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International Obligations

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.

Key Initiatives

Legislation and policies were introduced or enhanced to improve the protection of and support for women in Singapore.  These include:

  • Protection from Harassment Act introduced to enhance the protection of persons against harassment
  • Prevention of Human Trafficking Act introduced to criminalise exploitation in the form of sex, labour and organ trafficking;
  • Family Justice Act introduced to centralise the administration of family-related court proceedings to strengthen expertise in the management and resolution of family-related disputes;
  • Women’s Charter amended to better address divorce and maintenance enforcement issues;
  • Paternity leave and shared parental leave introduced to encourage greater shared parental responsibility;
  • Paternity leave increased from one to two weeks to encourage fathers to play a bigger role in child-raising;
  • Maternity protection enhanced to protect the maternity leave benefit of employees who are unfairly dismissed or retrenched during their pregnancy;
  • Muslim and civil laws better aligned on inheritance matters through the issuance of religious rulings; and
  • Reservation against Article 11, paragraph 1 withdrawn.

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. 

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.

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Last Reviewed On Tue, Dec 20, 2016