This General Recommendation by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women aims to clarify the scope and meaning of Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which provides ways for States parties to implement domestically the substantive provisions of the Convention.

See paragraphs 13, 21 and 36 for references to education.

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This Resolution (A/HRC/RES/32/20) was presented by the United Arab Emirates and adopted by consensus. The resolution links back to the panel discussion held by the Council during its 29th session, on this topic and the OHCHR report on that panel discussion (A/HRC/30/23).

The resolution urges States to eliminate discrimination against girls in education and remove all obstacles such as discriminatory laws, custom, tradition or religious considerations, financial barriers, violence, child labour, harmful practices (eg: FGM), gender stereotypes, child, early and forced marriage and early pregnancy.  It also called on States to:

  • Ensure that educational institutions are safe and free from violence and abuse and girls can travel to and from and attend school safely
  • Address the school drop-out rate of girls and ensure that there are primary and secondary school places available for girls within a reasonable distance from home
  • Provide equal access to education for girls from marginalised and excluded groups, with disabilities, indigenous girls, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, girls in rural areas and economically disadvantaged girls
  • Provide every primary and secondary school with professionally trained and qualified teachers, including female teachers and with full access to separate, adequate and safe water and sanitation services
  • Develop a non-discriminatory, inclusive, accessible and culturally sensitive, safe, supportive and secure environment conducive to providing a quality education, including human rights education….and financial literacy …. to enable girls to be proactive actors in society
  • Eliminate gender based stereotypes from all educational processes, practices and teaching materials
  • Prioritise education in State budgets, increase investments and international cooperation to allow all girls to complete free, equitable, inclusive and quality education and support developing countries through financial and technical resources for ‘country-led national education plans’
  • Support access to education for girls in emergency situations, migrant, internally displaced and refugee girls and those in humanitarian crises and conflict situations.

Finally, the resolution requests the OHCHR to prepare a report to be presented at the June 2017 session of the Human Rights Council on: ‘the realisation of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl’, ‘obstacles limiting effective access’ and ‘recommendations on appropriate measures to eliminate gender disparities in education by 2030, taking into account Goal 4 of the SDGs’.

General recommendation No. 19 on violence against women, adopted by the Committee at its eleventh session in 1992, states that discrimination against women –as defined in article 1 of the Convention- includes gender-based violence, that is, ‘violence which is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’, and, as such, is a violation of their human rights.

For over 25 years, the practice of States parties has endorsed the Committee’s interpretation. The opinio juris and State practice suggest that the prohibition of gender-based violence against women has evolved into a principle of customary international law. General recommendation No. 19 has been a key catalyst for this process.

The joint general comment elaborates on the nature of State Party obligations that arise from Article 6 (b) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and Article 21 (2) the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. It expounds upon the underlying principles of interpretation that serve as a lens through which the relevant provisions of the aforementioned instruments should be understood. It further describes legislative, institutional and other measures that should be taken by States Parties to give effect to the prohibition of child marriage and to protect the rights of those at risk or affected by child marriage.

The scope of the general comment covers children in child marriages, children at risk of child marriage and women who were married before the age of 18. The document gives guidance to governments, csos, igos, child protection clusters, practitioners, individuals and groups in any effort towards the elimination of child marriage and protection of children in this context.

The joint comments includes a section (IV) on state obligations which stipulates that states must adopt institutional measures around education. In particular, it requests states parties  to "put in place measures to retain all children but especially girls in school and to raise awareness about the importance of their education." Policies states must adopt include measures to encourage pregnant girls to keep attending or returning to school. 

 

Key resource
This document lists the international instruments - and their relevant provisions - that refer to the right to education of girls and women.

 

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) establishes an international bill of rights for women. Article 10 guarantees their right to education. It promotes gender equality endowing every woman with equal rights as those of man in the field of education, from pre-school to higher technical education. It refers to access to education, opportunities in career and vocational guidance, scholarships or other study grants, programmes of continuing education (adult learning) and the elimination of illiteracy. It also provides for the elimination of any gender stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education.