All women deserve a life with the opportunity to be educated, to work, to be healthy and to participate in all aspects of public life. Yet in every country in the world, women and girls live within the confines of rigid gender norms, which frequently result in disproportionate access to essential services and major violations of their human rights.
For women and girls to fully participate in their communities and enjoy their rights, they need a life free from gender-based discrimination- a life with the opportunity to be educated, to work safe jobs with adequate and equal pay, to be healthy, and to participate in all aspects of public life. However, women are frequently subjected to gender norms that limit their opportunities, defining them as mothers, caregivers, or homemakers.
Not only do these assignations limit women’s choices, opportunities to seek education or a career, or ability to be decision-makers in their communities, they also put women at risk of poverty, ill-health, and violence. Women who don’t conform – such as those born intersexed, lesbians, or transgender people – are at heightened risk of violence and face often-dangerous levels of gender-based discrimination.
All women have the right to live without fear of violence, to access affordable, quality education and health care, to hold any job they wish, and to lift their families out of poverty.
The International Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) enshrines these rights-and recognizes that women and girls often face challenges to realizing their rights specific to their gender. As such, CEDAW urges an equitable approach to human rights, recognizing the range of gender-specific human rights violations, ranging from sex slavery to maternal mortality to property and inheritance rights. CEDAW is an effective tool for women to advocate for their own rights and a standardized benchmark to which all countries should aspire. The United States is one of only seven countries that has not yet ratified the treaty.