Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women


This Protocol is a guide that tells you what you need to do if you wanted to file a complaint about a country that has treated a woman unfairly. If you are making a complaint in place of someone else, you will need to get permission from that person in writing, to have proof. This will need to be sent to the Human Rights Committee.

How does it work?

Write down your complaint clearly on paper or on a computer. The complaint has to be written in one of the languages of the United Nations (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). It needs to include all of your contact information and the details of the complaint with the information in order of date. It is important to explain who the complaint is about and why you feel the agreement was broken. Talk about the solutions you would suggest to fix the problem and explain every step you have taken to try and improve the problem. If you have sent this complaint to someone else, it needs to be mentioned in the letter and add a copy of this complaint in your letter. You also need to include a copy of any form (such as a legal document) that you have used to try and solve the problem you are making a complaint about. The complaint cannot be more than fifty pages long. Any complaint longer than twenty pages, need to include a summary. You can ask that the Human Rights committee do not include any personal information in their decision if you feel it is too personal or that it is a very sensitive subject. Do not forget to sign it! There is an example of a complaint letter that can be found on the United Nations website.

What else do I need to know?

  • The Human Rights Committee (HRC) will be responsible to receive and look over the complaints.
  • Complaints cannot be made anonymously with the HRC.
  • You need to make sure that you have looked into the problem and that no other person has made a complaint on the same problem.
  • The HRC can ask for clarification before they give the complaint to the country.
  • The country can respond to the complaint within 6 months.
  • The HRC can put in a temporary plan that the country needs to follow to avoid causing more damage. This plan is only meant to prevent more problems, it has no effect on the decision of the HRC.
  • The HRC will come to a decision about the complaint and may make suggestions to better the situation.
  • The country needs to reply to the HRC within six months of the recommendations to inform them of the actions they have taken to help change the situation.
  • The HRC may ask for clarification or more information on the situation.
  • The HRC will assign a person to watch over the country (this person is called a rapporteur). The rapporteur is a middle man between the HRC and the country. He/she takes note of what the country is doing about the complaint and makes sure that they follow the plan that was put in place, if it is the case.


Where do I send it?

Fax number (if it is urgent): + 45 22 917 90 22

Email address: petitions@ohchr.org

Mailing address:

Petitions and Inquiries Section

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations Office at Geneva

1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


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