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Women’s Rights Treaty Has Historic Hearing Before the US Senate

CEDAW Could Help Trigger the Gender Gap

WASHINGTON, DC— After 23 years of advocacy by women’s rights organizations and just in time for the November elections, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a hearing to discuss the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). "This is a critically important vote for women. The Feminist Majority has spent the past five years fighting to end the oppression of women in Afghanistan. We must ratify this historic treaty so that we don’t let down the women of the world, especially in places like Afghanistan," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. "Domestically, this treaty provides a way for every Senator to say no to regimes that oppress women."

For years, anti-women’s rights Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blocked CEDAW from having its day in the US Senate. Today, the committee’s current chair Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), working with women’s groups, is bringing the international treaty before the Senate. In recognition of the historic nature of the hearing, Biden will hand the gavel over to the committee’s sole female member, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) – who will chair the CEDAW hearing. "I hope that there is neither a gender gap nor a party gap in CEDAW," Smeal said. "But if there is a party gap, CEDAW could move the gender gap to the forefront of the Senate elections in November."

In 1979, the United Nations created CEDAW, an international treaty that defines discrimination and gives states a plan of action to ensure that the rights of women are equal to men. So far, 169 countries – or two-thirds of the United Nations membership – have ratified CEDAW, pledging to give women equal rights in all aspects of their lives including political, health, educational, social and legal. The United States is not one of those 169 countries. The United States is among the 22 countries that have yet to ratify the treaty - keeping company with such notorious women’s rights abusers as the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Monaco and Sudan. In addition, the United States is the only industrialized nation whose government has not ratified this treaty. The ratification of CEDAW could represent a long overdue commitment by the United States to protect women from discrimination. "If we fail to ratify CEDAW, it would be national disgrace," Smeal said. "The United States loses credibility on women’s rights and human rights worldwide until it ratifies this treaty."

The Feminist Majority is a national, cutting edge, public policy organization dedicated to advancing women’s equality. Founded in 1987, the Feminist Majority is the sister organization to the Feminist Majority Foundation, the largest women’s rights research and action organization in the country. For further information about the Feminist Majority and the Feminist Majority Foundation, visit

To schedule interviews with Eleanor Smeal contact Emilie Karrick at 703-522-2214.

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