The first hearing in eight years on the international treaty to promote women’s rights - drafted in 1979 by the United Nations and ratified by two-thirds of its member countries - was held today by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Supporters of the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) turned out in droves with a line winding down the hall outside the room where the hearing was held. In recognition of the hearing’s historic importance, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), the committee chair, asked Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the sole female member of the committee, to chair the meeting. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) and Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-MD) as well as several representatives from prominent women’s organizations joined supporters. In addition, several women from Afghanistan were present to discuss their plight under the repressive rule of the Taliban and women from India and Egypt talked about how the ratification of CEDAW in their countries had made things better for women.
“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.”
The committee has yet to schedule a vote on CEDAW. If the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves the treaty, it will then go to the full Senate for a vote.
CEDAW defines discrimination and gives states a plan of action to ensure that the rights of women are equal to men. So far, 169 countries 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 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.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .