On 4 November 2014, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) issued joint General Recommendation No. 31/General Comment No. 18 on harmful practices. This marks the first time that two expert United Nations committees have joined forces to set out a common interpretation of the obligations on states to end harmful practices. The Joint Recommendation/Comment comes as CEDAW marks its 35th anniversary and CRC its 25th.
Both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child contain provisions obliging states to end harmful practices. The Joint Recommendation/Comment sets out the Committees’ interpretation of these obligations in relation to harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, so-called honour crimes, widowhood practices, virginity testing and neglect of girls. It also covers concerns about the justification of these practices as protection of women and the consequences of pressure on women and girls to conform to society’s ideals of beauty.
The Committees highlight the significant impact of gender discrimination, noting that harmful practices are “grounded in discrimination” and reiterating that “harmful practices are deeply rooted in societal attitudes according to which women and girls are regarded as inferior to men and boys based on stereotyped roles”. They further highlight that gender discrimination often intersects with other factors, particularly for those women and girls who belong, or are perceived to belong, to disadvantaged groups and who are therefore at higher risk of harmful practices.
The Equal Rights Trust supports the efforts of both Committees to end harmful practices. The Trust urges states to tackle societal prejudices that lead to women and girls being seen as inferior and to ensure the rights to equality and non-discrimination of women and girls.
To read General Recommendation No. 31/ General Comment No. 18 click here .