Women, children and persons belonging, or perceived to belong, to groups that are in a disadvantaged position or marginalised.

See also: disadvantaged groups

Additional notes and information

The term ‘vulnerable groups’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘disadvantaged groups’. The stereotyped preconception that ‘vulnerability’ is an inherent characteristic of women masks the fact that stereotypical gender roles and attitudes and their discriminatory impact on women, sustained by the lack/omission of acts on the part of states to effectively address them, impose disadvantages on women, which may result in increased risks of becoming vulnerable to discrimination, including violence. Therefore, the term ‘vulnerable groups’ is not recommended, and ‘disadvantaged groups’ should be used instead.


Based on CEDAW Committee dialogues with the States parties’ delegations presenting their reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and on new scholarship on wrongful gender stereotyping and its discriminatory impact on women.