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The United States remains one of only seven countries that have not ratified CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women). CEDAW is an international agreement on basic human rights for women and the most broadly endorsed human rights treaty within the United Nations, having been ratified by over 90% of UN member states. CEDAW outlines human rights such as the right to live free from violence, the ability to go to school, and access to the political system.
Before CEDAW there was no international legal mechanism in place that called on states to assess gender inequalities in their country. The Convention draws attention to 30 articles that deal with discrimination on the basis of being a woman. The treaty is divided into six parts - all related to ensuring that women are able to enjoy their “fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,” as stated in the preamble of the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights].
NCRW asked leading research and policy expert Linda Tarr-Whelan to weigh in on the status of CEDAW. In addition to her responses, below is an excerpt from a previously published commentary from Linda featured on Women’s eNEws and The Huffington Post.
On Dec. 18, 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, making it a watershed day for women around the globe.
In those heady days, I was deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter for women's concerns. We expected speedy action after he sent the treaty to the Senate.
The bumper sticker on my wife’s car reads, “Well-behaved women seldom make history!” I believe proponents of CEDAW, the Women’s Treaty, have been minding their manners a bit too much. CEDAW is the most important international mechanism for women’s equality, and provides a universal standard for women’s human rights. The treaty is a basic framework for ending violence against women, ensuring girls access to education, and promoting economic opportunity and political participation for women.
Los Angeles Times: A new study posits the plight faced by widows as a human rights issue, many of whom suffer discrimination and abuse,and are trapped in poverty. The report found at least 245 million widows worldwide, almost half living in poverty, with the highest number of widows in China with 43 million, India with 42.4 million, the United States with 13.6 million, Indonesia with 9.4 million, Japan with 7.4 million, Russia with 7.1 million, Brazil with 5.6 million, Germany with 5.1 million, and Bangladesh and Vietnam with about 4.7 million each.
"At least 245 million women around the world have been widowed and more than 115 million of them live in devastating poverty, according to a new study released Tuesday by Cherie Blair, wife of the former British prime minister.
The most dire consequences are faced by 2 million Afghan widows and at least 740,000 Iraqi women who lost their husbands as a result of the conflicts in their nations; by widows and their children evicted from their family homes in sub-Saharan Africa; by elderly widows caring for grandchildren orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis; and by child widows ages 7 to 17 in developing countries, the report said."
As ethnic tension boils over into violence in Kyrgyzstan this week, rumors have begun to surface on the ground that amid the rioting, shooting and chaos, Kyrgyz women are being raped. Whether or not the rumor is true, the situation is all too familiar. When violence breaks out, women and girls, already vulnerable, are often among the first casualties, and the violence is often systematic, designed to demoralize their communities.
Reuters: Women have been fired upon with paintball guns in the Muslim Chechnya region for not wearing headscarves. The attackers have driven by women in cars with tinted windows, and posted fliers threatening to escalate the violence if women continue to go out without covering their heads.
"Women in Russia's volatile Muslim Chechnya region said on Friday that police had targeted them with paintball pellets for not wearing headscarves, outraging rights activists.
The attacks highlight tension over efforts by Chechnya's firebrand Moscow-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, to enforce Muslim-inspired rules that in some cases violate Russia's constitution. Several witnesses told Reuters that men in camouflage, which is worn by many Chechen police and security officers, had fired paintball guns at women from cars with tinted windows in multiple incidents this month.
This week, fliers from the self-proclaimed paintballers appeared in the city of Gudermes, site of Kadyrov's opulent residence, warning women that if they did not cover their heads the attackers will be "'forced to resort to tougher measures'".
Gender-based violence is pervasive throughout the world, as both a public health and human rights issue. It “reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims,” according to the UN Population Fund. Ending gender based violence must be a priority on the international human rights agenda. Violence against women and girls was a central theme of our annual conference 2010 (June 11-12 at Hunter College) Strategic Imperatives for Ending Violence against Women: Linkages to Education, Economic Security and Health, co-presented with the U.S. National Committee for UNIFEM. Click here for details. Get the latest facts, figures, and policy perspectives on our Big Five program page.