Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
Widely regarded as the international bill of rights for women, CEDAW is a United Nations human rights treaty for women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. It consists of:
- a preamble (or introduction)
- 30 Articles defining what represents discrimination and how equality can be achieved
Singapore acceded to the Convention on 5 October 1995. Click here to download a handbook and learn more about the Convention.
The Inter-Ministry Committee (IMC) on CEDAW oversees the implementation of the Convention in Singapore. Set up in July 1996, it comprises 14 ministries and public sector agencies which coordinate and implement initiatives under their purview to better address the needs of women.
The Office for Women’s Development (OWD) in MSF is Secretariat to the Committee. Its responsibilities include:
- preparing Periodic Reports to the UN CEDAW Committee which outline how Singapore has complied with CEDAW in collaboration with the IMC on CEDAW; and
- driving and recommending government policies relating to women through the IMC
To date, Singapore has submitted five and presented four Periodic Reports to the UN CEDAW Committee. An interim report on the select recommendations arising from the 49th Session of UN CEDAW Committee in July 2011 was also submitted in 2013.
Fifth Periodic Report
Singapore submitted its Fifth Periodic Report in October 2015. It covers the initiatives Singapore introduced from 2009 to 2015, to facilitate the progress of women.
Preparing the Report
During the drafting stage of the report, MSF and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations jointly consulted women’s groups in April 2015. Another consultation session with women parliamentarians was held in May 2015. These consultation sessions sought feedback from the participants on this Report and Singapore’s implementation of CEDAW. Their feedback was incorporated into the Report, and also relayed to the Inter-Ministry Committee on CEDAW and other agencies for review. Following the submission of the report, more consultation sessions were held in July 2017 to get further feedback from women's groups and women parliamentarians.
Oral Presentation to UN CEDAW Committee
Singapore presented our Fifth Periodic Report at the 68th Session of the UN CEDAW Committee on 25 October 2017. Prior to the session, Singapore had responded to the Committee’s issues and questions in writing to facilitate the dialogue in July 2017.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary (SPS) of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Ministry of Education (MOE), Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, led the Singapore delegation, comprising officials from:
- Ministry of Manpower;
- Ministry of Home Affairs;
- Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC);
- Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS); and
- Geneva Mission.
In his opening statement, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal explained Singapore’s practical and outcomes-based approach to the realization of human rights, bearing in mind our unique national circumstances and aspirations. He highlighted some developments since the last review session in 2011, e.g. the introduction of new laws like the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act and the Protection from Harassment Act, and the enhancement of several laws like the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act and the Women’s Charter. He also elaborated on Singapore’s efforts under two thrusts: (a) to continue eliminating barriers for women at the workplace, within the community and at home; and (b) to strengthen efforts to empower vulnerable groups of women.
Singapore Delegation presenting Singapore's Fifth Periodic Report on 25 October 2017
Response/ Concluding Observations
The CEDAW Committee commended the Singapore delegation on our “large and multi-sectoral delegation” and appreciated the open and constructive dialogue that took place between the CEDAW Committee and the delegation. The Committee also noted with appreciation the initiatives taken by Singapore to promote gender equality and protect the rights of women.
In particular, the Committee welcomed the progress Singapore achieved since the consideration of our Fourth Periodic Report in 2011, including legislative measures (e.g. Protection from Harassment Act, Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, Administration of Justice Protection Act, revised Women's Charter, revised Employment Act), accession to international instruments (e.g. UN TIP Protocol, and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), as well as initiatives taken to promote gender equality and protect the rights of women (e.g. introduction of two weeks of paid paternity leave, establishment of Diversity Action Committee to address issue of underrepresentation of women on corporate boards, extension of childcare and elderly care facilities to support those with caregiving responsibilities, and the introduction of religious edicts to secure the financial welfare of Muslim women and their dependents by providing more options in inheritance matters).
In terms of areas for improvement, the CEDAW Committee recommended that Singapore improve our legislation to specifically incorporate in our Constitution or other appropriate legislation a definition and prohibition of all forms of discrimination against women; criminalise domestic violence and marital rape; prohibit and eliminate corporal punishment of children and girls; ensure full compliance of Prevention of Human Trafficking Act with the Palermo protocol; allow applicability of Employment Act to domestic workers; repeal law where work permit holders are deported on grounds of pregnancy or diagnosis of HIV; ensure children born in Singapore to automatically acquire Singaporean citizenship; and include women in key positions and professions of the Registry of Muslim Marriages.
The Committee also recommended that Singapore:
- Withdraw our remaining reservations to articles 2 (on policy measures), 11 (on equal rights in employment) and 16 (on marriage and family life);
- Adopt a concrete action plan, with the active participation of civil society, to implement Committee’s recommendations and the Convention;
- Improve the collection of data (including on gender-based violence against women, older women and stateless persons), disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity and nationality;
- Apply gender mainstreaming consistently in the development and implementation of all laws, policies and programmes;
- Establish an independent national human rights institution;
- Strengthen measures to enable women to expand their role beyond caregiving, build equal partnerships or promote sharing of familial responsibilities, and combat discriminatory stereotypes including eliminating concept of “head of household”;
- Take measures to eliminate traditional stereotypes and structural barriers, for girls to choose non-traditional fields of study and career paths (e.g. engineering, electronics and information technology) and work in traditionally male-dominated fields of employment to combat horizontal occupational segregation, in both the public and private sectors;
- Sensitise all relevant officials on concept of temporary special measures and apply it in areas where women continue to be underrepresented or disadvantaged;
- Provide mandatory and recurrent capacity-building training (including early identification and referral of victims of trafficking as well as gender-sensitive investigation methods) for the judiciary, lawyers and law enforcement officers, legislators and other relevant officers ;
- Strengthen support and ensure protection for vulnerable groups of women, including victims of trafficking, victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, women migrant workers, foreign wives, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, and unmarried women from intimate partner violence;
- Adopt laws and policies aimed at promotion of women’s full and equal participation in decision making in all areas of political and public life, increase availability of training and capacity building programmes for these women
- Modify current school curricula to include age appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health;
- Reduce gender wage gap;
- Strengthen measures to promote work life harmony and equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men;
- Undertake independent, participatory and periodic impact assessment of the extraterritorial effects of its financial and corporate tax policies on women’s rights and substantive equality;
- Ensure that policies and measures targeting older women take into account their specific needs;
- Establish national asylum and refugee legislation and procedures, in line with international standards;
- Abolish exceptions for marriage under 18 years of age;
- Intensify efforts to discourage and prohibit polygamy;
- Ensure that women and men have equal rights to divorce;
- Guarantee equal rights of women in all inheritance matters, and provide for equal choice of adjudication between religious and civil law regimes;
- Ensure timely dissemination of present concluding observations and Parliament to take necessary steps to enable their full implementation; and
- Ratify Optional Protocol to the Convention, as well as treaties and international instruments to which Singapore is not yet a Party to
Call on Country Rapporteur for Singapore's review, Ms Yoko Hayashi, prior to Singapore's presentation
For more information:
For past CEDAW reports, click here.
Singapore celebrates 20 years of accession to UN CEDAW!
To celebrate Singapore's 20th anniversary of accession to UN CEDAW, a commemorative brochure and video were produced to highlight the progress of women in Singapore. Strongly supported by OWD, the three mega women's groups - the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO), People's Association Women's Integration Network Council (PA WIN) and the NTUC Women's Development Secretariat (NTUC WDS) - also organised a CEDAW forum to celebrate this special milestone. Click here to find out more.