Recognizing the Importance of Women’s Rights Treaty on International Women’s Day

It’s Women’s History Month and tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day – the perfect time to highlight the importance of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

CEDAW is a comprehensive international treaty that outlines standards for ratifying countries to meet in the treatment and rights of women. It has played a critical role in promoting the empowerment of women and girls in developing countries, resulting in concrete advances for societies worldwide. Countries use CEDAW to promote the adoption of national laws, policies, and practices to ensure that women and girls live free from violence, have access to quality education, and have the right to participate fully in the economic, political, and social sectors of their society.

Ratifying countries must report to the U.N. every four years on their compliance with the treaty. It has been ratified by 187 countries. The United States is one of only six countries that have not, along with Sudan, Iran, and Somalia.

What is CEDAW?

CEDAW is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. Adopted in 1979 by the U.N. General Assembly, it is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end it.

Around the world, CEDAW has been used to reduce sex trafficking, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation; ensure primary education for girls and vocational training for women; ensure the right to vote; end forced marriage and child marriage; improve health care services and save lives during pregnancy and childbirth; allow women to own and inherit property; and ensure the right to work and own a business without discrimination.

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his support for CEDAW during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

How will you celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month?

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