Friday, December 18, 2009

30 years later, U.S. still hasn't ratified CEDAW

"Here we were, the most powerful country in the world.
Other countries would say, 'How can you tell us what to do
if you don't do it yourself? If you say women's rights are
universal, what are you waiting for?'"

-- Linda Tarr-Whelan, Jimmy Carter's deputy assistant for women's concerns

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -- CEDAW -- on Dec. 18, 1979. It's described as an international bill of rights for women, and 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.You can read the entire text here.

Thirty years later, the United State still hasn't ratified CEDAW. You know who else hasn't ratified it? Iran, Somalia, Sudan, the small island nations of Nauru, Palau, Tonga, and Vatican City. The obvious question is, what's taking the U.S. so long? I don't know the answer. I don't know if anyone knows the answer. We haven't even adopted our own Equal Rights Amendment that was introduced in 1923. One thing we do know is there is all kinds of misinformation on both CEDAW and the ERA, and that needs to be corrected. (Like CEDAW promotes abortion, which it doesn't. Plenty of countries that are generally anti-choice have ratified CEDAW).

Why is our government so afraid of committing to equality for women? Take a minute today to call or e-mail your representatives (House, Senate) and remind them that it's time to ratify CEDAW, and the ERA for that matter.

More reading:
  • I highly recommend this op-ed by Linda Tarr-Whelan on She also has an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney spoke about ratifying CEDAW in 2002, and her speech is still relevant today. Read it here.
  • Truthout: "Obama: Ratify the Women's Convention Soon."

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