CEDAW Hearing Encouraging, U.S. Ratification Long Overdue

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mai Shiozaki, 202-628-8669, ext. 116; cell 202-641-1906

CEDAW Hearing Encouraging, U.S. Ratification Long Overdue

WASHINGTON - NOW applauds Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for chairing a
first-ever Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on ratification of the
U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW). Eight years have lagged since the last hearing
for the human rights treaty signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

"Women
around the world have waited more than 30 years for the U.S. to ratify
this treaty. In an age when women can be stoned to death for surviving
rape, and women are 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people living in
poverty worldwide, it is unconscionable for a vocal reactionary minority
to keep our country sitting on the sidelines. This hearing can be a
significant step forward with very much deserved pressure on the
Senate," said NOW Action Vice President Erin Matson, who attended the
Nov. 18 hearing on Capitol Hill.

To
date, 185 countries have ratified CEDAW, and even though the United
States helped draft the treaty, it is the only industrialized country
that has yet to ratify. The other six countries that have refused to
ratify CEDAW are Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau and Tonga.

CEDAW
is the most comprehensive international agreement on the basic human
rights of women and girls. U.S. ratification would lend weight to the
treaty and the principle that women's human rights are universal across
all cultures, nations and religions, and worthy of being guaranteed
through international standards.

Matson
noted: "Until the U.S. ratifies CEDAW, it can neither credibly demand
that other countries live up to their obligations under the treaty, nor
claim that it is a leader in the global human rights community."

The
next step toward ratification is for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to hold a
vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If the treaty is
approved by the committee, it must then be brought to a full vote on the
Senate floor. Women in the U.S. and around the world stand to benefit
greatly under CEDAW ratification, so NOW is using its RATIFY WOMEN! national action campaign to call on the committee chair to: "Hurry, Kerry!"

"Women around the world want to know: Are Senators for women's human rights, or are they against them? It's well past time for a floor vote," said Matson.

NOW's
call comes with an additional appeal -- that CEDAW be ratified without
the Reservations, Declarations and Understandings (RDUs) that prior
administrations and conservative senators attached to the treaty. These
RDUs, in essence, are loopholes that would undermine key provisions, and
their presence creates a watered-down U.S. version of the treaty. The
RDUs convey a lack of commitment to ending discrimination against women
and specifically claim no responsibility for the U.S. to undertake
efforts to expand maternity leave, improve access to health care
services for women, or take more effective efforts to address sex-based
pay discrimination, among other objectives designed to promote women's
equality.

"Ratifying
CEDAW with debilitating RDUs attached would hurt the cause of women's
rights worldwide," said Matson. "NOW urges ratification of a strong,
clean CEDAW to display this nation's commitment to improving human
rights for women in all areas covered by this important treaty."

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The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

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