In 1979, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Many describe this as a “Bill of Rights” of sorts for women around the world. Discrimination is defined by the convention as any exclusion, restriction, or distinction made because of sex which would serve to undermine their basic human rights and freedoms. By ensuring that women have equal access to both public and political life, including participating in democratic processes and having a voice in their governance, the convention sought to create a climate of constant progression for women around the world. The convention also took the bold move of taking clear positions on various issues, including upholding a woman’s reproductive rights, reinforcing her ability to change her own nationality or that of her children, and condemning the trafficking of women for any and all purposes.
Member nations that participated in the convention pledged to work toward full gender equality in a variety of ways, including incorporating these foundational principles into their own legal framework through the abolition of any and all discriminatory legislations or protocols; creating legal measures for women to take action against any discriminatory actions; and working to ensure public and private entities alike work to end discriminatory practices within their own nations.