Syria ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on March 28, 2003.


Upon ratification, Syria made reservations as described in detail below:

  • Subject to reservations to article 2; article 9, paragraph 2, concerning the grant of a woman’s nationality to her children; article 15, paragraph 4, concerning freedom of movement and of residence and domicile; article 16, paragraph 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g), concerning equal rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution with regard to guardianship, the right to choose a family name, maintenance and adoption; article 16, paragraph 2, concerning the legal effect of the betrothal and the marriage of a child, inasmuch as this provision is incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah; and article 29, paragraph 1, concerning arbitration between States in the event of a dispute.
  • The accession of the Syrian Arab Republic to this Convention shall in no way signify recognition of Israel or entail entry into any dealings with Israel in the context of the provisions of the Convention.

Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:

To date, Syria has submitted one official periodic report to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”). This initial report was submitted in August 2005. The Committee expressed appreciation for Syria’s well-structured report, but noted that it lacked references to the Committee’s general recommendations. The Committee commended Syria for its high-level delegation and the quality of its introductory statement as well as the report, which was prepared in cooperation with government bodies and non-governmental organizations.

In response to the most recent report, the Committee released comments in June 2007 regarding Syria’s progress in implementing CEDAW as well as the areas of concerns.

A detailed account of progress expressed by the Committee following Syria’s report in 2005 as follows:

  • The Committee commends the State party for its decision to withdraw reservations to articles 2, 15 (4), 16 (1) (g) and 16 (2).
  • It congratulates the State party on the establishment of (i) the Syrian Commission for Family Affairs as the national machinery for the advancement of women and (ii) the Directorate of Rural Women Development within the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • It commends the State party on including sections on women’s empowerment in its Ninth and Tenth Five-Year Plans and on its adoption of the Rural Women Development Strategy.
  • The Committee congratulates the State party on the achievement of parity between girls and boys in secondary education.

A detailed account of recommendations made by the Committee following Syria’s report in 2005 as follows:

  • Speedily complete the process of removal of reservations to articles 2, 15 (4), 16 (1) (g) and 16 (2) by depositing the necessary instrument of removal with the Secretary-General, as depository of the Convention, and withdraw all remaining reservations, and especially reservations to articles 9 and 16, which are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.
  • Develop awareness-raising programs and training on the provisions of the Convention, in particular with regard to the meaning and scope of direct and indirect discrimination and about formal and substantive equality, for judges, lawyers and prosecutors, so as to establish firmly in the country a legal culture supportive of women’s equality and non-discrimination.
  • Enhance women’s awareness of their rights through ongoing legal literacy programs and legal assistance.
  • Widely disseminate the Convention and its general recommendations among all stakeholders, including government ministries, parliamentarians, the judiciary, political parties, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the general public.
  • Include in the Constitution, or other relevant legislation, a definition of discrimination in line with article 1 of the Convention, as well as provisions on the equal rights of women in line with article 2 (a) of the Convention.
  • Enact and implement a comprehensive law on gender equality that is binding on both public and private sectors and to make women aware of their rights under such legislation, and establish procedures for filing of complaints of discrimination, provide adequate sanctions for acts of discrimination against women and ensure that effective remedies are available to women whose rights have been violated.
  • Give high priority to its law reform process and to modify or repeal, without delay and within a clear time frame, discriminatory legislation, including discriminatory provisions in its Personal Status Act, Penal Code and Nationality Act. To this end, the Committee calls upon the Syrian Arab Republic to increase its efforts to sensitize the Parliament as well as public opinion regarding the importance of accelerating legal reform.
  • Continue to increase support for law reform through partnerships and collaboration with religious and community leaders, lawyers and judges, unions, civil society organizations and women’s non-governmental organizations.
  • In accordance with its general recommendation 19, give high priority to putting in place comprehensive measures to address all forms of violence against women and girls, recognizing that violence against women is a form of discrimination against women and thus constitutes a violation of their human rights under the Convention.
  • Enact, as soon as possible, legislation on violence against women, including domestic violence, so as to ensure that violence against women constitutes a criminal offence, that women and girls
  • who are victims of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.
  • Amend, without delay, applicable provisions in the Penal Code to ensure that marital rape is criminalized, that marriage to the victim does not exempt a rapist from punishment, and that perpetrators of honor crimes are not exonerated and do not benefit from any reduction in penalty.
  • Implement educational and awareness-raising measures aimed at law enforcement officials, the judiciary, health service providers, social workers, community leaders and the general public, in order to ensure that they understand that all forms of violence against women are unacceptable, and provide information in its next report on the laws and policies in place to deal with violence against women and the impact of such measures.
  • Establish sufficient numbers of shelters and services for victims of violence against women throughout the Syrian Arab Republic. In this regard, review its existing laws and policies to ensure that women who go to shelters do not forgo other legal rights, such as rights to maintenance and dower. Ensure that if the victimized woman agrees to reconcile with the perpetrator, counseling services are provided to the perpetrator and the situation monitored to prevent further abuse, and provide details of services provided to victims of violence, including details about access to and scope and effectiveness of the services, in its next report.
  • Fully implement article 6 of the Convention, including by speedily enacting specific and comprehensive national legislation on the phenomenon of trafficking (internal and cross-border) that ensures that offenders are punished and victims adequately protected and assisted. Increase its efforts at international, regional and bilateral cooperation with countries of origin, transit and destination to prevent trafficking through information exchange.
  • Collect and analyze data from the police and international sources, prosecute and punish traffickers, and ensure the protection of the human rights of trafficked women and girls, including by ensuring that such women and girls are not sent to prison or to reform centers for juvenile delinquents.
  • Take measures for the rehabilitation and social integration of women and girls who are victims of exploitation and trafficking, and decriminalize victims of such exploitation and take all appropriate measures to suppress exploitation of prostitution of women, including discouraging the male demand for prostitution.
  • Take sustained measures, including temporary special measures in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 25, and to establish concrete goals and timetables so as to accelerate the increase in the representation of women, in elected and appointed bodies in all areas of public life, including in municipal, town and village councils. Encourage political parties to use quotas.
  • Conduct training programs on leadership and negotiation skills for current and future women leaders, and undertake awareness-raising about the importance of women’s participation in decision-making for society as a whole.
  • Address stereotypical attitudes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men, including the hidden cultural patterns and norms that perpetuate direct and indirect discrimination against women and girls in all areas of their lives.
  • Implement and monitor comprehensive measures to bring about change in the widely accepted stereotypical roles of men and women, including by promoting equal sharing of domestic and family responsibilities between women and men. Such measures should include awareness-raising and educational campaigns addressing women and men, girls and boys, of all religious affiliations with a view to eliminating stereotypes associated with traditional gender roles in the family and in society, in accordance with articles 2 (f) and 5 (a) of the Convention.
  • Take targeted measures to improve and increase women’s access to health care and health-related services and information, in accordance with general recommendation 24 on women and health and based on an assessment of the needs of women in different parts of the country and belonging to different social classes. And, in the context of the ongoing decentralization of the government, ensure that there is parity in the quality of health and health-related services in different areas.
  • Adopt effective measures in the formal labor market to eliminate occupational segregation, both horizontal and vertical, and to narrow and close the wage gap between women and men.
  • Regulate the informal sector to ensure that women in this sector are not exploited and are provided social security and other benefits, and remove impediments to women’s employment, including by ensuring that there are adequate child care facilities in all areas.
  • Revise its Employment Act to add provisions on sexual harassment and ensure that such provisions are enforced.
  • Undertake comprehensive reform of its Personal Status Act, ensuring that women and men have equal rights to marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance and that polygamy and child marriages are prohibited. The Committee further recommends that the Syrian Arab Republic ensure enforcement of such revised laws, including by requiring registration of all births, deaths, marriages and divorces.
  • Ensure, including through speedy revision of the Associations Law, that civil society organizations and women’s non-governmental organizations are not restricted with respect to their establishment and operations and that they are able to function independently of the government. In particular, the Syrian Arab Republic should provide an enabling environment for the establishment and active involvement of women’s and human rights organizations in promoting the implementation of the Convention.
  • Include in its next report statistical data and analysis on the situation of women, disaggregated by sex, age and by rural and urban areas, indicating the impact of measures taken and the results achieved in the practical realization of women’s substantive equality.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to accept, as soon as possible, the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
  • Ensure the wide participation of all ministries and public bodies in, and to consult with non-governmental organizations during, the preparation of its next report, and involve Parliament in a discussion of the report before its submission to the Committee.
  • Utilize fully in its implementation of the obligations under the Convention, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which reinforce the provisions of the Convention, and include information thereon in its next periodic report.
  • The Committee also 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 the 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.
  • Disseminate widely in the Syrian Arab Republic the present concluding comments in order to make the people of  the Syrian Arab Republic, including government officials, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality of women, as well as the further steps that are required in that regard.
  • Continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention, the Optional Protocol thereto, 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, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
  • Respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic report under article 18 of the Convention. The Committee invites the State party to submit its second periodic report, which is due in April 2008, and its third periodic report, due in April 2012, in a combined report in April 2012.

Summary of Shadow Reports:

To date, one shadow report has been submitted regarding the implementation of CEDAW in Syria. This report was prepared in 2007 by The National Association for Women Role Development (AWRD), the Syrian Women League (SWL), Good Shepherd Sisters, the Islamic Intellectual Forum, and the Social Initiative Association.

The shadow report highlighted the areas of life in which Syrian women face discrimination, and made the following comments:

  • The reservations made by the Syrian Government on Article /2/, Item /2/ of Article /9/, Item /4/ of Article /15/ and Paragraphs /c, d, g & f/ of Item /1/ of Article /16/ and Item 2 thereof, have weakened the positive effect of joining the Convention by Syria. The participating NGOs find no contradiction between the Islamic Sharia principles and the Convention provisions, especially with proper innovative interpretation of the Sharia. We look at the Draft Decree prepared by the SCFA and submitted to the Development Committee of the Office of the Prime Minister on the cancellation of the reservations on Article /2/ and Paragraph /4/ of Article /15/ on the freedom of movement and domicile unless it is against Islamic Sharia provisions and on Paragraph /g/ of Item /1/ of Article /16/ and Item /2/ of Article /16/ on having no legal effect of a child marriage, but we look for the cancellation of all the reservations on Articles /2, 9, 15 & 16/ and work in accordance with Article /2/ of the Convention to make the national laws in harmony with the Convention.
  • The participating organizations assure that the optimum implementation of the CEDAW provisions requires full respect of human rights, especially the right of expression and civil activity, which requires the cancellation of all exceptional laws, procedures and courts and granting all citizens the full citizenship rights stipulated in the Syrian Constitution and international charters ratified by Syria, particularly that the SAR has been a state party in the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • In this regard, we expect the Syrian Government to fulfill its promises related to removing the marshal laws, amending the current Associations Law and issuing a Parties Law; in addition to finding a solution to the problem of 1962 exceptional consensus, which deprived lots of Syrian Kurds of Syrian citizenship, the thing that generates extreme difficulties to them whether men and women.

Recent Updates:

In May 2007, Syria announced State its decision to withdraw reservations to articles 2, 15 (4), 16 (1) (g) and 16 (2), but it has yet to complete the process of removal of reservations by depositing the necessary instrument of removal with the Secretary-General.

Islamic sharia forms the basis of the Syrian Code, which governs women’s personal status in Syria. Over the past few decades, many civil laws have been reformed in order to improve gender equity. In 1995, the government created the National Committee for Post-Beijing Follow-up of Women’s Affairs. The Committee is responsible for issuing reports to the UN on Syria’s progress towards gender equity.

Syrian women face discrimination in a number of areas in the private sphere, specifically with regards to maintenance, freedom of movement, guardianship and violence against women. Instances of sexual assault and domestic violence go largely under-reported.

The government has made improvement towards equity primarily in education and labor. Female literacy doubled between 1980 and 1998 from 33% to 60.4%, but still remains behind adult males at 87%. Although women comprise over half the teachers, they tend to remain missing from higher education positions. The role of women in research is limited to medicine, and funds are allocated primarily to males, because females have fewer opportunities to publish their research. Women comprise approximately 27% of the work force, and are prevalent in the fields of teaching, medicine and agriculture. Women seldom own their own businesses.
Since 1949, Syrian women have had the right to vote. President Bashhar Al-Asad nominated the first Arab female to the position of vice president in his government in March 2006. In the March 2007 parliamentary elections, 31 women were elected to seats in the 250 person parliament. The participation of women in the public sphere is evident of the ruling Ba’th Socialist Party, which has tried to promote equality for women, particularly in the armed services, since 1963. Despite this push for gender equity, Syria remains a traditional country, whose religious customs discourage women from entering the public sphere.

The primary women’s political organization in Syria is the General Union of Syrian Women, which was founded in 1967. This group is supported by the government, and has encouraged development in childcare and education. Other prominent women’s organizations include The National Association for Women Role Development (AWRD), the Syrian Women League (SWL), and Good Shepherd Sisters.

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