The Treaty for the Rights of Women, officially known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), is a pragmatic international agreement addressing the rights of women and girls.
CEDAW strengthens the United States as a global leader in standing up for women and girls. In countries that have ratified CEDAW, women have partnered with their governments to improve the status of women and girls, and as a result have changed laws and policies to create greater safety and opportunity for women and their families. CEDAW can make a difference for women and girls, specifically to reduce sex trafficking & domestic violence, provide access to education & vocational training, ensure the right to vote, end forced marriage & child marriage, help mothers and families by providing access to maternal health care and to ensure the right to work & own a business without discrimination.
The treaty was passed by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1979, and was signed by President Carter on behalf of the United States in 1980. While 186 nations have ratified CEDAW, unfortunately, the U.S. has failed to do so and is keeping company with known human rights violators including Sudan, Somalia, and Iran.
The American public strongly supports the principles and values of equality, fairness, education, and basic human rights. In the United States, the CEDAW treaty has been voted on favorably twice on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but the CEDAW treaty has never been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Ratification of CEDAW would continue America’s proud bipartisan tradition of promoting and protecting human rights.
- Testimony: Women’s Rights are Human Rights: U.S. Ratification of CEDAW November 18, 2010 Testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Factsheet: CGS CEDAW Fact Sheet 2011
- Factsheet: Amnesty International: CEDAW
- Resource: What Nations Belong to CEDAW?
- Resource: Full Text of Treaty- English
- Resource: Timeline of Women's Rights
- Website: Alliance for CEDAW Ratification
CEDAW Participation Map
3 Myths About CEDAW
1. U.S. ratification of CEDAW would supersede U.S. domestic law.
FACT: Despite language in the Convention "mandating" various conditions, it does not grant enforcement authority to the United Nations or any other body. It requires only that a ratifying country be periodically subjected to the review of the CEDAW Committee. Furthermore, a country may make "reservations" to a particular provision of the Convention if it believes the provision conflicts with domestic law.
2. CEDAW would require the U.S. to place women on the front lines of battlefields.
FACT: Actually, there is no reference to "women in the military" in the treaty. Confusion arises because of the 1997 CEDAW committee report, which urged that there should be "full participation of women in the military." This was in reference to the need for increased women's participation in diplomacy and peacemaking efforts; not to require countries to send women into the front lines of combat.
3. U.S. ratification of CEDAW would interfere with U.S. family life.
FACT: The Convention does not try to redefine the familial roles of a man and a woman. It only seeks to "eliminate prejudices and current practices that hinder the full operation of the principle of the social equality of women." The Convention also ensures that men and women have an equal right to enter into marriage with "free and full consent," and gives similar rights in relation to the dissolution of the marriage.
The CEDAW Treaty: Ending Discrimination Against Women
In Support of CEDAW
“The CEDAW treaty [is] the most authoritative UN negotiated treaty to protect women around the world from discrimination. The United States signed this agreement in 1980. It is past time that we became a party to this convention.”
The Global Citizen
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