CEDAW Resources

Overview

The first comprehensive treaty addressing women’s rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) provides a universal definition of discrimination against women. The primary goal of CEDAW is to eliminate discrimination against women and to promote the rule of law and respect for human rights around the world. It obligates state parties to condemn discrimination in all forms and to ensure a legal framework that provides protection against discrimination and embodies the principle of equality. The treaty addresses such issues as education, employment, health care, property ownership, and human trafficking.

The United States is the lone industrialized democracy and one of only a handful of countries yet to ratify CEDAW. This failure compromises the U.S.'s credibility as a leader for human rights. Women around the world are using CEDAW as a tool in their struggle against the effects of discrimination, domestic violence, lack of legal status and access to education, health care and credit. Without U.S. ratification and leadership, other governments can more easily ignore CEDAW's mandate and their obligations under it.

Legislative Status

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has twice approved a resolution of advice and consent to ratification for the treaty, in 1994 and 2002. In 2010, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law held a hearing on CEDAW.  However, CEDAW has never been brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

ABA Policy and Advocacy

ABA One-Pager

ABA Policy

August 1984 (attached)

February 1996

August 2000

Talking Points

  • CEDAW provides a globally agreed upon legal framework for the protection and promotion of basic human rights for women.  Countries in transition from repressive regimes can use CEDAW as a guide in establishing laws and policies to ensure equal protection of the law in all areas of society for women and girls.
  • As long as the United States remains the only industrialized nation yet to ratify CEDAW, it compromises its credibility as a leader in international human rights. Although 188 countries have ratified the Convention, the United States remains the only industrialized democracy and one of only a handful of countries yet to ratify CEDAW.  In not taking action, the United States is in the company of countries such as Sudan and Somalia. Even some countries that have ratified the Convention use the fact that the United States has not done so as an excuse for delaying their own efforts to meet their obligations under the treaty.  Women worldwide need the support of the United States so that the Convention becomes a stronger instrument in support of their struggles.
  •  Ratification of CEDAW will enable the United States to contribute more effectively to the global struggle for women’s rights.  Ratification would make the United States eligible to sit on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee), which monitors progress in the treatment of women in countries that have ratified the Convention.  The United States then will be in a position to encourage other countries to strengthen respect for human rights generally by working to achieve the goals of equality set forth in the treaty.