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US: Jumpstart Ratification of Women's Rights Treaty

On 30th Anniversary, Progress Flagging on Obama’s Pledge of Support


The Obama administration and the US Senate should step up their
efforts to secure US ratification of the global women's rights treaty,
Human Rights Watch said today.

The continued failure of the Senate to ratify the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which
was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18,
1979, deprives women in the US of the full protection of their rights,
Human Rights Watch said.

"For 30 years, this treaty has helped women around the world secure
basic rights and equal status," said Meghan Rhoad, women's rights
researcher at Human Rights Watch. "It's way past time for the US to
come on board. President Obama promised he'd push for ratification, and
it's time for the administration and the Senate to deliver on that

The treaty has been ratified by 186 countries. Only the United
States, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Palau, Nauru and Tonga have not ratified
it. President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty in 1980, and the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee has twice voted favorably on the treaty,
but the full US Senate has never voted on it, due in part to scheduling
difficulties. To advance the process, President Obama should publicly
press the Senate to begin considering the treaty and the Senate should
schedule hearings and move toward a vote, Human Rights Watch said.

Ratification would provide a powerful new tool to address areas in
which women in the US face discrimination. The treaty outlines
government responsibilities to eliminate discrimination in all spheres,
including the workplace, where US women currently earn 77 cents for
every dollar earned by men and have no legal guarantee of paid parental
leave. Joining CEDAW would also mean that the US government would
periodically review progress made on issues like violence against women
and participate in a dialogue with a UN committee of experts on ways to
improve policies and programs.

Human Rights Watch said that ratifying the treaty would also boost
US efforts to improve the status of women internationally by adding to
US credibility as a global leader on women's rights and by lending US
support to the treaty's standards of non-discrimination.

"Too many women in the US struggle with discrimination in the
workplace, bias in health insurance, and official indifference to
domestic violence," Rhoad said. "Ratifying this treaty can help ensure
that important progress on women's rights over the past decades will
continue. There is no excuse for inaction on this issue."

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.