Dear U.S. Senate, we hate to rush you but you’ve been deliberating about this (or more accurately stonewalling) for 30 years, do you think maybe you could possibly ratify this crucial human rights document? Just asking…
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) celebrates its 30th birthday on December 18. President Carter signed CEDAW in 1980, but the U.S. Senate has yet to ratify it, making it one of only seven countries in the world not to implement this important platform for women’s rights. The other six are Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan and Tonga.
However, it is not at all clear whether ratification at this point would be a good idea because of ‘reservations’ that might be attached to that approval that could potentially nullify or change the impact of key provisions.
Via AWID comes an interesting report regarding how the use of ‘reservations’ by countries in conjunction with ratification:
A landmark UN treaty on women’s rights, which will be 30 years old next week, is in danger of being politically undermined by a slew of reservations by 22 countries seeking exemptions from some of the convention’s legal obligations.
“A reservation must not defeat the object and purpose of a treaty,” Ambassador Palitha Kohona, a former chief of the UN Treaty Section, told IPS. If a state has intrinsic difficulties with a treaty, it has the right not to become a party, he said. “To become a party and then defeat the object and purpose of the treaty is unacceptable,” said Kohona, currently Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which will commemorate its 30th anniversary on Dec. 18, has been described as “an international bill of rights for women” and has been ratified by 186 member states. But 22 member states, ranging from Algeria and Australia to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United Kingdom, have exercised their right not to implement certain provisions of the treaty, even though they have signed and ratified CEDAW.
You can read the complete analysis here.
In addition AWID reports here that an Arab women’s organization, Equality Without Reservation, has called for the heads of Arab states to:
- Withdraw all reservations to the Convention and reform all discriminatory laws which constitute obstacles to the fulfilment of the rights of women as citizens.
- Integrate the principles of equality and non-discrimination based on gender into constitutions, laws and action plans and ensure their implementation.
- Support the efforts of non-governmental organisations to raise awareness on the Convention and contribute to its implementation in order to end all forms of discrimination against women and promote substantive equality.
Ambassador Kohona raises the point that,
human rights treaties tend to attract a noticeable number of reservations. Some treaties, Kohona explained, may prohibit reservations. However, “states having the sovereign right to lodge reservations to treaties in the generality of cases when they become party, have exercised this right extensively,” he said. Others, he pointed out, “have surreptitiously sought to achieve the same objective by crafting clever declarations of understanding.”
While we understand Ambassador Kohona’s point regarding national sovereignty inasmuch as that has traditionally been an unassailable canon of international law, national sovereignty is not an excuse for the continuing denial of women’s full human rights that is a global pandemic that knows no boundaries. The Feminist Peace Network calls on the U.S. and the other countries that have not fully implemented CEDAW to do so immediately and without reservation.