Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women calls for the protection of breastfeeding.

4th March 2016

Baby Milk Action and all IBFAN groups support the IBFAN-GIFA office in its work with the various human rights treaty bodies that meet regularly in Geneva (such as the Committees on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  The human rights approach is critically important for the protection of child health so we work to strengthen the mechanisms that facilitate and oversee the implementation of the various human rights conventions.

Over the years IBFAN  has sensitised the CRC Committee to the importance of breastfeeding protection and the CRC has made recommendations to many Member States (including the UK) to strengthen Code implementation. The CRC has also issued two general Comments (1) that specifically urge state parties to implement the Code and the industry to comply with it.

Now, as a result of IBFAN’s advocacy and those of other public interest NGOs and social movements CEDAW has adopted its General Recommendation No. 34 on the Rights of Rural Women and for the first time has addressed nutrition and  breastfeeding.

Para 39 calls on States Parties to safeguard rural women’s and girls’ right to adequate health care, and ensure:

 (f) That health care information is widely disseminated in local languages and dialects through several media, including in writing, through illustrations and verbally, and that it includes information on inter alia: hygiene; preventing communicable, non-communicable, and sexually transmitted diseases; healthy lifestyles and nutrition; family planning and benefits of delayed childbearing; health during pregnancy; breastfeeding and its impact on child and maternal health; and information on the need to eliminate violence against women, including sexual and domestic violence, as well as harmful practices; 

(g) Effective regulation of marketing of breastmilk substitutes and implementation and monitoring of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes;
52 (g) Pregnant girls in rural schools are retained during pregnancy and allowed re-entry to school following childbirth, and that childcare facilities and breastfeeding rooms, as well as counselling on childcare and breastfeeding, are made available;
(h) Providing child and other care services in rural areas, including through solidarity and community-based care services, in order to alleviate women’s burden of unpaid care work, facilitating their engagement in paid work, and allowing them to breastfeed during working hours;

64. States parties should ensure the realization of the right to food and nutrition of rural women within the framework of food sovereignty and that they have the authority to manage and control their natural resources.

65. States parties should pay particular attention to the nutritional needs of rural women, particularly pregnant and lactating women, putting in place effective policies ensuring rural women have access to adequate food and nutrition, taking into account the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security.

66. States parties should adopt laws, policies and measures to promote and protect rural women’s diverse local agricultural methods and products, and their access to markets. They should ensure diversity of crops and medicinal resources to improve rural women’s food security and health, as well as access to livestock.

[1] CRC General Comment No 15 , Para 44.Exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to 6 months of age should be protected and promoted and breastfeeding should continue alongside appropriate complementary foods preferably until two years of age, where feasible. States’ obligations in this area are defined in the “protect, promote and support” framework, adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly. States are required to introduce into domestic law, implement and enforce […] the International Code on Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and the relevant subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions […] 81. Among other responsibilities and in all contexts, private companies should […] comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk  Substitutes and the relevant subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions […]

CRC General Comment No 16 on State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children’s rights 57. States are also required to implement and enforce internationally agreed standards concerning children’s rights, health and business, including […] the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions.



Below is the statement by the  Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.

For International Women’s Day, Tuesday 8 March 2016


Respect rights of rural women, recognize their vital role in development and poverty reduction, UN experts urge
GENEVA (4 March 2016) – Ahead of International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is calling for a focus on rural women and girls, and effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many of which reflect on the situation of rural women. The Committee, which monitors implementation by States Parties of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, stresses the need to protect and promote the rights of rural women and girls in accordance with Article 14 of the Convention and in line with the General Recommendation No.34 it has just adopted on the Rights of Rural Women*:

“Rural women account for a quarter of the world’s population is rural women. Several UN Conferences recognised their significant contributions to rural development, food and nutrition, as well as poverty reduction. Nevertheless, they continue to face challenges including systemic and persistent barriers to the full enjoyment of their rights.

In many countries, their specific needs are not adequately addressed in laws, national and local policies and budgets. They remain excluded from leadership and decision-making positions at all levels, are disproportionally affected by negative stereotypes, gender-based violence and insufficient access to basic social services and resources.

In light of the particular situation of rural women and girls, the Committee urges the international community, including Governments to ensure through their empowerment, inter alia:

–        Adoption of non-discriminatory legal frameworks and easy and affordable access of rural women to justice;

–        Elimination of all forms of discrimination against rural women focusing on the particular needs of disadvantaged and marginalized groups;

–        Creation of an enabling environment through temporary special measures, including programmes and policies targeted at improving the social and economic conditions of rural women;

–        Elimination of negative stereotypes and harmful customs and practices including child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and discriminatory and customary laws on inheritance;

–        Prevention of all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, trafficking and forced labour;

–        Meaningful participation in political and public life at all levels;

–        Adoption of relevant policies and institutional structures for the full development and advancement of rural women;

–        Access to quality and affordable education, healthcare services and facilities, employment opportunities, adequate housing, safe drinking water and sanitation, access to land and credit, new technologies including ITC;

–        Protection of rural women from the negative consequences of acquisition of land by national and transnational companies, and/or foreign countries, as well as due to extractive industries and megaprojects; and

–        Protection and security of rural women and girls in the overall context of increased disasters linked to climate change, as well as other crises, including man-made disasters.

The Committee believes that addressing the situation of rural women will contribute to the development of societies, the strengthening of norms and standards of human rights, as well as the realisation of the Goals agreed upon by the international community.”


*Download General Recommendation No 34 on the Rights of Rural Women:

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