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By Don Kraus*
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.
US ratification is an opportunity for our nation to be a global leader in standing up for the rights of women and girls in countries around the world. The United States is the world’s only democracy and one of seven nations including Iran, Sudan, and Somalia that has not ratified the treaty. And until we do so, our country cannot credibly demand that others live up to their obligations under the treaty.
While both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton support adoption, their rhetoric must be turned into actions. For the last 30 years, the US has sat on the sidelines while CEDAW has been used around the world by to protect women and girls from discrimination. Unfortunately, it looks as if the November mid-term elections could make it more difficult to secure the 67 votes needed in the Senate for passage. The clock is ticking.
Ratification is not about policy, it’s about politics. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed the treaty twice on a bipartisan basis. There is clear support on both sides of the aisle for ratification now. But there is only one way the White House and Senate leadership will only allow CEDAW its moment on the Senate floor this year. They must hear loud and clear from you that failure to move CEDAW is a failure to support human rights for women. They need to know you believe it is worth fighting for.
If you are reading this, you are probably already hooked into the action alerts, call-ins, and other attention getting efforts. Taking these simple steps is crucial. Sharing information that you gather from your Senators is equally important.
But push it even further. Don’t just call your Senators office. Ask for the staff person who handles foreign affairs and let them know how important this is to you. Contact campaign committees, and tell them that what happens to CEDAW this summer will impact how much you will contribute and volunteer. Send them $10,000 checks with “VOID UNTIL CEDAW PASSES” written over the front. It’s time to misbehave, get loud, and make history.
For more information go to www.cedaw2010.org.
*Don Kraus is the CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions and co chairs the CEDAW Task Force of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.