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.