geared to their needs, ensure their opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their health, and are accessible, affordable, confidential, non-judgemental, do not require parental consent and do not discriminate. In the context of HIV/AIDS and taking into account the evolving capacities of the child, States parties are encouraged to ensure that health services employ trained personnel who fully respect the rights of children to privacy (art. 6) and non-discrimination in offering them access to HIV-related information, voluntary counselling and testing, knowledge of their HIV status, confidential sexual and reproductive health services, free or low cost contraception, condoms and services, as well as HIV-related care and treatment if and when needed, including for the prevention and treatment of health problems related to HIV/AIDS e.g. tuberculosis and opportunistic infections.
18.In some countries, even when child and adolescent friendly HIV-related services are available, they are not sufficiently accessible to children with disabilities, indigenous children, children belonging to minorities, children living in rural areas, children living in extreme poverty or children who are otherwise marginalized within the society. In others, where the health system’s overall capacity is already strained, children with HIV have been routinely denied access to basic health care. States parties must ensure that services are provided to the maximum extent possible to all children living within their borders, without discrimination, and that they sufficiently take into account differences in gender, age, and the social, economic, cultural and political context in which children live.
(d)HIV counselling and testing
19.The accessibility of voluntary, confidential HlV-counselling and testing services, with due attention to the evolving capacities of the child, is fundamental to the rights and health of children. These services are critical to children’s ability to reduce their risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, to accessing HIV-specific care, treatment and support, and to better plan for their futures. Consistent with the obligation under article 24 of the Convention to ensure that no child is deprived of her or his right of access to necessary health services, States parties should ensure access to voluntary, confidential HIV counselling and testing for all children.
20.The Committee wishes to stress that as the duty of States parties is first and foremost to ensure that the rights of the child are protected, States parties must refrain from imposing mandatory HIV/AIDS testing of children in all circumstances and ensure protection against it. While the evolving capacities of the child will determine whether consent is required from the child directly or from their parent or guardian, in all cases, consistent with the child’s right to receive information under articles 13 and 17 of the Convention, States parties must ensure that prior to any HIV‑testing, whether by health-care providers in relation to children who are accessing health services for another medical condition or otherwise, the risks and benefits of such testing are sufficiently conveyed so that an informed decision can be made.
21.States parties must protect the confidentiality of HIV test results consistent with the obligation to protect the right to privacy of children (art. 16), including within health and social welfare settings, and information on the HIV status of children may not be disclosed to third parties including parents without consent.
22.Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) is responsible for the majority of HIV infections in infants and young children. Infants and young children can be infected with HIV during pregnancy, labour and delivery, and through breastfeeding. States parties are requested to ensure implementation of the strategies recommended by the United Nations agencies to prevent HIV infection in infants and young children. These include: (1) the primary prevention of HIV infection among parents-to-be, (2) the prevention of unintended pregnancies in HIV‑infected women, (3) the prevention of HIV transmission from HIV-infected women to their infants and (4) the provision of care, treatment and support to HIV-infected women, their infants and families.
23.To prevent MTCT of HIV, States parties must take steps, including the provision of essential drugs, e.g. antiretroviral drugs, appropriate antenatal, delivery and post-partum care, and making HIV voluntary counselling and testing services available to pregnant women and their partners. The Committee recognizes that antiretroviral drugs given to a woman during pregnancy and/or labour and, in some regimens, to her infant, has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of transmission from mother to child. However, in addition, State parties should provide support for mothers and children, including counselling on infant feeding options. States parties are reminded that counselling of HIV-positive mothers should include information about the risks and benefits of different infant feeding options, and guidance in selecting the option most likely to be suitable for their situation. Follow-up support is also required in order for women to be able to implement their selected option as safely as possible.
24.Even in populations with high HIV prevalence, the majority of infants are born to women who are not HIV-infected. For the infants of HIV-negative women and women who do not know their HIV status, the Committee wishes to emphasize, consistent with articles 6 and 24 that breastfeeding remains the best feeding choice. For the infants of HIV-positive mothers, available evidence indicates that breastfeeding can add to the risk of HIV transmission by 10‑20 per cent, but that lack of breastfeeding can expose children to an increased risk of malnutrition or infectious disease other than HIV. United Nations agencies have recommended that where replacement feeding is affordable, feasible, acceptable, sustainable and safe, avoidance of all breastfeeding by HIV-infected mothers is recommended - otherwise exclusive breastfeeding is recommended during the first months of life and should then be discontinued as soon as it is feasible.
(f)Treatment and care
25.The obligations of States parties under the Convention extend to ensuring that children have sustained and equal access to comprehensive treatment and care, including necessary HIV‑related drugs, goods and services on a basis of non-discrimination. It is now widely recognized that comprehensive treatment and care includes antiretroviral and other medicines, diagnostics and related technologies for the care of HIV/AIDS, related opportunistic infections and other conditions, good nutrition, and social, spiritual, and psychological support, as well as family, community and home-based care. In this regard, States parties should negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry in order to make the necessary medicines available at the lowest costs possible at local level. Furthermore States parties are requested to affirm, support and facilitate the involvement of communities as part of comprehensive HIV/AIDS treatment, care and support, while nonetheless complying with their own obligations under the Convention. States parties are asked to pay special attention to addressing those factors within their societies that hinder equal access to treatment, care and support for all children.
(g)Involvement of children in research
26.Consistent with article 24 of the Convention, States parties must ensure that HIV/AIDS research programmes include specific studies that contribute to effective prevention, care, treatment, and impact reduction for children. States parties must nonetheless ensure that children do not serve as research subjects until an intervention has already been thoroughly tested on adults. Rights and ethical concerns have arisen in relation to HIV/AIDS biomedical research, as well as HIV/AIDS operations, social, cultural and behavioural research. Children have been subjected to unnecessary or inappropriately designed research with little or no voice to either refuse or consent to participation. In line with the child’s evolving capacities, consent of the child should be sought and consent may be sought from parents or guardians if necessary, but in all cases consent must be based on full disclosure of the risks and benefits of research to the child States parties are further reminded to ensure that the privacy rights of children, in line with their obligation under article 16 of the Convention, are not inadvertently violated through the research process and that personal information about children which is accessed through research is, under no circumstances, used for purposes other than that for which consent was given. States parties must make every effort to ensure that children, and according to their evolving capacities their parents and/or their guardians, participate in decisions on research priorities and that a supportive environment is created for children that participate in such research.
V.Vulnerability and children needing special protection
27.The vulnerability of children to HIV/AIDS resulting from political, economic, social, cultural and other factors determines their likelihood of being left with insufficient support to cope with the impact of HIV/AIDS on their families and communities, exposed to a risk of acquiring infection, subjected to inappropriate research, or deprived of access to treatment, care and support if HIV infection sets in. HIV/AIDS-related vulnerability is most acute for children living in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, children in detention, children living in institutions, as well as children living in extreme poverty, children living in situations of armed conflict, child-soldiers, economically and sexually exploited children, disabled, migrant, minority, indigenous, and street children, but all children can be rendered vulnerable by the particular circumstances of their lives. Even in times of severe resource constraints, the Committee wishes to note that the rights of vulnerable members of society must be protected and that many measures can be pursued with minimum resource implications. Reducing HIV/AIDS‑related vulnerability requires first and foremost that children, their families and communities be empowered to make informed choices about decisions, practices or policies affecting them in relation to HIV/AIDS.
(a)Children affected and orphaned by HIV/AIDS
28.Special attention must be given to children orphaned by AIDS, children from affected families, including child-headed households, as these impact on vulnerability to HIV infection. For children from families affected by HIV/AIDS, the stigmatization and social isolation they experience may be accentuated by the neglect or violation of their rights, in particular discrimination resulting in a decrease or loss of access to education, health and social services. The Committee wishes to underline the necessity of legal, economic and social protections for affected children to ensure their access to education, inheritance, shelter, health and social services, as well as to feel secure in disclosing their HIV status and that of their family members when the children deem it appropriate. In this respect, States parties are reminded that these measures are critical to realization of the rights of children and to give them the skills and support necessary to reduce their vulnerability and risk of becoming infected.
29.The Committee wishes to emphasize the critical implications of proof of identity for children affected by HIV/AIDS, as it relates to securing recognition as a person before the law, safeguarding the protection of rights, in particular to inheritance, education, health and other social services, as well as to making children less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, particularly if separated from their families due to illness or death. In this respect, birth registration is critical to ensure the rights of the child and is also necessary to minimize the impact of HIV/AIDS on the lives of affected children. States parties are therefore reminded of their obligation under article 7 of the Convention to ensure that systems are in place for the registration of every child at or shortly after birth.
30.The trauma HIV/AIDS brings to the lives of orphans often begins with the illness and death of one of their parents, and is frequently compounded by the effects of stigma and discrimination. In this respect, States parties are particularly reminded to ensure that both law and practice support the inheritance and property rights of orphans, with particular attention to underlying gender-based discrimination as it may interfere with the fulfilment of these rights. Consistent with their obligations under article 27 of the Convention, States parties must also support and strengthen the capacity of families and communities of children orphaned by AIDS to provide them with a standard of living adequate for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, economic and social development, including access to psychosocial care as needed.
31.Orphans are best protected and cared for when efforts are made to enable siblings to remain together, and in the care of relatives or family members. The extended family, with the support of the surrounding community, may be the least traumatic and therefore the best way to care for orphans when there are no other feasible alternatives. Assistance must be provided so that, to the maximum extent possible, children can remain within existing family structures. This option may not be available due to the impact HIV/AIDS has on the extended family. In that case, States parties should provide as far as possible for family-type alternative care (e.g. foster care). States parties are encouraged to provide support, financial and otherwise, when necessary, to child-headed households. States parties must ensure that their strategies recognize that communities are at the front line of the response to HIV/AIDS and that these strategies are designed to support communities in their determinations as to how best to provide support to the orphans living there.
32.Although institutionalized care may have detrimental effects on child development, States parties may nonetheless determine that it has an interim role to play in caring for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS when family-based care within their own communities is not a possibility. It is the opinion of the Committee, that any form of institutionalized care for children can only serve as a last resort, and measures must be fully in place to protect the rights of the child and guard against all forms of abuse and exploitation. In keeping with the right of children to special protection and assistance when within these environments, and consistent with articles 3, 20 and 25 under the Convention, strict measures are needed to ensure that such institutions meet specific standards of care and comply with legal protections. States parties are reminded that limits must be placed on the length of time children spend in these institutions, and programmes must be developed to support any children who stay in these institutions, whether infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, to successfully reintegrate into their communities.
(b)Victims of sexual and economic exploitation
33.Girls and boys who are deprived of the means of survival and development, particularly children orphaned by AIDS, may be subjected to sexual and economic exploitation in a variety of forms, including the exchange of sexual services or hazardous work for money to survive, support their sick or dying parents and younger siblings, or to pay for school fees. Children who are infected or immediately affected by HIV/AIDS may find themselves at a double disadvantage, experiencing discrimination on the basis of both their social and economic marginalization and their, or their parents, HIV status. Consistent with the right of children under articles 32, 34, 35 and 36 of the Convention, and in order to decrease children’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, States parties are obliged to protect children from all forms of economic and sexual exploitation, including ensuring they do not fall prey to prostitution networks, and that they are protected from performing any work likely to be hazardous or to interfere with their education, health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. States parties must take bold action to protect children from sexual and economic exploitation, trafficking and sale and consistent with the rights under article 39, create opportunities for those who have been subjected to such treatment to benefit from the support and caring services of the State and non‑governmental entities engaged in these issues.
(c)Victims of violence and abuse
34.Children may be exposed to various forms of violence and abuse which may increase their risk of becoming HIV-infected, and they may also be subjected to violence as a result of their being infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Violence, including rape and other forms of sexual abuse, can occur in the family or foster setting or be perpetrated by those with specific responsibilities towards children, including teachers and employees of institutions working with children, such as prisons and institutions concerned with mental health and other disabilities. In keeping with the rights of the child according to article 19 of the Convention, States parties have the obligation to protect children from all forms of violence and abuse, whether at home, in school or other institutions, or in the community. Programmes must be specifically adapted to the environment in which children live, their ability to recognize and disclose abuses and their individual capacity and autonomy. The Committee considers that the relationship between HIV/AIDS and the violence or abuse suffered by children in the context of war and armed conflict requires specific attention. Measures to prevent violence and abuse in these situations are critical, and States parties must ensure the incorporation of HIV/AIDS and child rights issues in addressing and supporting children - girls and boys - who were used by military or other uniformed personnel to provide domestic help or sexual services, or who are internally displaced or living in refugee camps. In keeping with States parties obligations, including under articles 38 and 39 of the Convention, active information campaigns combined with the counselling of children and mechanisms for prevention and early detection of violence and abuse must be put in place within conflict and disaster affected regions, as well as within national and community responses to HIV/AIDS.
35.The use of substances, including alcohol and drugs, may reduce the ability of children to exert control over their sexual conduct and, as a result, may increase their vulnerability to HIV infection. Injecting practices with unsterile equipment further enhances the risk of HIV transmission. The Committee notes that greater understanding is needed of substance-use behaviours among children, including the impact that neglect and violation of the rights of the child has on these behaviours. In most countries, children have not benefited from pragmatic HIV prevention programmes related to substance use, which even when they do exist have largely been targeted at adults. The Committee wishes to emphasize that policies and programmes aimed at reducing substance use and HIV transmission must recognize the particular sensitivities and lifestyles of children, including adolescents, in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention. Consistent with the right of children under articles 33 and 24 of the Convention, States parties are obliged to ensure the implementation of programmes that aim to reduce the factors that expose children to the use of substances, as well as those that provide children that are abusing substances treatment and support.
36.The Committee hereby reaffirms the recommendations, which emerged at the day of general discussion on HIV/AIDS (CRC/C/80) and calls upon States parties to:
1.Adopt and implement national and local HIV/AIDS-related policies, including effective Plans of Action, strategies, and programmes that are child-centred rights‑based and incorporating the rights of the child under the Convention including by taking into account the recommendations made in the previous paragraphs of this general comment and those adopted at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children (2002).
2.Allocate financial, technical and human resources to the maximum extent available to support national and community-based action (art. 4), and when appropriate within the context of international cooperation (see hereafter under 7).
3.Review existing laws or enact new legislation with the view to implement fully article 2 of the Convention and in particular to prohibit expressly discrimination based on real or perceived HIV/AIDS status as to guarantee equal access of all children to all relevant services with particular attention for the child’s right to privacy and confidentiality and other recommendations the Committee made in the previous paragraphs relevant to legislation.
4.Include HIV/AIDS Plans of Action, strategies, policies and programmes in the work of national mechanisms for monitoring and coordinating children’s rights and to consider the establishment of a review procedure, which responds specifically to complaints of neglect or violation of the rights of the child in relation to HIV/AIDS, whether this entails the creation of a new legislative or administrative body or is entrusted to an existing national institution.
5.Reassess their HIV-related data collection and evaluation to ensure that they adequately cover children as defined under the Convention, disaggregated by age and gender and ideally be done in five-year age groups, and as far as possible reflect children belonging to vulnerable groups and in need of special protection.
6.Include in their reporting process under article 44 of the CRC information on national HIV/AIDS policies and programmes and, to the extent possible, budgeting and resource allocations at national, regional and local levels, as well as within these breakdowns the proportions allocated to prevention, care, research and impact reduction. Specific attention must be given to the extent to which these programmes and policies explicitly recognize children (in light of their evolving capacities) and their rights, and the extent to which HIV-related rights of children are dealt with in laws, policies and practices, with specific attention to discrimination against children on the basis of their HIV status, as well as because they are orphans or the children of parents living with HIV/AIDS. The Committee requests States parties to provide a detailed indication in their reports of what it considers to be the most important priorities within its jurisdiction in relation to children and HIV/AIDS, and to outline the programme of activities it proposes to take over the succeeding five years in order to address the problems identified. This will allow these to be progressively assessed over time.
7.In order to promote international cooperation, the Committee calls upon UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS and other relevant international bodies, organizations and agencies to contribute systematically, at the national level, to efforts to ensure the rights of children in the context of HIV/AIDS, and also to continue to work with the Committee to improve the rights of the child in the context of HIV/AIDS. Further the Committee urges States providing development cooperation to ensure that HIV/AIDS strategies are designed so as to fully take into account the rights of the child.
8.Non-governmental organizations, as well as community-based groups and other civil society actors, such as youth groups, faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, traditional leaders, including religious and cultural leaders, all have a vital role to play in the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. States parties are requested to ensure an enabling environment for civil society participation, which includes facilitating collaboration and coordination among different players and that they are given the support to be able to operate effectively without impediment. (In this regard, States parties are specifically encouraged to support the full involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS, with particular attention to the inclusion of children, in the provision of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support services.)
Thirty-third session (2003)
General comment No. 4: Adolescent health and developmentin the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as “every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable, majority is attained earlier” (art. 1). Consequently, adolescents up to 18 years old are holders of all the rights enshrined in the Convention; they are entitled to special protection measures and, according to their evolving capacities, they can progressively exercise their rights (art. 5).
Adolescence is a period characterized by rapid physical, cognitive and social changes, including sexual and reproductive maturation; the gradual building up of the capacity to assume adult behaviours and roles involving new responsibilities requiring new knowledge and skills. While adolescents are in general a healthy population group, adolescence also poses new challenges to health and development owing to their relative vulnerability and pressure from society, including peers, to adopt risky health behaviour. These challenges include developing an individual identity and dealing with one’s sexuality. The dynamic transition period to adulthood is also generally a period of positive changes, prompted by the significant capacity of adolescents to learn rapidly, to experience new and diverse situations, to develop and use critical thinking, to familiarize themselves with freedom, to be creative and to socialize.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child notes with concern that in implementing their obligations under the Convention, States parties have not given sufficient attention to the specific concerns of adolescents as rights holders and to promoting their health and development. This
has motivated the Committee to adopt the present general comment in order to raise awareness and provide States parties with guidance and support in their efforts to guarantee the respect for, protection and fulfilment of the rights of adolescents, including through the formulation of specific strategies and policies.
The Committee understands the concepts of “health and development” more broadly than being strictly limited to the provisions defined in articles 6 (right to life, survival and development) and 24 (right to health) of the Convention. One of the aims of this general comment is precisely to identify the main human rights that need to be promoted and protected in order to ensure that adolescents do enjoy the highest attainable standard of health, develop in a well-balanced manner, and are adequately prepared to enter adulthood and assume a constructive role in their communities and in society at large. This general comment should be read in conjunction with the Convention and its two Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict, as well as other relevant international human rights norms and standards.
I.Fundamental principles and other obligations of States parties
1.As recognized by the World Conference on Human Rights (1993) and repeatedly stated by the Committee, children’s rights too are indivisible and interrelated. In addition to articles 6 and 24, other provisions and principles of the Convention are crucial in guaranteeing that adolescents fully enjoy their right to health and development.
The right to non-discrimination
2.States parties have the obligation to ensure that all human beings below 18 enjoy all the rights set forth in the Convention without discrimination (art. 2), including with regard to “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status”. These grounds also cover adolescents’ sexual orientation and health status (including HIV/AIDS and mental health). Adolescents who are subject to discrimination are more vulnerable to abuse, other types of violence and exploitation, and their health and development are put at greater risk. They are therefore entitled to special attention and protection from all segments of society.
Appropriate guidance in the exercise of rights
3.The Convention acknowledges the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents (or other persons legally responsible for the child) “to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the Convention” (art. 5). The Committee believes that parents or other persons legally responsible for the child need to fulfil with care their right and responsibility to provide direction and guidance to their adolescent children in the exercise by the latter of their rights. They have an obligation to take into account the adolescents’ views, in accordance with their age and maturity, and to provide a safe and supportive environment in which the adolescent can develop. Adolescents need to be recognized by the members of their family environment as active rights holders who have the capacity to become full and responsible citizens, given the proper guidance and direction.
Respect for the views of the child
4.The right to express views freely and have them duly taken into account (art. 12) is also fundamental in realizing adolescents’ right to health and development. States parties need to ensure that adolescents are given a genuine chance to express their views freely on all matters affecting them, especially within the family, in school, and in their communities. In order for adolescents to be able safely and properly to exercise this right, public authorities, parents and other adults working with or for children need to create an environment based on trust, information‑sharing, the capacity to listen and sound guidance that is conducive for adolescents’ participating equally including in decision-making processes.
Legal and judicial measures and processes
5.Under article 4 of the Convention, “States parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized” therein. In the context of the rights of adolescents to health and development, States parties need to ensure that specific legal provisions are guaranteed under domestic law, including with regard to setting a minimum age for sexual consent, marriage and the possibility of medical treatment without parental consent. These minimum ages should be the same for boys and girls (article 2 of the Convention) and closely reflect the recognition of the status of human beings under 18 years of age as rights holders, in accordance with their evolving capacity, age and maturity (arts. 5 and 12 to 17). Further, adolescents need to have easy access to individual complaint systems as well as judicial and appropriate non-judicial redress mechanisms that guarantee fair and due process, with special attention to the right to privacy (art. 16).
Civil rights and freedoms
6.The Convention defines the civil rights and freedoms of children and adolescents in its articles 13 to 17. These are fundamental in guaranteeing the right to health and development of adolescents. Article 17 states that the child has the right to “access information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health”. The right of adolescents to access appropriate information is crucial if States parties are to promote cost‑effective measures, including through laws, policies and programmes, with regard to numerous health‑related situations, including those covered in articles 24 and 33 such as family planning, prevention of accidents, protection from harmful traditional practices, including early marriages and female genital mutilation, and the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other harmful substances.
7.In order to promote the health and development of adolescents, States parties are also encouraged to respect strictly their right to privacy and confidentiality, including with respect to advice and counselling on health matters (art. 16). Health-care providers have an obligation to keep confidential medical information concerning adolescents, bearing in mind the basic principles of the Convention. Such information may only be disclosed with the consent of the adolescent, or in the same situations applying to the violation of an adult’s confidentiality. Adolescents deemed mature enough to receive counselling without the presence of a parent or other person are entitled to privacy and may request confidential services, including treatment.
Protection from all forms of abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation
8.States parties must take effective measures to ensure that adolescents are protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation (arts. 19, 32-36 and 38), paying increased attention to the specific forms of abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation that affects this age group. In particular, they should adopt special measures to ensure the physical, sexual and mental integrity of adolescents with disabilities, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect. States parties should also ensure that adolescents affected by poverty who are socially marginalized are not criminalized. In this regard, financial and human resources need to be allocated to promote research that would inform the adoption of effective local and national laws, policies and programmes. Policies and strategies should be reviewed regularly and revised accordingly. In taking these measures, States parties have to take into account the evolving capacities of adolescents and involve them in an appropriate manner in developing measures, including programmes, designed to protect them. In this context, the Committee emphasizes the positive impact that peer education can have, and the positive influence of proper role models, especially those in the worlds of arts, entertainment and sports.
9.Systematic data collection is necessary for States parties to be able to monitor the health and development of adolescents. States parties should adopt data-collection mechanisms that allow desegregation by sex, age, origin and socio-economic status so that the situation of different groups can be followed. Data should also be collected to study the situation of specific groups such as ethnic and/or indigenous minorities, migrant or refugee adolescents, adolescents with disabilities, working adolescents, etc. Where appropriate, adolescents should participate in the analysis to ensure that the information is understood and utilized in an adolescent-sensitive way.
II. Creating a safe and supportive environment
10.The health and development of adolescents are strongly determined by the environments in which they live. Creating a safe and supportive environment entails addressing attitudes and actions of both the immediate environment of the adolescent - family, peers, schools and services - as well as the wider environment created by, inter alia, community and religious leaders, the media, national and local policies and legislation. The promotion and enforcement of the provisions and principles of the Convention, especially articles 2-6, 12-17, 24, 28, 29 and 31, are key to guaranteeing adolescents’ right to health and development. States parties should take measures to raise awareness and stimulate and/or regulate action through the formulation of policy or the adoption of legislation and the implementation of programmes specifically for adolescents.
11.The Committee stresses the importance of the family environment, including the members of the extended family and community or other persons legally responsible for the child or adolescent (arts. 5 and 18). While most adolescents grow up in well‑functioning family environments, for some the family does not constitute a safe and supportive milieu.
12.The Committee calls upon States parties to develop and implement, in a manner consistent with adolescents’ evolving capacities, legislation, policies and programmes to promote the health and development of adolescents by (a) providing parents (or legal guardians) with appropriate assistance through the development of institutions, facilities and services that adequately support the well-being of adolescents, including, when needed, the provision of material assistance and support with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing (art. 27 (3)); (b) providing adequate information and parental support to facilitate the development of a relationship of trust and confidence in which issues regarding, for example, sexuality and sexual behaviour and risky lifestyles can be openly discussed and acceptable solutions found that respect the adolescent’s rights (art. 27 (3)); (c) providing adolescent mothers and fathers with support and guidance for both their own and their children’s well-being (art. 24 (f), 27 (2-3)); (d) giving, while respecting the values and norms of ethnic and other minorities, special attention, guidance and support to adolescents and parents (or legal guardians), whose traditions and norms may differ from those in the society where they live; and (e) ensuring that interventions in the family to protect the adolescent and, when necessary, separate her/him from the family, e.g. in case of abuse or neglect, are in accordance with applicable laws and procedures. Such laws and procedures should be reviewed to ensure that they conform to the principles of the Convention.
13.The school plays an important role in the life of many adolescents, as the venue for learning, development and socialization. Article 29 (1) states that education must be directed to “the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential”. In addition, general comment No. 1 on the aims of education states that “Education must also be aimed at ensuring that … no child leaves school without being equipped to face the challenges that he or she can expect to be confronted with in life. Basic skills should include … the ability to make well-balanced decisions; to resolve conflicts in a non‑violent manner; and to develop a healthy lifestyle [and] good social relationships …”. Considering the importance of appropriate education for the current and future health and development of adolescents, as well as for their children, the Committee urges States parties, in line with articles 28 and 29 of the Convention to (a) ensure that quality primary education is compulsory and available, accessible and free to all and that secondary and higher education are available and accessible to all adolescents; (b) provide well-functioning school and recreational facilities which do not pose health risks to students, including water and sanitation and safe journeys to school; (c) take the necessary actions to prevent and prohibit all forms of violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, corporal punishment and other inhuman, degrading or humiliating treatment or punishment in school, by school personnel as well as among students; (d) initiate and support measures, attitudes and activities that promote healthy behaviour by including relevant topics in school curricula.
14.During adolescence, an increasing number of young people are leaving school to start working to help support their families or for wages in the formal or informal sector. Participation in work activities in accordance with international standards, as long as it does not jeopardize the enjoyment of any of the other rights of adolescents, including health and education, may be beneficial for the development of the adolescent. The Committee urges States parties to take all necessary measures to abolish all forms of child labour, starting with the worst forms, to continuously review national regulations on minimum ages for employment with a view to making them compatible with international standards, and to regulate the working environment and conditions for adolescents who are working (in accordance with article 32 of the Convention, as well as ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182), so as to ensure that they are fully protected and have access to legal redress mechanisms.
15.The Committee also stresses that in accordance with article 23 (3) of the Convention, the special rights of adolescents with disabilities should be taken into account and assistance provided to ensure that the disabled child/adolescent has effective access to and receives good quality education. States should recognize the principle of equal primary, secondary and tertiary educational opportunities for disabled children/adolescents, where possible in regular schools.
16.The Committee is concerned that early marriage and pregnancy are significant factors in health problems related to sexual and reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS. Both the legal minimum age and actual age of marriage, particularly for girls, are still very low in several States parties. There are also non-health-related concerns: children who marry, especially girls, are often obliged to leave the education system and are marginalized from social activities. Further, in some States parties married children are legally considered adults, even if they are under 18, depriving them of all the special protection measures they are entitled under the Convention. The Committee strongly recommends that States parties review and, where necessary, reform their legislation and practice to increase the minimum age for marriage with and without parental consent to 18 years, for both girls and boys. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has made a similar recommendation (general comment No. 21 of 1994).
17.In most countries accidental injuries or injuries due to violence are a leading cause of death or permanent disability among adolescents. In that respect, the Committee is concerned about the injuries and death resulting from road traffic accidents, which affect adolescents disproportionately. States parties should adopt and enforce legislation and programmes to improve road safety, including driving education for and examination of adolescents and the adoption or strengthening of legislation known to be highly effective such as the obligations to have a valid driver’s licence, wear seat belts and crash helmets, and the designation of pedestrian areas.
18.The Committee is also very concerned about the high rate of suicide among this age group. Mental disorders and psychosocial illness are relatively common among adolescents. In many countries symptoms such as depression, eating disorders and self‑destructive behaviours, sometimes leading to self-inflicted injuries and suicide, are increasing. They may be related to, inter alia, violence, ill-treatment, abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse, unrealistically high expectations, and/or bullying or hazing in and outside school. States parties should provide these adolescents with all the necessary services.
19.Violence results from a complex interplay of individual, family, community and societal factors. Vulnerable adolescents such as those who are homeless or who are living in institutions, who belong to gangs or who have been recruited as child soldiers are especially exposed to both institutional and interpersonal violence. Under article 19 of the Convention, States parties must take all appropriate measures to prevent and eliminate: (a) institutional violence against adolescents, including through legislation and administrative measures in relation to public and private institutions for adolescents (schools, institutions for disabled adolescents, juvenile reformatories, etc.), and training and monitoring of personnel in charge of institutionalized children or who otherwise have contact with children through their work, including the police;
and (b) interpersonal violence among adolescents, including by supporting adequate parenting and opportunities for social and educational development in early childhood, fostering non‑violent cultural norms and values (as foreseen in article 29 of the Convention), strictly controlling firearms and restricting access to alcohol and drugs.
20.In light of articles 3, 6, 12, 19 and 24 (3) of the Convention, States parties should take all effective measures to eliminate all acts and activities which threaten the right to life of adolescents, including honour killings. The Committee strongly urges States parties to develop and implement awareness-raising campaigns, education programmes and legislation aimed at changing prevailing attitudes, and address gender roles and stereotypes that contribute to harmful traditional practices. Further, States parties should facilitate the establishment of multidisciplinary information and advice centres regarding the harmful aspects of some traditional practices, including early marriage and female genital mutilation.
21.The Committee is concerned about the influence exerted on adolescent health behaviours by the marketing of unhealthy products and lifestyles. In line with article 17 of the Convention, States parties are urged to protect adolescents from information that is harmful to their health and development, while underscoring their right to information and material from diverse national and international sources. States parties are therefore urged to regulate or prohibit information on and marketing of substances such as alcohol and tobacco, particularly when it targets children and adolescents.
III.Information, skills development,counselling, and health services
22.Adolescents have the right to access adequate information essential for their health and development and for their ability to participate meaningfully in society. It is the obligation of States parties to ensure that all adolescent girls and boys, both in and out of school, are provided with, and not denied, accurate and appropriate information on how to protect their health and development and practise healthy behaviours. This should include information on the use and abuse, of tobacco, alcohol and other substances, safe and respectful social and sexual behaviours, diet and physical activity.
23.In order to act adequately on the information, adolescents need to develop the skills necessary, including self-care skills, such as how to plan and prepare nutritionally balanced meals and proper personal hygiene habits, and skills for dealing with particular social situations such as interpersonal communication, decision-making, and coping with stress and conflict. States parties should stimulate and support opportunities to build such skills through, inter alia, formal and informal education and training programmes, youth organizations and the media.
24.In light of articles 3, 17 and 24 of the Convention, States parties should provide adolescents with access to sexual and reproductive information, including on family planning and contraceptives, the dangers of early pregnancy, the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In addition, States parties should ensure that they have access to appropriate information, regardless of their marital status and whether their parents or guardians consent. It is essential to find proper means and methods of providing information that is adequate and sensitive to the particularities and specific rights of adolescent girls and boys. To this end, States parties are encouraged to ensure that adolescents are actively involved in the design and dissemination of information through a variety of channels beyond the school, including youth organizations, religious, community and other groups and the media.
25.Under article 24 of the Convention, States parties are urged to provide adequate treatment and rehabilitation for adolescents with mental disorders, to make the community aware of the early signs and symptoms and the seriousness of these conditions, and to protect adolescents from undue pressures, including psychosocial stress. States parties are also urged to combat discrimination and stigma surrounding mental disorders, in line with their obligations under article 2. Every adolescent with a mental disorder has the right to be treated and cared for, as far as possible, in the community in which he or she lives. Where hospitalization or placement in a psychiatric institution is necessary, this decision should be made in accordance with the principle of the best interests of the child. In the event of hospitalization or institutionalization, the patient should be given the maximum possible opportunity to enjoy all his or her rights as recognized under the Convention, including the rights to education and to have access to recreational activities. Where appropriate, adolescents should be separated from adults. States parties must ensure that adolescents have access to a personal representative other than a family member to represent their interests, when necessary and appropriate. In accordance with article 25 of the Convention, States parties should undertake periodic review of the placement of adolescents in hospitals or psychiatric institutions.
26.Adolescents, both girls and boys, are at risk of being infected with and affected by STDs, including HIV/AIDS. States should ensure that appropriate goods, services and information for the prevention and treatment of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, are available and accessible. To this end, States parties are urged (a) to develop effective prevention programmes, including measures aimed at changing cultural views about adolescents’ need for contraception and STD prevention and addressing cultural and other taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality; (b) to adopt legislation to combat practices that either increase adolescents’ risk of infection or contribute to the marginalization of adolescents who are already infected with STDs, including HIV; (c) to take measures to remove all barriers hindering the access of adolescents to information, preventive measures such as condoms, and care.
27.Adolescent girls should have access to information on the harm that early marriage and early pregnancy can cause, and those who become pregnant should have access to health services that are sensitive to their rights and particular needs. States parties should take measures to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality in adolescent girls, particularly caused by early pregnancy and unsafe abortion practices, and to support adolescent parents. Young mothers, especially where support is lacking, may be prone to depression and anxiety, compromising their ability to care for their child. The Committee urges States parties (a) to develop and implement programmes that provide access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, contraception and safe abortion services where abortion is not against the law, adequate and comprehensive obstetric care and counselling; (b) to foster positive and supportive attitudes towards adolescent parenthood for their mothers and fathers; and (c) to develop policies that will allow adolescent mothers to continue their education.
28.Before parents give their consent, adolescents need to have a chance to express their views freely and their views should be given due weight, in accordance with article 12 of the Convention. However, if the adolescent is of sufficient maturity, informed consent shall be obtained from the adolescent her/himself, while informing the parents if that is in the “best interest of the child” (art. 3).
29.With regard to privacy and confidentiality, and the related issue of informed consent to treatment, States parties should (a) enact laws or regulations to ensure that confidential advice concerning treatment is provided to adolescents so that they can give their informed consent. Such laws or regulations should stipulate an age for this process, or refer to the evolving capacity of the child; and (b) provide training for health personnel on the rights of adolescents to privacy and confidentiality, to be informed about planned treatment and to give their informed consent to treatment.
IV. Vulnerability and risk
30.In ensuring respect for the right of adolescents to health and development, both individual behaviours and environmental factors which increase their vulnerability and risk should be taken into consideration. Environmental factors, such as armed conflict or social exclusion, increase the vulnerability of adolescents to abuse, other forms of violence and exploitation, thereby severely limiting adolescents’ abilities to make individual, healthy behaviour choices. For example, the decision to engage in unsafe sex increases adolescents’ risk of ill‑health.
31.In accordance with article 23 of the Convention, adolescents with mental and/or physical disabilities have an equal right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States parties have an obligation to provide adolescents with disabilities with the means necessary to realize their rights. States parties should (a) ensure that health facilities, goods and services are available and accessible to all adolescents with disabilities and that these facilities and services promote their self-reliance and their active participation in the community; (b) ensure that the necessary equipment and personal support are available to enable them to move around, participate and communicate; (c) pay specific attention to the special needs relating to the sexuality of adolescents with disabilities; and (d) remove barriers that hinder adolescents with disabilities in realizing their rights.
32.States parties have to provide special protection to homeless adolescents, including those working in the informal sector. Homeless adolescents are particularly vulnerable to violence, abuse and sexual exploitation from others, self-destructive behaviour, substance abuse and mental disorders. In this regard, States parties are required to (a) develop policies and enact and enforce legislation that protect such adolescents from violence, e.g. by law enforcement officials; (b) develop strategies for the provision of appropriate education and access to health care, and of opportunities for the development of livelihood skills.
33.Adolescents who are sexually exploited, including in prostitution and pornography, are exposed to significant health risks, including STDs, HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, violence and psychological distress. They have the right to physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration in an environment that fosters health, self‑respect and dignity (art. 39). It is the obligation of States parties to enact and enforce laws to prohibit all forms of sexual exploitation and related trafficking; to collaborate with other States parties to eliminate intercountry trafficking; and to provide appropriate health and counselling services to adolescents who have been sexually exploited, making sure that they are treated as victims and not as offenders.
34.Additionally, adolescents experiencing poverty, armed conflicts, all forms of injustice, family breakdown, political, social and economic instability and all types of migration may be particularly vulnerable. These situations might seriously hamper their health and development. By investing heavily in preventive policies and measures States parties can drastically reduce levels of vulnerability and risk factors; they will also provide cost-effective ways for society to help adolescents develop harmoniously in a free society.
V. Nature of States’ obligations
35.In exercising their obligations in relation to the health and development of adolescents, States parties shall always take fully into account the four general principles of the Convention. It is the view of the Committee that States parties must take all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the realization and monitoring of the rights of adolescents to health and development as recognized in the Convention. To this end, States parties must notably fulfil the following obligations:
(a)To create a safe and supportive environment for adolescents, including within their family, in schools, in all types of institutions in which they may live, within their workplace and/or in the society at large;
(b)To ensure that adolescents have access to the information that is essential for their health and development and that they have opportunities to participate in decisions affecting their health (notably through informed consent and the right of confidentiality), to acquire life skills, to obtain adequate and age-appropriate information, and to make appropriate health behaviour choices;
(c)To ensure that health facilities, goods and services, including counselling and health services for mental and sexual and reproductive health, of appropriate quality and sensitive to adolescents’ concerns are available to all adolescents;
(d)To ensure that adolescent girls and boys have the opportunity to participate actively in planning and programming for their own health and development;
(e)To protect adolescents from all forms of labour which may jeopardize the enjoyment of their rights, notably by abolishing all forms of child labour and by regulating the working environment and conditions in accordance with international standards;
(f)To protect adolescents from all forms of intentional and unintentional injuries, including those resulting from violence and road traffic accidents;
(g)To protect adolescents from all harmful traditional practices, such as early marriages, honour killings and female genital mutilation;
(h)To ensure that adolescents belonging to especially vulnerable groups are fully taken into account in the fulfilment of all aforementioned obligations;
(i)To implement measures for the prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health of adolescents.
36.The Committee draws the attention of States parties to the general comment No. 14 on the right to the highest attainable standard of health of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which states that, “States parties should provide a safe and supportive environment for adolescents that ensures the opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their health, to build life skills, to acquire appropriate information, to receive counselling and to negotiate the health-behaviour choices they make. The realization of the right to health of adolescents is dependent on the development of youth-sensitive health care, which respects confidentiality and privacy and includes appropriate sexual and reproductive health services.”
37.In accordance with articles 24, 39 and other related provisions of the Convention, States parties should provide health services that are sensitive to the particular needs and human rights of all adolescents, paying attention to the following characteristics:
(a)Availability. Primary health care should include services sensitive to the needs of adolescents, with special attention given to sexual and reproductive health and mental health;
(b)Accessibility. Health facilities, goods and services should be known and easily accessible (economically, physically and socially) to all adolescents, without discrimination. Confidentiality should be guaranteed, when necessary;
(c)Acceptability. While fully respecting the provisions and principles of the Convention, all health facilities, goods and services should respect cultural values, be gender sensitive, be respectful of medical ethics and be acceptable to both adolescents and the communities in which they live;
(d)Quality. Health services and goods should be scientifically and medically appropriate, which requires personnel trained to care for adolescents, adequate facilities and scientifically accepted methods.
38.States parties should, where feasible, adopt a multisectoral approach to the promotion and protection of adolescent health and development by facilitating effective and sustainable linkages and partnerships among all relevant actors. At the national level, such an approach calls for close and systematic collaboration and coordination within Government, so as to ensure the necessary involvement of all relevant government entities. Public health and other services utilized by adolescents should also be encouraged and assisted in seeking collaboration with, inter alia, private and/or traditional practitioners, professional associations, pharmacies and organizations that provide services to vulnerable groups of adolescents.
39.A multisectoral approach to the promotion and protection of adolescent health and development will not be effective without international cooperation. Therefore, States parties should, when appropriate, seek such cooperation with United Nations specialized agencies, programmes and bodies, international NGOs and bilateral aid agencies, international professional associations and other non-State actors.
Thirty-fourth session (2003)
General comment No. 5: General measures of implementation of theConvention on the Rights of the Child (arts. 4, 42 and 44, para. 6)
1.The Committee on the Rights of the Child has drafted this general comment to outline States parties’ obligations to develop what it has termed “general measures of implementation”. The various elements of the concept are complex and the Committee emphasizes that it is likely to issue more detailed general comments on individual elements in due course, to expand on this outline. Its general comment No. 2 (2002) entitled “The role of independent national human rights institutions in the protection and promotion of the rights of the child” has already expanded on this concept.
“States parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation.”
2.When a State ratifies the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it takes on obligations under international law to implement it. Implementation is the process whereby States parties take action to ensure the realization of all rights in the Convention for all children in their jurisdiction. Article 4 requires States parties to take “all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures” for implementation of the rights contained therein. While it is the State which takes on obligations under the Convention, its task of implementation - of making reality of the human rights of children - needs to engage all sectors of society and, of course, children themselves. Ensuring that all domestic legislation is fully compatible with the Convention and that the Convention’s principles and provisions can be directly applied and appropriately enforced is fundamental. In addition, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified a wide range of measures that are needed for effective implementation, including the development of special structures and monitoring, training and other activities in Government, parliament and the judiciary at all levels.
3.In its periodic examination of States parties’ reports under the Convention, the Committee pays particular attention to what it has termed “general measures of implementation”. In its concluding observations issued following examination, the Committee provides specific recommendations relating to general measures. It expects the State party to describe action taken in response to these recommendations in its subsequent periodic report. The Committee’s reporting guidelines arrange the Convention’s articles in clusters, the first being on “general measures of implementation” and groups article 4 with article 42 (the obligation to make the content of the Convention widely known to children and adults; see paragraph 66 below) and article 44, paragraph 6 (the obligation to make reports widely available within the State; see paragraph 71 below).
4.In addition to these provisions, other general implementation obligations are set out in article 2: “States parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind …”.
5.Also under article 3, paragraph 2, “States parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.”
6.In international human rights law, there are articles similar to article 4 of the Convention, setting out overall implementation obligations, such as article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have issued general comments in relation to these provisions which should be seen as complementary to the present general comment and which are referred to below.
7.Article 4, while reflecting States parties’ overall implementation obligations, suggests a distinction between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights in its second sentence: “With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation.” There is no simple or authoritative division of human rights in general or of Convention rights into the two categories. The Committee’s reporting guidelines group articles 7, 8, 13-17 and 37 (a) under the heading “Civil rights and freedoms”, but indicate by the context that these are not the only civil and political rights in the Convention. Indeed, it is clear that many other articles, including articles 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention, contain elements which constitute civil/political rights, thus reflecting the interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights. Enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights is inextricably intertwined with enjoyment of civil and political rights. As noted in paragraph 25 below, the Committee believes that economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, should be regarded as justiciable.
8.The second sentence of article 4 reflects a realistic acceptance that lack of resources ‑ financial and other resources - can hamper the full implementation of economic, social and cultural rights in some States; this introduces the concept of “progressive realization” of such rights: States need to be able to demonstrate that they have implemented “to the maximum extent of their available resources” and, where necessary, have sought international cooperation. When States ratify the Convention, they take upon themselves obligations not only to implement it within their jurisdiction, but also to contribute, through international cooperation, to global implementation (see paragraph 60 below).
9.The sentence is similar to the wording used in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee entirely concurs with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in asserting that “even where the available resources are demonstrably inadequate, the obligation remains for a State party to strive to ensure the widest possible enjoyment of the relevant rights under the prevailing circumstances …”. Whatever their economic circumstances, States are required to undertake all possible measures towards the realization of the rights of the child, paying special attention to the most disadvantaged groups.
10.The general measures of implementation identified by the Committee and described in the present general comment are intended to promote the full enjoyment of all rights in the Convention by all children, through legislation, the establishment of coordinating and monitoring bodies - governmental and independent - comprehensive data collection, awareness-raising and training and the development and implementation of appropriate policies, services and programmes. One of the satisfying results of the adoption and almost universal ratification of the Convention has been the development at the national level of a wide variety of new child‑focused and child-sensitive bodies, structures and activities - children’s rights units at the heart of Government, ministers for children, inter-ministerial committees on children, parliamentary committees, child impact analysis, children’s budgets and “state of children’s rights” reports, NGO coalitions on children’s rights, children’s ombudspersons and children’s rights commissioners and so on.
11.While some of these developments may seem largely cosmetic, their emergence at the least indicates a change in the perception of the child’s place in society, a willingness to give higher political priority to children and an increasing sensitivity to the impact of governance on children and their human rights.
12.The Committee emphasizes that, in the context of the Convention, States must see their role as fulfilling clear legal obligations to each and every child. Implementation of the human rights of children must not be seen as a charitable process, bestowing favours on children.
The development of a children’s rights perspective throughout Government, parliament and the judiciary is required for effective implementation of the whole Convention and, in particular, in the light of the following articles in the Convention identified by the Committee as general principles:
Article 2: the obligation of States to respect and ensure the rights set forth in the Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind. This non-discrimination obligation requires States actively to identify individual children and groups of children the recognition and realization of whose rights may demand special measures. For example, the Committee highlights, in particular, the need for data collection to be disaggregated to enable discrimination or potential discrimination to be identified. Addressing discrimination may require changes in legislation, administration and resource allocation, as well as educational measures to change attitudes. It should be emphasized that the application of the non-discrimination principle of equal access to rights does not mean identical treatment. A general comment by the Human Rights Committee has underlined the importance of taking special measures in order to diminish or eliminate conditions that cause discrimination.
Art icle 3 (1): the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions concerning children. The article refers to actions undertaken by “public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies”. The principle requires active measures throughout Government, parliament and the judiciary. Every legislative, administrative and judicial body or institution is required to apply the best interests principle by systematically considering how children’s rights and interests are or will be affected by their decisions and actions - by, for example, a proposed or existing law or policy or administrative action or court decision, including those which are not directly concerned with children, but indirectly affect children.
Article 6: the child’s inherent right to life and States parties’ obligation to ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child. The Committee expects States to interpret “development” in its broadest sense as a holistic concept, embracing the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, psychological and social development. Implementation measures should be aimed at achieving the optimal development for all children.
Article 12: the child’s right to express his or her views freely in “all matters affecting the child”, those views being given due weight. This principle, which highlights the role of the child as an active participant in the promotion, protection and monitoring of his or her rights, applies equally to all measures adopted by States to implement the Convention.
Opening government decision-making processes to children is a positive challenge which the Committee finds States are increasingly responding to. Given that few States as yet have reduced the voting age below 18, there is all the more reason to ensure respect for the views of unenfranchised children in Government and parliament. If consultation is to be meaningful, documents as well as processes need to be made accessible. But appearing to “listen” to children is relatively unchallenging; giving due weight to their views requires real change. Listening to children should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather as a means by which States make their interactions with children and their actions on behalf of children ever more sensitive to the implementation of children’s rights.
One-off or regular events like Children’s Parliaments can be stimulating and raise general awareness. But article 12 requires consistent and ongoing arrangements. Involvement of and consultation with children must also avoid being tokenistic and aim to ascertain representative views. The emphasis on “matters that affect them” in article 12 (1) implies the ascertainment of the views of particular groups of children on particular issues - for example children who have experience of the juvenile justice system on proposals for law reform in that area, or adopted children and children in adoptive families on adoption law and policy. It is important that Governments develop a direct relationship with children, not simply one mediated through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or human rights institutions. In the early years of the Convention, NGOs had played a notable role in pioneering participatory approaches with children, but it is in the interests of both Governments and children to have appropriate direct contact.
II. Review of reservations
13.In its reporting guidelines on general measures of implementation, the Committee starts by inviting the State party to indicate whether it considers it necessary to maintain the reservations it has made, if any, or has the intention of withdrawing them. States parties to the Convention are entitled to make reservations at the time of their ratification of or accession to it (art. 51). The Committee’s aim of ensuring full and unqualified respect for the human rights of children can be achieved only if States withdraw their reservations. It consistently recommends during its examination of reports that reservations be reviewed and withdrawn. Where a State, after review, decides to maintain a reservation, the Committee requests that a full explanation be included in the next periodic report. The Committee draws the attention of States parties to the encouragement given by the World Conference on Human Rights to the review and withdrawal of reservations.
14.Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties defines “reservation” as a “unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a Treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the Treaty in their application to that State”. The Vienna Convention notes that States are entitled, at the time of ratification or accession to a treaty, to make a reservation unless it is “incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty” (art. 19).
15.Article 51, paragraph 2, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child reflects this: “A reservation incompatible with the object and purpose of the present Convention shall not be permitted.” The Committee is deeply concerned that some States have made reservations which plainly breach article 51 (2) by suggesting, for example, that respect for the Convention is limited by the State’s existing Constitution or legislation, including in some cases religious law. Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides: “A party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.”
16.The Committee notes that, in some cases, States parties have lodged formal objections to such wide-ranging reservations made by other States parties. It commends any action which contributes to ensuring the fullest possible respect for the Convention in all States parties.
III.Ratification of other key international human rights instruments
17.As part of its consideration of general measures of implementation, and in the light of the principles of indivisibility and interdependence of human rights, the Committee consistently urges States parties, if they have not already done so, to ratify the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography) and the six other major international human rights instruments. During its dialogue with States parties the Committee often encourages them to consider ratifying other relevant international instruments. A non‑exhaustive list of these instruments is annexed to the present general comment, which the Committee will update from time to time.
IV. Legislative measures
18.The Committee believes a comprehensive review of all domestic legislation and related administrative guidance to ensure full compliance with the Convention is an obligation. Its experience in examining not only initial but now second and third periodic reports under the Convention suggests that the review process at the national level has, in most cases, been started, but needs to be more rigorous. The review needs to consider the Convention not only article by article, but also holistically, recognizing the interdependence and indivisibility of human rights. The review needs to be continuous rather than one-off, reviewing proposed as well as existing legislation. And while it is important that this review process should be built into the machinery of all relevant government departments, it is also advantageous to have independent review by, for example, parliamentary committees and hearings, national human rights institutions, NGOs, academics, affected children and young people and others.
19.States parties need to ensure, by all appropriate means, that the provisions of the Convention are given legal effect within their domestic legal systems. This remains a challenge in many States parties. Of particular importance is the need to clarify the extent of applicability of the Convention in States where the principle of “self-execution” applies and others where it is claimed that the Convention “has constitutional status” or has been incorporated into domestic law.
20.The Committee welcomes the incorporation of the Convention into domestic law, which is the traditional approach to the implementation of international human rights instruments in some but not all States. Incorporation should mean that the provisions of the Convention can be directly invoked before the courts and applied by national authorities and that the Convention will prevail where there is a conflict with domestic legislation or common practice. Incorporation by itself does not avoid the need to ensure that all relevant domestic law, including any local or customary law, is brought into compliance with the Convention. In case of any conflict in legislation, predominance should always be given to the Convention, in the light of article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Where a State delegates powers to legislate to federated regional or territorial governments, it must also require these subsidiary governments to legislate within the framework of the Convention and to ensure effective implementation (see also paragraphs 40 et seq. below).
21.Some States have suggested to the Committee that the inclusion in their Constitution of guarantees of rights for “everyone” is adequate to ensure respect for these rights for children. The test must be whether the applicable rights are truly realized for children and can be directly invoked before the courts. The Committee welcomes the inclusion of sections on the rights of the child in national constitutions, reflecting key principles in the Convention, which helps to underline the key message of the Convention - that children alongside adults are holders of human rights. But this inclusion does not automatically ensure respect for the rights of children. In order to promote the full implementation of these rights, including, where appropriate, the exercise of rights by children themselves, additional legislative and other measures may be necessary.
22.The Committee emphasizes, in particular, the importance of ensuring that domestic law reflects the identified general principles in the Convention (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 (see paragraph 12 above)). The Committee welcomes the development of consolidated children’s rights statutes, which can highlight and emphasize the Convention’s principles. But the Committee emphasizes that it is crucial in addition that all relevant “sectoral” laws (on education, health, justice and so on) reflect consistently the principles and standards of the Convention.
23.The Committee encourages all States parties to enact and implement within their jurisdiction legal provisions that are more conducive to the realization of the rights of the child than those contained in the Convention, in the light of article 41. The Committee emphasizes that the other international human rights instruments apply to all persons below the age of 18 years.
V. Justiciability of rights
24.For rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations. This requirement is implicit in the Convention and consistently referred to in the other six major international human rights treaties. Children’s special and dependent status creates real difficulties for them in pursuing remedies for breaches of their rights. So States need to give particular attention to ensuring that there are effective, child-sensitive procedures available to children and their representatives. These should include the provision of child-friendly information, advice, advocacy, including support for self-advocacy, and access to independent complaints procedures and to the courts with necessary legal and other assistance. Where rights are found to have been breached, there should be appropriate reparation, including compensation, and, where needed, measures to promote physical and psychological recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration, as required by article 39.
25.As noted in paragraph 6 above, the Committee emphasizes that economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, must be regarded as justiciable. It is essential that domestic law sets out entitlements in sufficient detail to enable remedies for non-compliance to be effective.
VI. Administrative and other measures
26.The Committee cannot prescribe in detail the measures which each or every State party will find appropriate to ensure effective implementation of the Convention. But from its first decade’s experience of examining States parties’ reports and from its ongoing dialogue with Governments and with the United Nations and United Nations-related agencies, NGOs and other competent bodies, it has distilled here some key advice for States.
27.The Committee believes that effective implementation of the Convention requires visible cross-sectoral coordination to recognize and realize children’s rights across Government, between different levels of government and between Government and civil society - including in particular children and young people themselves. Invariably, many different government departments and other governmental or quasi-governmental bodies affect children’s lives and children’s enjoyment of their rights. Few, if any, government departments have no effect on children’s lives, direct or indirect. Rigorous monitoring of implementation is required, which should be built into the process of government at all levels but also independent monitoring by national human rights institutions, NGOs and others.
A. Developing a comprehensive national strategy rooted in the Convention
28.If Government as a whole and at all levels is to promote and respect the rights of the child, it needs to work on the basis of a unifying, comprehensive and rights-based national strategy, rooted in the Convention.
29.The Committee commends the development of a comprehensive national strategy or national plan of action for children, built on the framework of the Convention. The Committee expects States parties to take account of the recommendations in its concluding observations on their periodic reports when developing and/or reviewing their national strategies. If such a strategy is to be effective, it needs to relate to the situation of all children, and to all the rights in the Convention. It will need to be developed through a process of consultation, including with children and young people and those living and working with them. As noted above (para. 12), meaningful consultation with children requires special child-sensitive materials and processes; it is not simply about extending to children access to adult processes.
30.Particular attention will need to be given to identifying and giving priority to marginalized and disadvantaged groups of children. The non-discrimination principle in the Convention requires that all the rights guaranteed by the Convention should be recognized for all children within the jurisdiction of States. As noted above (para. 12), the non-discrimination principle does not prevent the taking of special measures to diminish discrimination.
31.To give the strategy authority, it will need to be endorsed at the highest level of government. Also, it needs to be linked to national development planning and included in national budgeting; otherwise, the strategy may remain marginalized outside key decision‑making processes.
32.The strategy must not be simply a list of good intentions; it must include a description of a sustainable process for realizing the rights of children throughout the State; it must go beyond statements of policy and principle, to set real and achievable targets in relation to the full range of economic, social and cultural and civil and political rights for all children. The comprehensive national strategy may be elaborated in sectoral national plans of action - for example for education and health - setting out specific goals, targeted implementation measures and allocation of financial and human resources. The strategy will inevitably set priorities, but it must not neglect or dilute in any way the detailed obligations which States parties have accepted under the Convention. The strategy needs to be adequately resourced, in human and financial terms.
33.Developing a national strategy is not a one-off task. Once drafted the strategy will need to be widely disseminated throughout Government and to the public, including children (translated into child-friendly versions as well as into appropriate languages and forms). The strategy will need to include arrangements for monitoring and continuous review, for regular updating and for periodic reports to parliament and to the public.
34.The “national plans of action” which States were encouraged to develop following the first World Summit for Children, held in 1990, were related to the particular commitments set by nations attending the Summit. In 1993, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, called on States to integrate the Convention on the Rights of the Child into their national human rights action plans.
35.The outcome document of the United Nations General Assembly special session on children, in 2002, also commits States “to develop or strengthen as a matter of urgency if possible by the end of 2003 national and, where appropriate, regional action plans with a set of specific time-bound and measurable goals and targets based on this plan of action …”. The Committee welcomes the commitments made by States to achieve the goals and targets set at the special session on children and identified in the outcome document, A World Fit for Children. But the Committee emphasizes that making particular commitments at global meetings does not in any way reduce States parties’ legal obligations under the Convention. Similarly, preparing specific plans of action in response to the special session does not reduce the need for a comprehensive implementation strategy for the Convention. States should integrate their response to the 2002 special session and to other relevant global conferences into their overall implementation strategy for the Convention as a whole.
36.The outcome document also encourages States parties to “consider including in their reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child information on measures taken and results achieved in the implementation of the present Plan of Action”. The Committee endorses this proposal; it is committed to monitoring progress towards meeting the commitments made at the special session and will provide further guidance in its revised guidelines for periodic reporting under the Convention.
B. Coordination of implementation of children’s rights
37.In examining States parties’ reports the Committee has almost invariably found it necessary to encourage further coordination of government to ensure effective implementation: coordination among central government departments, among different provinces and regions, between central and other levels of government and between Government and civil society. The purpose of coordination is to ensure respect for all of the Convention’s principles and standards for all children within the State jurisdiction; to ensure that the obligations inherent in ratification of or accession to the Convention are not only recognized by those large departments which have a substantial impact on children - education, health or welfare and so on - but right across Government, including for example departments concerned with finance, planning, employment and defence, and at all levels.
38.The Committee believes that, as a treaty body, it is not advisable for it to attempt to prescribe detailed arrangements appropriate for very different systems of government across States parties. There are many formal and informal ways of achieving effective coordination, including for example inter-ministerial and interdepartmental committees for children. The Committee proposes that States parties, if they have not already done so, should review the machinery of government from the perspective of implementation of the Convention and in particular of the four articles identified as providing general principles (see paragraph 12 above).
39.Many States parties have with advantage developed a specific department or unit close to the heart of Government, in some cases in the President’s or Prime Minister’s or Cabinet office, with the objective of coordinating implementation and children’s policy. As noted above, the actions of virtually all government departments impact on children’s lives. It is not practicable to bring responsibility for all children’s services together into a single department, and in any case doing so could have the danger of further marginalizing children in Government. But a special unit, if given high-level authority - reporting directly, for example, to the Prime Minister, the President or a Cabinet Committee on children - can contribute both to the overall purpose of making children more visible in Government and to coordination to ensure respect for children’s rights across Government and at all levels of Government. Such a unit can be given responsibility for developing the comprehensive children’s strategy and monitoring its implementation, as well as for coordinating reporting under the Convention.
C. Decentralization, federalization and delegation
40.The Committee has found it necessary to emphasize to many States that decentralization of power, through devolution and delegation of government, does not in any way reduce the direct responsibility of the State party’s Government to fulfil its obligations to all children within its jurisdiction, regardless of the State structure.
41.The Committee reiterates that in all circumstances the State which ratified or acceded to the Convention remains responsible for ensuring the full implementation of the Convention throughout the territories under its jurisdiction. In any process of devolution, States parties have to make sure that the devolved authorities do have the necessary financial, human and other resources effectively to discharge responsibilities for the implementation of the Convention. The Governments of States parties must retain powers to require full compliance with the Convention by devolved administrations or local authorities and must establish permanent monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the Convention is respected and applied for all children within its jurisdiction without discrimination. Further, there must be safeguards to ensure that decentralization or devolution does not lead to discrimination in the enjoyment of rights by children in different regions.
42.The process of privatization of services can have a serious impact on the recognition and realization of children’s rights. The Committee devoted its 2002 day of general discussion to the theme “The private sector as service provider and its role in implementing child rights”, defining the private sector as including businesses, NGOs and other private associations, both for profit and not-for-profit. Following that day of general discussion, the Committee adopted detailed recommendations to which it draws the attention of States parties.
43.The Committee emphasizes that States parties to the Convention have a legal obligation to respect and ensure the rights of children as stipulated in the Convention, which includes the obli