Despite opposition from the White House, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is poised to vote on long-delayed US ratification of the international women’s treaty today. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), drafted by the United Nations in 1979 to define discrimination and gives states a plan of action to ensure that the rights of women are equal to men, has been ratified by 170 countries. The United States is one of 21 countries that have not ratified the treaty, keeping company with such nations as the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Monaco and Sudan.
The Senate committee held the first hearing in eight years on CEDAW last month. While the Bush administration told the Senate six months ago that CEDAW was “generally desirable and should be approved,” Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote the committee last week to say that the administration now feels that CEDAW’s “vagueness” and “complexity” require a review by the Justice Department. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, responded to the administration Tuesday with a statement: “The administration has not substantively addressed the committee’s questions” and declined to send any ranking official to hearings on the treaty. “The committee needs to act soon if we want this Congress to vote on this treaty,” according to the Washington Post.
The Feminist Majority is joined by other leading women’s organizations in calling for immediate action on this important treaty. “Another politically-motivated delay will do nothing but hurt millions of women across the globe,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “We implore all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to follow the lead of Sens. Biden and (Barbara) Boxer (D-CA) and push for immediate ratification of this important and long overdue international bill of rights for women. While a lack of security, education and healthcare continue to plague women in such places as Afghanistan, the United States must ratify CEDAW to insure that women all over the world gain the equality they deserve.”