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Treaty ratification

Last edited: December 20, 2011

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A first important step in reforming the justice sector to end violence against women is ensuring that the government has ratified key international treaties related to the human rights of women and girls. Important treaties to ratify include:


What is discrimination against women?

Discrimination against women has been defined as “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.”

(Source: United Nations. 1979. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 1.)

The majority of countries already have agreed to be bound by international treaties that support women’s human rights. For those that have not, the following strategies may be employed:

  • Promote an understanding of the utility of the proposed document in protecting women’s rights.
  • Develop a strategy to adopt the human rights document directed at state officials who have the power to promote its ratification.
  • Identify and involve key stakeholders in the country who will support ratification.
  • Involve international supporters who can demonstrate benefits of ratification.
  • Involve the public, including those who will be most affected by ratification, such women’s NGOs.
  • Partner with women’s NGOs to garner public support through awareness campaigns and media presentations.

Even though the government may have ratified these treaties, it may have made reservations (i.e., claimed to be exempt from certain provisions) at the time of ratification. If ratifications limit or deny the rights of women, a key focus of reform should be advocacy to remove the reservations. For more information on selected key human rights documents on violence against women, see the section on Guiding Principles in the Knowledge Module on Developing Legislation to End Violence Against Women and Girls.

Madagascar – Ministry of Justice in Madagascar Partners with NGO

In order to achieve legal reforms, to increase the implementation of women’s human rights, and to raise the awareness of magistrates on gender-based violence, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Madagascar partnered with the Women’s Legal Rights Initiative Madagascar (WLR) to publicly support amendments to increase age of marriage, establish equal rights for women, and increase implementation of women’s human rights. A key component of the partnership was creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU detailed the terms of cooperation between the MOJ and WLR, specifying that the parties would:

  • Establish 4 regional consultations with civil society organizations on proposed amendments to the family code. (6 consultations reached 300 participants.)
  • Create a public awareness campaign with brochures, posters, and radio announcements about the proposed amendments. (More than 3000 brochures were distributed.)
  • Create a training strategy with the Magistrates School on the implementation of women’s human rights treaties. (200 legal professionals and 200 law students were trained and the school now offers the training as part of its curriculum.)

Memorandum of Understanding (Ministry of Justice and The Women’s Legal Rights Initiative, 2006). Available in English.

Source: USAID. 2007. The Women’s Legal Rights Initiative: Final Report.