Libya ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on May 16, 1989.


Upon ratification, Libya made reservations to CEDAW articles 2 and 16 as described in detail below:

  • Article 2 of the Convention shall be implemented with due regard for the peremptory norms of the Islamic Shariah relating to determination of the inheritance portions of the estate of a deceased person, whether female or male.
  • The implementation of paragraph 16 (c) and (d) of the Convention shall be without prejudice to any of the rights guaranteed to women by the Islamic Shariah.

Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:

To date, Libya has submitted three official periodic reports to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”). The first report was released in February 1991, the second report in December 1998, and the combined third and fourth periodic reports in December 2008.

In February 2009, the Committee considered Libya’s second periodic report and the combined third and fourth periodic reports. Following this sessions, the Committee released comments regarding Libya’s progress in implementing CEDAW as well as the areas of concerns. While expressing its appreciation to the State party for its second periodic report and its third to fifth periodic reports, the Committee regretted that they do not follow its guidelines for the preparation of periodic reports or provide sex-disaggregated data on all areas covered by the Convention. The Committee also expressed its appreciation to the State party for its written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-session working group, but regrets that they do not provide specific information in response to the questions posed. The Committee commended the State party for their high-level delegation.

A detailed account of progress expressed by the Committee following Libya’s report in 2008 as follows:

  • Accession in 2004 to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
  • Progress made by the State party towards the achievement of equality between women and men in the areas of education, health and social security. In this respect, the Committee particularly welcomes the approval by the General People’s Congress, in March 1997, of the Charter on the Rights and Duties of Women in the Libyan Arab Society.
  • The Law No. 10 of 1984 regulating marriage and divorce was amended by Law No. 9 of 1993 to prohibit polygamy without the written consent of the first wife and authorization from the court, which is a step towards the complete abolition of polygamy. The Committee further notes that article 37 of the Law revokes all rulings based on the principle of nushuz (recalcitrance), which shall be considered null and void.

A detailed account of recommendations made by the Committee following Libya’s report in 2008 as follows:

  • While reaffirming that the Government has the primary responsibility and is particularly accountable for the full implementation of the State party’s obligations under the Convention, note that the Convention is binding on all branches of Government, and the State party should encourage its General People’s Congress, in line with its procedures, where appropriate, to take the necessary steps with regard to the implementation of these concluding observations and the Government’s next reporting process under the Convention.
  • Recalling the acknowledgement by the Libyan delegation of the predominance of the Convention over national law, take urgent steps to incorporate into domestic legislation a prohibition of discrimination against women that encompasses both direct and indirect discrimination, in line with article 1 of the Convention, as well as sanctions where appropriate in line with article 2, paragraph (b), of the Convention.
  • Educational programs on the Convention, including its Optional Protocol and its jurisprudence, and programs on women’s rights should be introduced for all legal professionals, including judges, lawyers, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel, as well as the public at large. Take special measures, including comprehensive legal literacy programs, to enhance women’s awareness of their rights so that they may be able to exercise them. Report on progress made in this regard in the next periodic report, including cases where the provisions of the Convention were invoked in or applied by courts.
  • Take all necessary steps, including the initiation of a public debate involving all sectors of society, for the withdrawal of all of its reservations to the Convention, so as to ensure that women in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya benefit fully from all the provisions enshrined in the Convention.
  • Put in place an institutional mechanism that recognizes the specificity of discrimination against women and is exclusively responsible to promote de jure and de facto equality and to monitor the practical realization of the principle of substantive equality of women and men, with a view to promoting women’s human rights and gender equality at all levels. Endow at the highest political level such a mechanism with the necessary authority and human and financial resources to promote effectively the implementation of the Convention and the enjoyment by women of their human rights across all fields by coordinating and monitoring gender mainstreaming in all areas, thus ensuring women’s enjoyment of their human rights across all fields.
  • Establish gender focal points in different Government bodies, provide them with adequate gender training and link them with the national machinery. Furthermore, seize the occasion of the launch, on 25 July 2009, of the strategy for women in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for the period 2009-2019, which was referred to by the delegation, to develop programs and action plans based on the present concluding observations.
  • Accelerate the process of amendment of Law No. 18 of 1980 to make it consistent with article 9 of the Convention, and intensify its efforts to amend its legislation governing child custody expeditiously, in order to ensure that women have the same right as men to travel with their children abroad. Introduce legislative reforms to provide women with equal rights in marriage, divorce and inheritance, and end the practice of polygamy in accordance with the Committee’s general recommendation No. 21, on equality in marriage and family relations.
  • Enact specific legislation for the adoption of temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 in order to accelerate the realization of women’s de facto equality with men in areas where women are underrepresented or in disadvantaged situations, and take measures to raise public awareness about the importance of temporary special measures in accelerating the process of achievement of gender equality.
  • Adopt a national strategic plan, in particular to bring about change in the widely accepted stereotypical roles of women and men, thereby promoting equal sharing of family responsibilities between women and men and the equal status and responsibilities of women and men in the private and public spheres. Awareness-raising campaigns be addressed to both women and men and that the media be encouraged to project a positive image of women.
  • Implement the recommendations identified in the study of the Secretary-General on all forms of violence against women (A/61/122 and Add.1 and Add.1/Corr.1) and in the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (A/HRC/4/34/Add.1) and monitor their impact. Furthermore, the Committee calls upon the State party to enact legislation on violence against women, including domestic violence.
  • Adopt and implement a national strategy to combat violence against women, which would include the collection of sex-disaggregated data on all forms of violence and research into the extent of violence against women and girls, including that which occurs in the domestic sphere. Reconsider and amend the legal provisions which allow the confinement of women and girls in so-called rehabilitation facilities against their will.
  • Furthermore, discourage the practice whereby victims of rape are forced to marry the perpetrator and to ensure that in all cases perpetrators are duly prosecuted and punished, and victims rehabilitated. Training and awareness-raising programs should be offered to judicial personnel, law enforcement officials, members of the legal and health professions and the general public, taking into account its general recommendation No. 19 on violence against women. The Committee encourages the State party to make use of the multi-year campaign launched in 2008 to eliminate violence against women. The Committee also calls upon the State Party to consider repealing Law No. 70 (1973).
  • Implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Consider ratifying the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and provide detailed information on the situation of migrant women in its next periodic report.
  • Take measures to combat all forms of trafficking in women and girls through the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive strategy, and increase its efforts in relation to regional, international and bilateral cooperation with countries of origin and transit so as to address more effectively the causes of trafficking and improve its prevention through information exchange. Collect and analyze data from national police and international sources, prosecute and punish traffickers, and ensure protection of the rights of trafficked women and girls.
  • Take measures to ensure that trafficked women and girls receive adequate support and protection to support them in testifying against their traffickers, and analyze the causes and extent of trafficking in women and girls from its perspective as a country of transit.
  • Take all appropriate measures to suppress the exploitation of prostitution of women, including discouraging male demand by ensuring the effective prosecution and punishment of those who exploit prostitution, and provide, in its next report, comprehensive information and data on exploitation of prostitution and trafficking in women and girls, as well as on the measures taken to prevent and combat such activities.
  • Take all appropriate measures, including temporary special measures under article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, and in accordance with the Committee’s general recommendations Nos. 23 and 25, to establish concrete goals to accelerate the increase of women’s representation in the executive branch of Government, Parliament and the diplomatic corps. It recommends that the application of such measures to increase women’s political representation should include the establishment of benchmarks with timetables or increased quotas. The Committee recommends that the State party continue to undertake awareness-raising campaigns about the importance of women’s participation in decision-making at all levels.
  • Include, in its next periodic report, data disaggregated by sex and urban and rural areas on all issues addressed by article 10 of the Convention, including women’s and girls’ access to vocational training, access to studies in the primary, secondary, technical and tertiary education, access to scholarships and other study grants and access to programs of continuing education, as well as statistics on student dropout rates.
  • Provide data disaggregated by sex, in its next periodic report, on all issues addressed by article 11 of the Convention, including the right of women to equal remuneration for work of equal value and their right to social security and maternity leave. Also provide information on the situation of women in the informal sector, in both urban and rural areas.
  • Include in its next periodic report information, including statistics disaggregated by sex, with respect to all matters covered by article 12 of the Convention, including family planning and appropriate services in connection with pregnancy and the post-natal period, in both urban and rural areas.
  • Take steps to eliminate the practice of male guardianship over women both de jure and de facto, including through the design and implementation of awareness-raising campaigns. It encourages the State party to engage in a social dialogue on the concept of male guardianship and how it affects the application of the Convention in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya with a view to eliminating this practice.
  • Establish, within a clear time frame, an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Principles, whose competencies should include issues related to the equality of women and men.
  • Cooperate more effectively and in a systematic manner with civil society, in particular women’s non-governmental organizations, in the implementation of the Convention. The Committee further recommends that the State party consult with non-governmental organizations during all phases of the preparation of its next periodic report.
  • Put in place a comprehensive system of data collection, including measurable indicators to assess trends in the situation of women and progress towards women’s de facto equality over time. Seek regional and international assistance, as necessary, for the development of such data collection and analysis efforts.
  • Include in its next report statistical data and analysis, disaggregated by sex and by rural and urban areas, indicating the impact of measures taken and the results achieved in order to illustrate more comprehensively the situation of women in all areas of the Convention, in particular in the fields of education, health and employment. Give special attention to the collection of data in respect of the most vulnerable groups of women, including rural and migrant women.
  • Utilize fully, in the implementation of its obligations under the Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report. Millennium Development Goals
  • The Committee emphasizes that full and effective implementation of the Convention is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It calls for the integration of a gender perspective and explicit reflection of the provisions of the Convention in all efforts aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requests the State party to include information thereon in its next periodic report.
  • Ratify the treaties to which it is not yet a party, namely the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Disseminate widely in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya the present concluding comments in order to make the people, including Government officials, politicians, members of the General People’s Congress and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the measures that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality of women, as well as the further steps that are required in this regard.
  • Continue to strengthen the dissemination, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention, its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, on the theme “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
  • Accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
  • Provide, within two years, written information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 20 and 38 above, and consider seeking technical cooperation and assistance, including advisory services, if necessary and when appropriate for implementation of the above recommendations.
  • Respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding observations in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention. The Committee invites the State party to submit its combined sixth and seventh periodic reports in 2014.

Summary of Shadow Reports:

To date, no shadow report has been submitted regarding the application of CEDAW in Libya. This fact should come as no surprise, given that no women’s rights groups independent of the state are legally entitled to exist.

Recent Updates:

Despite the fact that Libyan law guarantees men and women equality under the law, women face wide discrimination in a variety of sectors. Libya’s reservations to CEDAW significantly affect women’s property rights, access to divorce, rights within marriage and parental rights.

The most common form of violence against women is domestic violence, although its actual occurrence is not known because of underreporting. Incidents are kept private within the family and there are no laws beyond the general criminal code that protect the victim or penalize the perpetrator (most often the husband). The concept of marital rape is not recognized by the law. Matters are not helped by the fact that no women’s rights groups independent of the state are allowed to exist.

However, it is important to take into account the differences across generational lines when considering the advancement of women. Libyan women born before the 1969 revolution have a tendency to remain at home as a result of a lack of education, while women under the age of 35 are much more likely to have received a public education and to work in the public sphere. Literacy among women hovers between 29% and 30%, and women comprise approximately 22% of the work force.

The government created the Department of Women’s Affairs, which is overseen by the Assistant Secretary of the General People’s Committee. The Department is charge with collecting data and working to integrate women into all sectors of public life. A second government initiative is the General Union of Women’s Associations, which acts as a network of NGOs that assist women with employment needs.

In 2006, Human Rights Watch released a 60-page report accusing the government of Libya of detaining, for an indefinite period, girls and women suspected of violating moral rules. These girls were detained in “Social Rehabilitation Centers”, which are centers that take care of women and girls vulnerable to moral deviance, or who are rejected by their families. The authorities usually violate the human and legal rights of those detainees. The Human Rights Watch report and others showed that many detainees did not commit any crime, or have completed their sentence but would not be released unless a male relative pledges to be a guardian of the detainee or unless she agrees to get married.

%d bloggers like this: