Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The United States and CEDAW

I wrote about CEDAW before – the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women – but I got one fact wrong. Though it was enacted as international treaty and President Carter signed it in 1980, the US never ratified it. In fact, we’re one of six nations, keeping illustrious company with paragons of women’s rights such as Iran, Sudan and Somalia, that have never ratified.

CEDAW creates a blueprint for countries to follow to work toward progress for women and girls. Is it the end-all-be-all solution to discrimination against women? No, of course not, but it is effecting change, slowly but surely.

  • In Bangladesh, CEDAW provided impetus for attaining gender parity in primary school enrollment
  • In Mexico, as of 2009, all 32 states have adopted the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free from Violence
  • In Kenya, CEDAW helped eradicate differences in inheritance rights that disparately affected widows and daughters of the deceased
  • In Kuwait, a recommendation by the CEDAW committee led to women finally being granted the right to vote in 2005.
CEDAW is intended to reduce sex trafficking, domestic violence and discrimination in education and employment; to ensure the right to vote; to end forced and child marriages; and to guarantee better access to maternal care.

And therein lies the problem for our always-charming Republicans. Maternal care. You see, the language of CEDAW “protects a woman's equal right to life, health, and to decide on the number and spacing of her children. The full protection of these rights requires the removal of obstacles in access to abortion services, and will also require the state to provide services in some circumstances.”

One hundred eighty seven other countries have - at least on paper - recognized that women have a basic human right to control the outcomes of their own bodies. One hundred eighty seven other countries recognize that yes, women are, in fact, people. But we do not. Because Republicans believe we are God’s broodmares, put on this Earth for the sole purpose of bearing man’s baby, with no value beyond the contents of our uteruses.

We are all God’s children, worthy of saving, unless we are women. Then we are expendable.

Women in the US continue to face the 41st highest maternal death rate (out of 184 countries), over 2 million women a year will report (report!) injuries from current or former partners, and women still make 77 cents on the dollar to men, all because a vigilante group of religious nuts have seized control of the Republican Party and subjected us all to the alleged whims of their imaginary-God-friend.

Not such beacons of progress and freedom in the world anymore, are we…?  

CEDAW is up for vote again in the Senate in the 113th Congress, and I urge you to write to your Senator, particularly if you have a Republican Senator, and urge them to ratify this important treaty. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – women deserve better. 

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