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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. It is clear that CEDAW is working in countries such as Australia, South Africa and Uganda who have incorporated CEDAW provisions into their constitution and domestic legal codes, and Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan, who have seen increased literacy rates amongst women in their countries after ratifying CEDAW. And yet, CEDAW has failed to make progress in the United States. Despite the fact that CEDAW was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and has been voted on favorably twice since then on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, CEDAW has never been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. It is time to act, as our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
In the spirit of action, the CEDAW Task Force of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, co-sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions, the National Women’s Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the YWCA , has declared this week a Week of Action on CEDAW to push for ratification. In its call for action, the Task Force released the following statement:
Time and time again President Obama has declared his support for women worldwide and announced that the ratification of the CEDAW Treaty was an important priority. Now we need him to show leadership in advancing women and girls’ rights around the world. As women and men who believe in the basic rights of women and girls worldwide – the right to live free from violence, the ability to go to school, and access to the political system – we need President Obama to send a strong and urgent signal to the Senate that ratification of CEDAW is vital.
In honor of this week, The National Council for Research on Women invited leaders and experts to comment on why it is critical that the United States ratify CEDAW and what ordinary citizens can do to facilitate the treaty’s ratification.
June Zeitlin, Director of the CEDAW Education Project at The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, said that the time is ripe for CEDAW.
Margot Baruch, from the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, points to San Francisco’s success in becoming the first American municipality to adopt CEDAW, and the major benefits the city has gained from doing so, and looks to the possibilities of a world with CEDAW.
Linda Tarr-Whelan, former Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, former Deputy Assistant for Women’s Concerns to President Carter and a Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow recalls her time working with President Jimmy Carter at the time CEDAW was first adopted, and its failure to become ratified. She indicates the many problems that still remain in our country, and how CEDAW could close persistent gaps in women’s equality.
Don Kraus, CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions and the co-chair of the CEDAW Task Force of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, calls to us to further CEDAW, indicating that while support on both sides of the aisle is apparent, it is our voices that must push our Senators into action. As Don writes “Don’t just call your Senators office…Send them $10,000 checks with ‘VOID UNTIL CEDAW PASSES’ written over the front. It’s time to misbehave, get loud, and make history.”