On International Women's Day - Amplify the Voices of Women and Girls!

March 8, 2011

Sometimes referred to as an International Bill of Rights for women, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the most comprehensive international treaty on basic human rights for women.

It offers countries a practical blueprint to promote basic rights and open opportunities for women and girls in all areas of society. It is a useful tool to reduce violence and discrimination against women and girls, ensure girls and women receive the same access as boys and men to education and health care, and secure basic legal recourse for women and girls against violations and abuses of their human rights.

CEDAW has led to concrete changes for women in key areas; ending violence and trafficking in women and girls, improving conditions for women’s economic opportunity, increasing women’s political participation, and advancing human rights of women by promoting equality.

In countries that have ratified CEDAW, women have partnered with their governments to engage in a national dialogue about the status of women and girls, and as a result have shaped policies to create greater safety and opportunity for women and their families. For example:

  • Turkey has reformed their country’s civil and penal codes to include equality for women and has also established the country’s first independent domestic violence shelter.
  • The Netherlands has adopted new legislation on human trafficking.
  • India has endorsed the international standard of women’s human rights, which include protection from sexual harassment and thus, drafted a set of implementing guidelines and norms, including detailed requirements for processing sexual harassment complaints.
  • Rwanda has introduced a quota for women’s participation in all decision-making bodies, and today 56 percent of its members of Parliament are women.

You may be wondering where the United States fits into the above list. What has the United States done in response to the CEDAW treaty? Since the adoption of the treaty, 186 countries have chosen to ratify it. However, the United States is now one of only seven countries that have yet to ratify CEDAW, alongside Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Nauru, Palau and Tonga.

The U.S. failure to ratify the treaty undermines the powerful principle that human rights of women are universal across all cultures, nations, and religions, and worthy of being guaranteed through international human rights standards.

As a leading superpower, U.S. ratification of the treaty would amplify the voice of women and girls globally. Ratification would  help women worldwide win basic rights—to go to school, to own and inherit property, to take part in public life, and to eliminate domestic violence.

When women actively participate in political, economic and social life, they promote prosperity and security of their family, communities and nations. For women and girls to fully participate and enjoy their rights, they need a life free from gender-based discrimination; a life with the opportunity to be educated, to work, to be healthy and to participate in all aspects of public life. CEDAW secures these rights for women, and contributes to the creation of a better world.

Take action with us and tell the US Senate to support CEDAW today.

Heba Dafashy contributed to this post