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Honor Your Mother. . . High Time to Ratify CEDAW

Allie Bohm,
Policy Counsel,
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May 7, 2010

Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Nauru, Palau, Tonga, and the United States. One of these things is not like the others . . . But you read that list right. Those are the seven countries worldwide that have not yet ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a landmark international treaty that affirms women’s human rights. Such company we keep! Around the world, 186 countries have ratified CEDAW, and it’s far past time the U.S. joined that list.

In the countries that have ratified the treaty, it has been used to ensure primary education for girls, improve access to health care services, combat human trafficking, pass laws against domestic violence and female genital mutilation, and allow women to own and inherit property.

Domestically, ratification of CEDAW would encourage the U.S. to take stronger action against issues such as gender-based and domestic violence and discrimination against women in housing, education, and employment. While ratifying CEDAW will not automatically result in changes to U.S. law, it would provide a new and significant opportunity for a national dialogue on the gains made and the challenges that remain to improve women’s full equality.

So what are we waiting for? The U.S. played a major role in drafting the treaty and signed it in 1980, but it has never been ratified by the Senate. In fact, even though the Senate Foreign Relations Committee twice approved CEDAW by bipartisan votes (in 1994 and 2002), it has never actually been voted on by the full Senate. Fortunately, last year, the Obama administration prioritized CEDAW for ratification, prompting a renewed ratification push.

And you can join us. This Mother’s Day — Sunday, May 9 — have you bought your mom a card yet? (Look, a dual-purpose blog! It’s also a Mother’s Day reminder.) — urge your Senators to honor mothers and women in the U.S. and across the globe by finally ratifying CEDAW.