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Complaints to UN and other international bodies

It is possible for individuals and groups alleging discrimination or violations of women’s rights to take a case to the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. However this may only happen if the defendant State has recognised the competence of the Committee to receive such applications. This is done by ratifying or acceding to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which entered into force in December 2000. As of March 2010 there were 99 countries which had done so.

Many of the UN conventions have Committees with similar powers. Most recently the ICESR through the new Optional Protocol (link it) to receive complaints: the exact procedures of each Committee vary, but in general there are three main procedures for bringing complaints of violation of the provisions of the human rights treaties before the human rights treaty bodies.

·                   individual communications;

·                   state-to-state complaints; and

·                   inquiries.

Not all UN treaty body committees have the right to consider such complaints.

There are also procedures for complaints which fall outside of the treaty body system - through the special procedures and the Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure and through the Commission on the Status of Women.  Read More on the Commission on the Status of Women.

Complaints to international bodies are a last resort. They are done only after cases have been taken in front of national and regional mechanisms, and when these can be said to have been exhausted or have proven inefficient.

See also Finding and using UN documents