displaced civilians

Southern Sudanses Civilians Displaced by Increasing LRA Attacks
UN Photo by Tim McKulka

CEDAW: A Treaty Awaiting U.S. Ratification Prepared in summer, 2009 by UNA-USA East Bay Advocacy Committee members Daisy Liu, UNA intern and University of California Berkeley student; and Rita Maran, vice president for advocacy

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has been coined the international bill of rights for women. Thus far, 186 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty since it was opened for signature and ratification by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1979. The eight UN member states that have not become parties to the treaty include the United States, Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, and the Holy See (the Vatican). Although the United States signed the convention under the Carter administration on July 17, 1980, the U.S. remains the only country that has signed but not ratified it. However, CEDAW is currently on a priority list of 17 UN treaties that the Obama administration sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 11, 2009, urging ratification.  Two U.S. cities have implemented CEDAW locally: San Francisco and Berkeley, in 1998 and 2004 respectively. 

The controversy over CEDAW has centered on claims that it is a promotion of “radical feminism” as well as being culturally biased toward western values. A number of Islamic states have claimed that CEDAW’s culturally-biased stance is a fundamental contradiction of Shari’a law. 

 Overview of CEDAW

Part I of the convention lays out the duties of the state, guarantees of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, and calls for the elimination of sex role stereotyping and prejudice. Article 1 defines discrimination against women as any “distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of marital status, on the basis of equality between men and women, of human rights or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.”Part II protects the political and civil rights of women while Part III seeks to ensure equal social and economic opportunities especially in the realms of education and employment. Part IV, in addition to according “women equality with men before the law,” secures marital and family rights for women. Oversight is laid out in Part V, which introduces the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the role of specialized agencies in protecting the aforementioned rights. CEDAW concludes with Part VI, which defines its effect on other treaties, commitment of party states, and the administration of the convention. 

 CEDAW Actions 

April 1998 - San Francisco became the first U.S. city to adopt an ordinance implementing CEDAW locally (November 17, 1997, Resolution No. 1021-97.) A Task Force, working with City departments, identifies cases of and solutions to discrimination facing women and girls.

20 July 2004 – Berkeley City Council adopted Resolution No.62,617, directing that the operative articles of CEDAW be made part of Berkeley Municipal Code; also, urged ratification of CEDAW by the US government.

July 20 to August 7, 2009 - the 44th session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women took place at the UN in New York. The 45th session is scheduled to take place in Geneva in January 2010.

March 2012 - The City of Berkeley adopted Ordinance No. 7,224-N.S. into Berkeley Municipal Code, thereby adopting the principles of  CEDAW into Berkeley law. Berkeley and San Francisco are the two US cities that have legislated  new city law based on CEDAW principles. http://ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 

Resources Treaty Text: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm

OHCHR Website: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/index.htm

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress on CEDAW: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33652.pdf

The Human Rights of Women: A Reference Guide to Official United Nations Documents http://www.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/women (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish) 2007