Population Matters

Senate Must Ratify CEDAW

November 16th, 2010

This Thursday the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law will hold a hearing on the Convention for the Elimination of All Form of Violence against Women (CEDAW). This is the first hearing in eight years on CEDAW, which is an international human rights treaty that focuses exclusively on women’s rights and gender equality. The convention sets a global definition for discrimination against women and outlines a plan to end that discrimination. Those states that ratify the convention are required to take, “all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.”

CEDAW has the potential to have a significant impact on the daily lives of women. The convention singles out access to family planning and decisions on the number and spacing of children as areas that countries are required to pay attention to. Unfortunately, the language requiring access to family planning has led to resistance in the U.S. Senate, with some critics arguing that CEDAW is pushing a pro-abortion agenda.

Unfortunately, partisan politics has prevented the passing of CEDAW for over 30 years, leaving the United States in unwelcome company among the only seven nations in the U.N. who have refused to ratify CEDAW. The other six countries are Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga.  If the United States wants to be a leader in human rights, particularly women’s rights, it is imperative that the U.S. ratify CEDAW.

The hearing in the Senate is just the beginning. In order for CEDAW to be ratified there must be approved by 2/3rd’s of the Senate. Time, however, is running out, as the incoming Senate will not be as favorably inclined to ratify CEDAW.

As supporters of the ratification of CEDAW, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton need to make it clear that as a matter of basic respect for human rights, the Senate must act now.  We must ratify CEDAW this year!

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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