Advancing Women’s Rights

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) urges the United States to ratify the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a landmark Convention that has been ratified by 168 countries, including Israel. The U.S. is the only industrial country failing to ratify the Convention, and is in the company of countries such as Afghanistan and Sudan. CEDAW, initially passed in 1981, is an international Bill of Rights calling for essential human rights and fundamental freedoms for women. Establishing an international standard by which countries measure their treatment of women, CEDAW has contributed substantially to the improved status of women in many countries.

As the world focuses attention on the situation in Afghanistan, and the Bush Administration highlights the status of women under the Taliban and the successor government, the lack of CEDAW ratification by the United States is a glaring omission. Today more than ever, the status of women is an increasing concern that the organized Jewish community shares with many of its coalition partners. Domestic abuse, access to health care and the protection of women civilians and refugees in armed conflicts are just some of the issues with which we continue to grapple.

CEDAW and its related documents establish an international standard against which countries around the world measure their treatment of women. Ratifying countries report on the status of women in their country every four years, and remarkable improvements have occurred around the world as a result of CEDAW.

Recent meetings at the United Nations through the Fourth World Conference On Women in 1995 and its successor in 2000, the Beijing Plus Five Conference, provided forums for governments to renew and specify the international community’s commitment to the advancement of the status of women. No longer are women’s rights considered a unique category of humanitarianism. It is increasingly recognized that advancing women’s rights is fundamental to advancing the rights of all human beings.

Research has demonstrated that the protection and advancement of the status of women ensures sustained growth and stability within societies. As the United States embraces its renewed international leadership role, it is imperative that the U.S. ratify CEDAW and advocate the implementation of its related documents.

The JCPA emphasizes that the oppression of women is a major factor in the dynamics of conflict as well as poverty, and that by addressing this problem, governments improve the quality of civilian life and ensure sustained stability and growth around the world. Therefore, the JCPA strongly urges the U.S. to send an important message about the status and role of women by immediately ratifying CEDAW and advocating the implementation of its related provisions. Additionally, the JCPA expresses its support of CEDAW and encourages governments to continue advancing the status of women by fulfilling all previous commitments to that end.