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US: Jumpstart Ratification of Women’s Rights Treaty

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

(New York) -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 commitment."

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."

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