Zannah Johnston, Decisions of the CEDAW Committee

John and Mary Yaremko Forum in Multiculturalism and Human Rights:Student Symposium on Women's Human Rights: March 6, 2009

Zannah Johnston

Decisions of the CEDAW Committee: Lack of Consistency in Admissibility Decisions


The mechanism for individual complaints of breach of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women contains various requirements for the admissibility of complaints.  For a complaint to be considered by the Committee, the author of the complaint must have exhausted domestic remedies, and the facts complained of must have arisen after the complaints procedure came into force in the respondent state party.  These admissibility requirements were at issue in two of the early decisions of the Committee: those concerning Ms. A.T. and Ms. B.J..  While a wide interpretation of these requirements was taken with respect to Ms. A.T.’s complaint, a contrasting narrow and legalistic interpretation was taken in Ms. B.J.’s case.  Both decisions are shown to be inconsistent with jurisprudence that has developed in other human rights treaty bodies.  This inconsistency is potentially detrimental to the goal of moving away from the treatment of women’s international human rights as “second class”.  However, it must be recalled that the complaints procedure is not a domestic legal procedure, so issues of precedent and consistency need not carry as much sway.  Nevertheless, reference to decisions of other bodies would provide assistance to the Committee.


The Women’s Human Rights Resources Programme thanks John and Mary Yaremko for generously funding this Symposium