By Regina Varolli
Friday, July 16, 2010
Women's rights activists are trying to push CEDAW, the major U.N. women's rights treaty, out of a Senate committee where it's been stuck for decades and up for a vote on ratification. "Call Senator John Kerry," urges U.S. lawmaker Carolyn Maloney.
"Women all over the world use CEDAW to hold their governments accountable for changes in law and public policy. We ought to be a part of that process in the U.S.," she said.
CEDAW and its committee hold no powers of enforcement over countries. But countries that ratify it are legally bound to abide by its provisions. Countries are also required to submit a report on the status of women to the committee for review one year after ratification and then at least every four years.
The latest review session--No. 46--began July 12 at U.N. headquarters in New York City and ends on July 30. Reports from the following countries are being examined: Turkey, Russia, Albania, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Argentina, Fiji and India.
CEDAW was drafted by the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women following the World Conference of the International Women's Year held in Mexico City in 1975. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Convention in 1979.
Among U.N. member states 186 countries have ratified CEDAW. The United States remains one of only seven that have not. The other six are Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau and Tonga.
CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that specifically affirms women's reproductive rights.
It also requires countries to uphold women's rights in political representation, divorce, domestic violence and other areas that can stoke the ire of social conservatives.
The principle of national sovereignty also inhibits U.S. ratification, said Chesler. The United States is historically leery of handing over power to any outside source or even to looking outward for ideas, she said.
"There are many conservatives who not only don't like the issue of women's rights, but also there's many people on both sides who don't like the idea of the U.S. giving up sovereignty and being obligated to answer to another, higher authority," Chesler said.
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Regina Varolli is a freelance writer and editor and the owner of Words by Regina Varolli and Co. She blogs about food at Culinary Sagacity.
United Nations' CEDAW:
CEDAW Task Force of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:
The National Council for Research on Women:
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