Legislative Committee Update

09/13/2017 4:06 PM | Kim O'Brien (Administrator)

CEDAW : Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

CEDAW, or the Treaty for the Rights of Women, was adopted by the United Nations in 1979, and is the most comprehensive international agreement on the basic human rights of women. The Treaty provides an international standard for protecting and promoting women's human rights and is often referred to as a “Bill of Rights” for women. It is the only international instrument that comprehensively addresses women's rights within political, civil, cultural, economic, and social life.

The Convention defines discrimination against women as:

 "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."

The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women's equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life -- including the right to vote and to stand for election -- as well as education, health and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The six UN member states that have not ratified or acceded to the convention are Iran Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States. The United States has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the Western Hemisphere and the only industrialized democracy that has not ratified this treaty.

Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.

  • ·         The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in July, 2002 to recommend ratification of CEDAW, but the Treaty has never come before the full Senate for a vote. Ratification of the Treaty requires the support of 2/3 of the US Senate, or 67 votes.
  • ·         The Treaty for the Rights of Women is a tool that women around the world are using effectively to bring about change in their conditions. In nations that have ratified the treaty, CEDAW has proved invaluable in opposing the effects of discrimination, which include violence, poverty, lack of legal protections, along with the denial of inheritance, property rights, and access to credit.
  • o   The Treaty has encouraged the development of citizenship rights in Botswana and Japan, inheritance rights in the United Republic of Tanzania, and property rights and political participation in Costa Rica.
  • o   CEDAW has fostered development of domestic violence laws in Turkey, Nepal, South Africa, and the Republic of Korea and anti-trafficking laws in Ukraine and Moldova.

The principles espoused in the Treaty for the Rights of Women are consistent with those in US law and with our country’s foreign and domestic policy objectives. The Treaty would nonetheless help efforts to enhance U.S. laws with respect to violence against women, access to legal protections, and other human rights. Lack of U.S. ratification serves as a disincentive for governments to uphold CEDAW‟s mandate and their obligations under it to end discrimination against women. With U.S. ratification, the Women’s Convention would become a much stronger instrument in support of women’s struggles to achieve full protection and realization of their rights.

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