On International Women's Day, the ACLU Calls on the United States To Ratify UN Convention on Ending Discrimination Against Women

March 8, 2002 12:00 am

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Statement of Lenora M. Lapidus, Director,
ACLU Women’s Rights Project


NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today joins other groups around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day. Never before has it been more clear that all women must stand together to oppose the obstacles that they share — violence in their homes and on their streets, discrimination in their jobs, repressive political, cultural, and religious forces, and infringements on their reproductive choices.

In an expression of true celebration of women’s lives, the ACLU urges the U.S. government to ratify the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The United States played an important role in drafting CEDAW before U.N. ratification in 1979, but more than 20 years later has yet to adopt it as law.

The primary goals of CEDAW are to eliminate discrimination against women, to promote the rule of law, and to advance a respect for human rights throughout the world. CEDAW recognizes that discrimination against women violates principles of equal rights and human dignity and is an obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms as men, in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of their countries. It defines discrimination as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex, which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The U.S. government’s failure to ratify CEDAW is inconsistent with and antithetical to its broader foreign policy. On the one hand, the U.S. government presses the world to stand together for a common goal — the end of terrorism. Yet, on the other hand, in failing to ratify CEDAW, the U.S. government stands apart from nearly all other nations — 168 countries, including all other industrialized democracies, that have adopted CEDAW.

Indeed, when it comes to women’s rights, the U.S. government seems to stand with Afghanistan, Iran, and Sudan, three of the other countries that refuse to ratify CEDAW.

The ACLU calls on President Bush and the U.S. Senate to support and ratify CEDAW. Our leaders have rightly condemned as barbaric the treatment of women in Afghanistan. It is time to put that commitment to women’s rights into practice here. It is time for the U.S. to fulfill its promise of equality to women. It is time for the United States to join the coalition of 168 countries and ratify CEDAW in 2002.

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