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Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

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Urge the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and President Obama to support U.S. ratification of the Treaty for the Rights of Women, officially known as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). 

What is CEDAW?

CEDAW, is an international treaty of women's rights (aka international bill of women's rights).  It consists of a preamble and 30 articles, defining what constitutes discrimination against women and provides an agenda for national action to end discrimination against women.   It is the only U.N. human rights treaty that grants the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as dominant forces in shaping gender roles and family relations.  It also establishes women's rights to acquire, change, or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. 

The Problem

However, since CEDAW has come into play, 186 countries have ratified the treaty.  However, the United States is only one of seven countries that have not ratified the treaty.  So far, the United States has only signed CEDAW, but has failed to ratify the treaty.

At the moment, there are severe human rights abuses of women going on in other countries, where women are being denied their basic rights and systematically abused and tortured.  According to CEDAW, all over the world, millions of women and girls suffer from human rights violations everyday.

-Violence against women is pervasive: one in three women worldwide will experience assault, rape or other abuse during her lifetime.

-Two-thirds of the world's 771 million illiterate adults are women.

-Of the world's 1.3 billion poorest people, 70 percent are female.

-Millions of girls and women are denied equal access to property, legal action, civic life and public participation.

-Lack of adequate health care means more than 530,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related complications-one every minute.

-An estimated 80 percent of the 600,000 to 800,000 victims of human trafficking across international borders are girls under 18. (

In many countries, women are not granted gender equality under the laws, given the right to vote, put into forced marriages, face bridal kidnappings and dowry deaths, denied the right to work out of the home, considered the property of men, unable to obtain access to health care, allowed to travel without a man's permission, allowed to get a divorce, face honor killings, denied the right to an education, are forced into human trafficking and face being legally raped and beaten.

In countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, and Syria, a very shocking and inhuman practice is known as "honor killings" occurs. Honor killings are where a female is murdered by one of her own relatives and family members because she is believed to have brought dishonor to the family. For a woman to dishonor her family, could be anything from a dress code violation, for a woman to have violated the code of decent behavior, can be anything from refusing to enter an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce even from an abusive husband, adultery (sexual or non-sexual), flirting, or being a victim of rape. In a case where a woman is under suspicion for dishonoring her family, she is rarely given the chance to defend herself. Family members who commit honor killings almost always go unpunished, because it is thought of as a family matter.

In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Zambia, India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Yugoslavia it is legal for a husband to rape his wife. In Afghanistan, if a woman accuses a man of rape, and she cannot prove to the courts that she was raped, she then faced adultery charges. Also if a woman tells her family that she was raped in any ways, she risks facing an honor killing. In countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh women face bride burning or dowry death's where women are murdered or driven to suicide by constant harassment and torture by their husband and in-laws in order to extort a bigger dowry. In the process of bride burnings, the women is drenched with kerosene, gasoline, or another flammable liquid, and then set on fire, leading her to her death. In Kuwait, women do not have the right to vote.

In Africa, Indonesia, the Middle East, and Pakistan, a practice known as female genital mutilation occurs. Female genital mutilation is the partial or the total removal of the external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs, for the purpose of cultural, religious, or other non-therapeutic reasons.

By the United States not ratifying CEDAW, the U.S. has no official standing to speak out against the international violations of women's rights.

As a result of not having ratified CEDAW, countries where human rights abuses of women occur, can reject the United States calls for actions on women's rights, because it is not being applied at home.  As a severe consequence, then the United States (a country that has a lot of power to help women facing human rights abuses in other countries), the U.S. is then unable to help the women and girls in those countries and the women and girls continue to suffer from human rights abuses.  However by the United States ratifying CEDAW, the U.S. would gain fare more power, influence and credibility in the international community regarding women's rights issues around the world and finally be able to gain an official standing to speak out against the international violations of women's rights.

The Solution

At the moment, the United States has the chance to help millions of women and girls worldwide, by promoting women's equality worldwide, and saving women from human rights abuses in other countries. While the United States cannot force or make a country to change their laws, the U.S. can use their influence to encourage the foreign governments to protect the human rights of women and create legislation to promote equality for women and girls. However, by ratifying CEDAW, other countries would listen to the U.S. better would it come to international human rights abuses of women and girls.

The treaty ratification itself would increase the United State's global power and influence to helping women's human rights all over the world. For the United States, to stand by and do nothing, while women and girls in foreign countries are being raped, abused, tortured, denied access to health care, work, education everyday would be immoral and unethical. Cultural practices are one thing, but when those cultural practices violate people's human rights, than that should not be permissible no matter what the country. Women and girls don't deserve to be treated the way. Cultural practices should never violate human right, and should not be permissible no matter what the country. No one deserves to be treated the way women and girls are in these countries.

Women and girls deserve the opportunity to be equal and experience the same privileges as men and boys, and to feel proud that they are women. For any society to deny women their full civil rights and human rights is wrong and immoral. Women represent half the population and are entitled to the same civil rights and equal opportunity as men do. The women of all countries deserve to have their human rights be protected, make their own choices about who they choose to marry, have the same opportunities as men do, and have the right to be free from violence.

The United States has the ability to take action on behalf of the women and girls in these countries. They can use their influence and impose economic sanctions, and provide assistance to women in these countries. However, without ratifying CEDAW, they cannot be taken seriously by other countries. What will CEDAW do?

States, who accept the CEDAW, commit to take all appropriate measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms, by pledge themselves to take on a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms including;

"to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women; to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises." ( ensure that legal and judicial procedures are in place to protect the rights of put CEDAW's provision into practice and submit national reports, every four years on measures they have taken to comply with the take measures in eliminating discrimination against women by individuals, organizations or enterprises.

What you can do to help get CEDAW ratified by the United States?

Please write to and/or call your U.S. Representatives and Senators and President Obama tell them to pass to pass the Ratification of CEDAW.  Also ask your U.S. Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the Ratification of CEDAW resolution.

Also please sign the petition to pass the United States Ratification of CEDAW.


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