CEDAW (The Women’s Treaty)

The Feminist Majority strongly supports and advocates for the U.S Ratification of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Adopted by the United Nations on December 18, 1979, CEDAW is the most comprehensive and detailed international agreement which seeks the advancement of women. Ratified by 187 out of 193 nations, the United States is the only industrialized country that has not ratified the treaty, putting us in the company of countries such as Sudan, Iran and Somalia. CEDAW was signed by President Jimmy Carter in1970, but a two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to ratify international treaties. No action is required by the House. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by then Senator Joseph Biden, voted to send CEDAW to the floor in 2002, but it was never scheduled for a vote by the full Senate. The Feminist Majority continues to work, in coalition with a broad range of women’s rights, civil rights and human rights organizations, towards the ratification of CEDAW. Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have expressed strong support for CEDAW. However, the makeup of the current Senate has prevented any action during this Congress.

Recent Developments

Strong Support For IVAWA and CEDAW in Senate Hearing

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 — In an iconic display of support, eight women Senators testified today at a Senate subcommittee hearing in support of the need to take action against violence against women globally.

 Sen. Barbara Boxer

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues, made clear that to fully address violence against women the Senate must pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Testifying at the hearing today were Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Senators

(Top to bottom, left to right) Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie Hirono D-HI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

“You can’t see it, but there’s a line outside,” said Sen. Heitkamp before beginning her testimony.

The committee room was standing room only, packed with women leaders and activists, and a long line of supporters – who were never able to enter the room – gathered at the door to hear testimony from the women Senators, US Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell, USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Susan Markham, Promundo International Director Gary Barker, Institute for Inclusive Security Director Jacqueline O’Neill, and Nigerian human rights attorney Hauwa Ibrahim, an expert on sharia law who spoke about the still-missing Chibok girls abducted by terrorist group Boko Haram in April.

The hearing, entitled Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action,” focused on the epidemic of violence against women around the world, and called on the Senate to take action on two tools to help reduce violence and advance the status of women: IVAWA and CEDAW.

“The United States ratification of the CEDAW treaty would not only enhance its status, but also make it a more effective tool in combating violence against women,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. “The women of the world are looking to the US for leadership on this issue. We can no longer remain silent.”

Ratify CEDAW

That point was continuously emphasized in the hearing, especially by Nigerian attorney Hauwa Ibrahim, who departed from her prepared statements to put the United States’ role in this worldwide fight in perspective: “You are indeed a beacon of hope, and a city on a hill. The passing of IVAWA and CEDAW would lighten our load.”

Ambassador Russell stated unequivocally that the Obama Administration supports ratification of CEDAW. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also stated his support, as well as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Both are co-sponsors of IVAWA, introduced in the Senate by Senator Boxer, and in the US House of Representatives by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

The Feminist Majority joins 74 organizations in thanking Sen. Boxer for holding these important hearings and taking a significant step toward moving the United States to action on this human rights crisis.

See the Feminist Majority’s full release on the hearing here.

Action

Go to the CEDAW Coalition website for more detailed information on CEDAW and what you can do to help.