International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and in Canada November is Woman Abuse Month.  In Canada, we seem to be moving forward – internationally not so.  I am concerned about the United States.  Why?  The United States are seen as the forefront of women’s rights and, like it or not, they do influence us.  Why should I be concerned specifically?  Because I’ve just learned that they are one of only four United Nations countries that have not ratified CEDAW.  What is CEDAW?  Read on.

The Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights Office in their Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979 issued an international treaty.  To date, 189 of the 193 United Nation states have agreed to be bound by its provisions.  Canada has both signed and ratified the treaty.  Shamefully, although President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty and sent it to the Senate for consent in 1980, it has not yet been ratified in the United States.  Apparently, although debated numerous times within the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it has been blocked from going to the full Senate. The treaty is extensive and requires participants to report in every four years.  Its Article 5 includes, “…to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.”

CEDAW addresses a wide spectrum of gender discrimination, including specific recommendations regarding violence against women.  In Canada, we have found that CEDAW has behaved like a watchdog.  Its recommendations are publicly posted on our government websites. 

So, why has the United States not ratified CEDAW?  One could surmise that it’s because some politicians are concerned that it insists upon fully shared responsibility by both sexes for child rearing and the right to reproductive choice.  Or, perhaps the U.S. just doesn’t like the fact that compliance includes reporting in every four years.

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