The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Congressional Issues
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW):
Updated October 28, 2008
Analyst in International Relations
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW):
The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women calls for Parties to eliminate discrimination against women in all
areas of life, including healthcare, education, employment, domestic relations, law,
commercial transactions, and political participation. As of February 15, 2008, the
Convention was ratified or acceded to by 185 countries.
President Jimmy Carter submitted the Convention to the Senate in 1980. The
Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the Convention in 1988, 1990,
1994, and 2002, but the treaty was never considered for ratification by the full
Senate. The George W. Bush Administration began conducting a full legal and
policy review of the Convention in 2002. On February 7, 2007, the Administration
transmitted a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stating that it does not
support Senate action on the treaty at this time.
U.S. ratification of CEDAW is a contentious policy issue that has generated
considerable debate in Congress and among the general public. Supporters of U.S.
ratification contend that the Convention is a valuable mechanism for fighting
women’s discrimination worldwide. They argue that U.S. ratification of the treaty
will give the Convention additional legitimacy, and that it will further empower
women who fight discrimination in other countries. Opponents of ratification
contend that the Convention is not the best or most efficient way to eliminate
discrimination against women. They believe ratification will undermine U.S.
sovereignty and impact U.S. social policy related to family planning and abortion.
This report provides background on CEDAW developments, including U.S.
policy and congressional actions, and considers arguments for and against
ratification. It will be updated as events warrant.
CEDAW Background and Structure...................................1
Evolution of the Convention.....................................2
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women....3
Issues for Congress................................................7
The Convention as an Instrument for U.S. Foreign Policy..............8
U.S. Sovereignty .............................................9
Social Issues .................................................9
Administration Review of the Convention.........................10
List of Tables
Table 1. States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination Against Women...............................12
The Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women
(CEDAW): Congressional Issues
CEDAW Background and Structure
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women (CEDAW or the Convention) is the only comprehensive international U.N.
treaty that specifically focuses on the rights of women.1 Currently, the Convention
has been ratified or acceded to by 185 countries. Some States Parties2 have filed
reservations with sections of the Convention that do not align with their existing
religious or national laws, and in some cases countries have objected to the
reservations of other countries.3 The United States is the only country to have signed
but not ratified the Convention.4
The Convention requires States Parties to work towards eliminating
discrimination against women in all areas of life. This includes equality in legal
status, political participation, employment, education, healthcare, and the family5
structure. Article 2 of the Convention specifies that States Parties should undertake
1 Women’s rights and the equality of the sexes are addressed in general terms in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, among
2 See Table 1 for a full list of countries that are States Parties to the Convention and its
Optional Protocol. The term “States Parties” refers to countries that have ratified or acceded
to the Convention.
3 Article 28 of the Convention states that reservations can be filed as long as they are
compatible with the “object and purpose” of the Convention. A full list of reservations by
country can be found at [http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/ratification/8.htm#
4 The Convention has been adopted by several U.S. state and local governments, including
the California and Connecticut Senate, and the House of Representatives in Hawaii, South
Dakota, and Illinois, among others. As of November 2005, the Convention has also been
adopted by 18 counties and 44 cities.
5 Drawn from “The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
to “embody the principle of equality of men and women in their national
constitutions or other appropriate legislation... to ensure, through law and other
appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle.” The Convention
defines discrimination against women as
... any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the
effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or
exercise by women irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of
men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political,
economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.
The Convention specifically calls for the suppression of female trafficking, equal pay
with men, more attention to the equality of rural women, and the freedom to choose
a marriage partner, among other things.
On October 6, 1999, the U.N. General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol
to strengthen the Convention.6 The Protocol entered into force on December 22,
2000, and, as of November 27, 2007, has been ratified by 90 countries. The Protocol
includes a “communications procedure” that allows groups or individuals to file
complaints with the CEDAW Committee. It also incorporates an “inquiry
procedure” that allows the Committee to explore potential abuses of women’s rights
in countries that are party to the Protocol.
Evolution of the Convention
The United Nations adopted several treaties addressing specific aspects of
women’s rights prior to adoption of CEDAW in 1979, including the Convention on
the Political Rights of Women (1952), and the Convention on the Consent to
Marriage (1957).7 In 1967, after two years of negotiations, the U.N. General
Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
Women, a non-binding document that laid the groundwork for CEDAW.
Subsequently, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women drafted CEDAW,
which the General Assembly adopted on December 18, 1979.8 The Convention
entered into force on September 3, 1981, after receiving the required 20 ratifications.
Women,” available at [http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm].
6 Optional Protocols are often added to some treaties. The Optional Protocol for the
Convention is a stand-alone treaty that can be signed and/or ratified by countries that are
party to the main treaty. For more information on the Optional Protocol to the Convention,
7 More information on international treaty bodies relating to women’s right is available at
8 The Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1946 as a functional
commission of the U.N. Economic and Social Council. It is responsible for preparing
recommendations and reports for the Council on women’s rights in the political, economic,
and social realms. For more information, see [http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/].
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the
Committee) was established in 1982 under Article 17 of the Convention as a9
mechanism to monitor the progress of implementation. It is composed of 23
independent experts who are elected at a meeting of States Parties to the Convention
by secret ballot, with consideration given to the principle of equitable geographic
distribution.10 Each State Party may nominate one expert and, if elected, the expert
serves a four-year term. The majority of the Committee experts are women who,
according to the Convention, should have “high moral standing and competence,”
and “represent different forms of civilization as well as principal legal systems.” The
Committee is led by a Chairperson, three Vice Chairpersons, and a rapporteur elected
by the States Parties. The Chairperson directs the discussion and decision-making
process and represents the Convention at international conferences and events. The
Committee reports annually on its activities to the U.N. General Assembly through
the Economic and Social Council, and meets twice a year at the U.N. Office at11
The Committee is responsible for reviewing the reports on national CEDAW
implementation submitted by States Parties. Countries are required to submit an
initial report within the first year of ratification or accession, followed by a report
every four years. The reports identify areas of progress as well as concerns or
difficulties with implementation. The Committee engages in an open dialogue and
exchange of ideas with the reporting country and compiles recommendations and
conclusions based on its findings, which include general recommendations on cross-
cutting issues of concern. The Committee has made over 25 recommendations since
1986, covering a wide range of women’s issues such as improvement in education
and public information programs, elimination of female circumcision, equality in12
marriage and family relations, and violence against women.
The 42nd session of the CEDAW Committee was held from October 20 to
November 7, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Committee reviewed the reports of
9 Some human rights treaties provide for a separate body to monitor implementation of the
treaty by States Parties. The Committee was established under Article 17 of CEDAW, “for
the purpose of considering the progress made in the implementation” of the Convention.
10 Currently, the 23 experts come from Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Croatia, Cuba,
Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Netherlands,
Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand.
11 As one of seven U.N. human rights treaty bodies, the CEDAW Committee is financed
from the U.N. regular budget. The Committee was previously supported by the U.N.
Division for the Advancement of Women, but as of January 1, 2008, it is serviced by the
U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
12 Under Article 21 of the Convention, the Committee shall, “make suggestions and general
recommendations based on the examination of reports and information received from States
Parties.” A full list of CEDAW Committee recommendations can be found at
[http://www2.ohchr.org/ english/bodi es/cedaw/comme nts.htm] .
Madagascar, Mongolia, Myanmar, Portugal, Slovenia, and Uruguay.13 The 43rd
CEDAW Committee session will be held from January 19 to February 6, 2009, in
Geneva.14 The Committee is scheduled to consider periodic reports from Armenia,
Bhutan, Cameroon, Dominica, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Liberia,
Libya, and Rwanda.15
Successive U.S. Administrations have strongly supported the Convention’s
overall goal of eliminating discrimination against women. They have disagreed,
however, on whether the Convention is the most efficient and appropriate means of
achieving this goal. President Jimmy Carter signed the Convention on July 17, 1980,
and transmitted it to the Senate for advice and consent on November 12 of the same
year. The Reagan and first Bush Administrations did not support ratification, and the
Convention remained pending in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The
Clinton Administration supported ratification, and in 1994 submitted a treaty package
to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. The package included nine
proposed “conditions,” or “RUDs” to the Convention, including four reservations,
three understandings, and two declarations.16 The Foreign Relations Committee
reported the Convention favorably, but it never came to vote in the full Senate. The
reservations recommended by the Clinton Administration addressed the following
!“private conduct,” which made clear that the United States “does not
accept any obligation under the Convention to regulate private
conduct except as mandated by the Constitution and U.S. law”;
!“combat assignments,” which stated that the United States “does not
accept an obligation under the Convention to put women in all
!“comparable worth,” which made clear that the United States would
not accept the doctrine of comparable worth based on the
Convention’s broad description; and
13 More information on the 42nd session of the CEDAW Committee is available at
[http://www2.ohchr.org/ english/ bodies/cedaw/cedaws42.htm] .
14 Information on the forthcoming 43rd session of the CEDAW Committee is available at
[http://www2.ohchr.org/ english/ bodies/cedaw/cedaws43.htm] .
15 For more information on the 43rd session of the CEDAW Committee, see
[http://www2.ohchr.org/ english/ bodies/cedaw/cedaws43.htm] .
16 RUDs refers to the “reservations, understandings, and declarations” that might accompany
U.S. ratification of a treaty.
!“paid maternity leave,” which stated that the United States could not
guarantee paid maternity leave as the Convention stipulates because
it is not a requirement under U.S. federal or state law.
The three understandings submitted by the Clinton Administration stated that
(1) the United States will fulfill its obligations under the Convention in a “manner
consistent with its federal role,” recognizing that issues such as education are the
responsibility of state and local governments; (2) the United States will not accept
Convention obligations that restrict freedom of speech or expression; and (3) the
United States and other States Parties may decide the nature of the health and family
planning services referred to in the Convention, and may determine whether they are
“necessary” and “appropriate” to distribute. The proposed Clinton Administration
declarations included a “non-self-executing” provision, which proposed that no new
laws would be created as a result of Convention ratification, and a “dispute
settlement” provision, which stated that the United States was not bound by
Convention Article 29(1), which refers unresolved disputes to the International Court
The Bush Administration has stated that it supports the Convention’s goal of
eradicating discrimination against women on a global scale, but has several concerns
with the Convention itself.18 These concerns were outlined in 2002, when the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on potential ratification of the
Convention. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote a letter to the Foreign
Relations Committee stating that the Convention was under State and Justice
Departments review due to concerns regarding “the vagueness of the text of CEDAW
and the record of the official U.N. body [the CEDAW Committee] that reviews and
comments on the implementation.”19 In particular, the Administration cited
“controversial interpretations” of the CEDAW Committee’s recommendations to
States Parties.20 Powell’s letter specifically noted a Committee report on Belarus that
“questioned the celebration of mother’s day,”21 and a report on China that “called for
legalized prostitution.”22 The Administration stated that these positions are “contrary
to American law and sensibilities.”23
17 For detailed descriptions of the RUDs, see U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign
Relations, “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women,” Report, September 12, 1994. Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office
(Senate Exec. Rept. 103-38, 103d Congress, 2d Session), pp. 6-8.
18 “Statement by Ambassador Sichan Siv, U.S. Representative to the U.N. Economic and
Social Council,” U.S. Mission to the United Nations Press Release, October 30, 2003.
19 Letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell to Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 8, 2002.
20 Letter from Daniel J. Bryan, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, to
Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 26, 2002.
21 U.N. document, A/55/38(SUPP), p. 37, paragraph 361 (2000).
22 U.N. document, A/54/38/REV.1(SUPP), paragraphs 288-289, January 1, 1999.
23 Letter from Daniel J. Bryan to Senator Joseph Biden, July 26, 2002.
The Administration argued that the vagueness of the text opened the door for
broad interpretation by international and domestic entities, and contended that the
1994 RUDs did not address these interpretation issues. It also emphasized the
importance of ensuring the Convention would not conflict with U.S. constitutional
and statutory laws in areas typically controlled by the States.24 In light of these
concerns, the Administration urged the Foreign Relations Committee not to vote on
the Convention until a full review was complete. The review began in mid-April
2002. On February 7, 2007, the Administration transmitted a letter to the Senate
stating that it does not currently support the Senate taking action on the Convention.25
The Convention has been pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
for over 25 years. The Committee held hearings in 1988 and 1990, but did not vote
to recommend the Convention for advice and consent of the full Senate. With support
from the Clinton Administration, the Senate held another round of ratification
hearings in June 1994. The Committee reported the Convention favorably with a
vote of 13 to 5 in September 1994, but the 103rd Congress adjourned before it could
be brought to vote in the full Senate.26 The Republicans were elected as the majority
party in the 104th Congress, and the new Chairman of the Foreign Relations
Committee, Senator Jesse Helms, did not allow further consideration of the CEDAW.
In June 2002, under the Chairmanship of Senator Joseph Biden, the Foreign
Relations Committee once again held hearings on ratification of the Convention. The
Committee heard testimony from non-governmental organizations, individuals from
academia, public policy groups, and relevant agencies and organizations arguing for
and against ratification.27 On July 30, 2002, the Committee reported the Convention
favorably by a vote of 12 to 7, subject to four reservations, five understandings, and
two declarations.28 These included the nine RUDs recommended by the Clinton
Administration in 1994, plus two additional understandings. The additional
understandings included a proposal from Senator Jesse Helms which stated that
“nothing in this Convention shall be construed to reflect or create any right to
abortion and in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family
25 Letter from Jeffrey T. Bergner, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, to Senator
Joseph Biden, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, February 7, 2007.
26 For more information on the 1994 hearings, see U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on
Foreign Relations, “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women,” Report, September 12, 1994. Washington, DC, Government Printing Office
(Senate Exec. Rept. 103-38, 103d Congress, 2d Session).
27 Witnesses included Members of Congress, representatives from the World Family Policy
Center, the American Enterprise Institute, Business and Professional Women/USA, and the
former U.S. Representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.
28 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations, “Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,” Report, September 6, 2002. Washington,th
DC, Government Printing Office (Senate Exec. Rept. 107-9, 107 Congress, 2d Session),
planning.” They also included a 2002 understanding sponsored by Senator Biden
that stated, “the CEDAW Committee has no authority to compel parties to follow its
recommendations.” The 107th Congress adjourned before the Senate could vote on
In subsequent years, the House of Representatives continued to demonstrate an
interest in the Convention. On January 24, 2007, Representative Lynn Woolsey
introduced a resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that “the
Senate should ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women.” The resolution currently has 108 cosponsors.29
Representative Woolsey introduced similar legislation in the 109th, 108th, and 106th
Congresses, with 115, 104, and 122 cosponsors, respectively.30
Issues for Congress
This section addresses some policy issues that emerged in the ongoing debate
over U.S. ratification of the Convention. These issues may continue to play a role
in the debate if the Senate considers the Convention during the 110th Congress.31
The Effectiveness of the Convention
A major point of contention among supporters and opponents of ratification is
whether the Convention is an effective mechanism for addressing women’s rights
internationally. Proponents of the Convention, such as Representative Woolsey,
describe the Convention as a “powerful tool” for women globally, and emphasize that
the United States is the only industrialized country that has not ratified the
Convention.32 Advocates such as Senators Joseph Biden and Barbara Boxer argue
that the Convention empowers women to achieve equality in their own countries, and
cite specific examples of the Convention’s success in achieving its purpose.33 Some
29 H.Res. 101 [110th], introduced January 24, 2007, by Representative Lynn Woolsey,
referred to the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight
of the Foreign Affairs Committee on February 5, 2007.
30 H.Res. 67 [109th], introduced February 2, 2005; H.Res. 21 [108th], introduced January 7,
31 Under the U.S. Constitution, the President is responsible for making treaties with the
advice and consent of the Senate. Once the President transmits a treaty to the Senate, it is
referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. The House of Representatives plays a role
in the treaty process only when separate legislation to implement the treaty is required.
Thus, the issues for Congress discussed herein are issues that may be included in any
consideration of the Convention by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and/or the full
Senate. See Article II, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. More information on the treaty
process is available at [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/
32 Congressional Record, House of Representatives, June 16, 2005, H4612.
33 Senators Joseph Biden and Barbara Boxer, “Op-Ed: Senate Needs to Ratify the Treaty for
NGOs have also recorded the Convention’s effectiveness in improving women’s
rights in specific countries and regions.34
Opponents of ratification recognize that global discrimination against women
is a problem that should be eliminated, but they do not view the Convention as the
most effective way to achieve this goal. Some contend that the Convention hurts
rather than helps women struggling for human rights internationally. They argue that
the Convention “serves as a facade for continuing atrocities” in countries that are
State Parties to the Convention, such as China and North Korea.35 Some opponents
also contend that when considering treaty ratification, the Senate should act based on
the standard of what is best for the American people.36
The Convention as an Instrument for U.S. Foreign Policy
Congressional and non-congressional supporters of the Convention contend that
U.S. ratification will increase the credibility of the United States abroad and enhance
its ability to champion women’s rights in other countries.37 The 2002 Foreign
Relations Committee report stated that the United States should support ratification
because, among other things, it “will give our diplomats a tool — a means to press
other governments to fulfill their obligations under the Convention.”38 To illustrate
this point, some ratification supporters cite a June 12, 2002, letter to the Foreign
Relations Committee from Dr. Sima Samar, then-Afghan Minister of Women’s
Affairs. Dr. Samar asks the Senate to ratify the Convention, and says that “we will
the Rights of Women,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 13, 2002. Senators Biden and Boxer
described a Tanzanian woman who reportedly “used the provisions of the treaty to ensure
that she could sell land she inherited from her father, overcoming an initial court ruling
which held that, as a woman, she could not sell land held by the clan.”
34 For example, Amnesty International examples of the Convention successes can be found
35 Statement of Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald. U.S. Congress. Senate.
Committee on Foreign Relations, “Treaty Doc. 96-53; Convention on the Elimination of Allth
Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” Hearing, June 13, 2002. 107 Congress, 2d
Session. Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002, S.Hrg. 107-530, p. 15.
36 Additional Views of Senator Helms, Brownback, and Enzi. Statement of U.S. Congress.
Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations, “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women,” Report, September 6, 2002. Washington, DC, Governmentth
Printing Office (Senate Exec. Rept. 107-9, 107 Congress, 2d Session), p. 21.
37 Human Rights Watch stated in a June 13, 2002, letter to the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, “By ratifying CEDAW, the U.S. government will be in a stronger position to
support women’s rights.... Having not ratified CEDAW, U.S. intervention in support of
women’s rights may be construed as ‘cultural imperialism’ or an ‘American’ agenda, as
opposed to a rights-based approach.”
38 Committee Comments. U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations,
“Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” Report,
September 6, 2002. Washington, DC, Government Printing Office (Senate Exec. Rept. 107-th
then be able to tell our countrymen that the United States, where women already have
full legal rights, has just seen the need to ratify this treaty ... we will be able to refer
to its terms and guidelines in public debates over what our laws should say.”39
Opponents of this argument emphasize that the United States “has the strongest
record on opportunities and rights for women in the world,”40 and maintain the
United States does not need to ratify the Convention to further its women’s rights
policies. In the minority views of the 2002 Foreign Relations Committee report,
Senators Helms, Brownback, and Enzi stated that Afghan women were “relieved of
the burden of an oppressive, anti-woman government” by “the personal heroism and
sacrifice” of American forces, and not through a multilateral treaty such as CEDAW.
The Senate has engaged in considerable debate over the impact of CEDAW
ratification on U.S. sovereignty and international law. The minority views in the
2002 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report stated that the Convention
represents “a disturbing international trend” of favoring international law over U.S.
constitutional law and self-government, thereby undermining U.S. sovereignty. In
particular, they were concerned that the Convention’s description of discrimination
against women is too broad, and that it may “apply to private organizations and areas
of personal conduct not covered by U.S. law.” 41
Senators supporting the Convention maintain that ratification would not affect
U.S. sovereignty. Senator Biden stated that the Convention will impose a “minimal
burden” on the United States given that the U.S. Constitution and other existing
federal and state laws already meet the obligations of the Convention. He also
emphasized that the United States would file several RUDs to ensure that no new
laws were created to meet the obligations of the Convention.42
Some opponents of ratification are concerned that the Convention may catalyze
a pro-abortion movement in the United States and interfere with family rights such
as marriage and parenting. They contend that the Convention is an effort to “redefine43
the family,” and argue that CEDAW will “help lawyers and other pro-abortion
advocates reach the goal of enshrining unrestricted access to abortion in the United
39 Ibid, 6.
40 Ibid, 16.
41 Ibid, 16.
42 U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations, “Treaty Doc. 96-53;
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” Hearing,th
June 13, 2003. 107 Congress, 2d Session. Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing
Office, 2002, S.Hrg. 107-530, p. 3.
43 “Women for Faith and Family Statement on CEDAW,” May 25, 2000, available at
[ h t t p : / / www.wf -f .or g/ CEDAW .ht ml ] .
States.”44 Some opponents are particularly concerned with the Convention’s
references to “family planning,” and believe that U.S. ratification of the Convention
will, among other things, undercut parental rights, and lead to gender re-education,
homosexual rights, and legalized prostitution.45
In response to criticism that ratification may impact family planning or abortion
policy in the United States, some supporters emphasize that the word “abortion” is
never mentioned in the Convention text. They refer to a 1994 State Department
determination that the Convention is “abortion neutral,” and contend that several of
the RUDs proposed, such as the understandings on the CEDAW Committee and
abortion, adequately address the concerns of ratification opponents concerned with
family, abortion and family planning issues.46 Supporters of ratification also
emphasize that countries where abortion is illegal, such as Ireland and Rwanda, have
ratified the Convention.47
Administration Review of the Convention
Opponents of ratification object to Senate consideration of the Convention
without a full legal and policy review from the Administration. In 2002 some
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee argued that the Senate should
not consider the Convention without a new review from the State Department
because “eight years of U.S. federal and state jurisprudence,” had not yet been taken
into account.48 Senators representing the minority view recommended that the Senate
“defer action on the Convention until the Administration’s analysis and views are
available.”49 A timetable for the review, which began in April 2002, was not put
forward or agreed to at the hearing. On February 7, 2007, the State Department
transmitted a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
44 Additional Views of Senators Helms, Brownback, and Enzi. U.S. Congress. Senate.
Committee on Foreign Relations, “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women” Report, September 6, 2002. Washington, DC, Governmentth
Printing Office, (Senate Exec. Rept. 107-9, 107 Congress, 2d Session), p. 22.
45 The phrase “family planning” appears in the Introduction, Article 10(h), Article 12, and
Article 14(b) of the Convention.
46 “Myths and Realities: The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women,” The United Nations Association of the United States of
America, August 2002, available at [http://www.unausa.org/site/pp.asp?c=fvKRI8MPJpF&
47 “Letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Urging that CEDAW Move to the Full
Senate,” Human Rights Watch, July 29, 2002.
48 “Letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Urging that CEDAW Move to the Full
Senate,” Human Rights Watch, July 29, 2002, p. 20.
49 Minority Views of Senators Helms, Lugar, Hagel, Frist, Allen, Brownback, and Enzi. U.S.
Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations, “Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women,” Report, September 6, 2002. Washington, DC,th
Government Printing Office, (Senate Exec. Rept. 107-9, 107 Congress, 2d Session) p. 15.
identifying CEDAW as “a treaty on which the Administration does not support
Senate Action at this time.”50
50 Letter from Jeffrey T. Bergner, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, to Senator
Joseph Biden, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, February 7, 2007.
Table 1. States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
(as of February 15, 2008)
*ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol
Albania *GeorgiaPanama *
Algeria Germany *Papua New Guinea
Andorra *GhanaParaguay *
Angola * Greece *Peru *
Antigua and Barbuda *GrenadaPhilippines *
Argentina *Guatemala *Poland *
Armenia * GuineaPortugal *
Australia Guinea-BissauRepublic of Korea *
Austria *GuyanaRepublic of Moldova *
Azerbaijan *HaitiRomania *
BahamasHondurasRussian Federation *
Bangladesh *Iceland *Saint Kitts and Nevis
Belarus *IndonesiaSt. Vincent & the Grenadines
Belize *Ireland *San Marino *
Benin IsraelSao Tome and Principe
BhutanItaly *Saudi Arabia
Bolivia *JamaicaSenegal *
Bosnia & Herzegovina *JapanSerbia*
Brazil *Kazakhstan *Sierra Leone
Bulgaria *KiribatiSlovakia *
Burkina Faso *KuwaitSlovenia *
BurundiKyrgyzstan *Solomon Islands *
CambodiaLao Peoples Democratic Rep.South Africa *
Cameroon *LatviaSpain *
Canada *LebanonSri Lanka *
Cape VerdeLesotho *Suriname
Central African RepublicLiberiaSwaziland
ChadLibyan A. Jamahiriya *Sweden*
ChinaLithuania *Syrian Arab Republic
Colombia *Luxembourg *Tajikistan
Cook Islands *MadagascarThailand *
ComorosMalawiThe former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia *
Congo M alaysia Timor-Leste
Costa Rica *Maldives *Togo
Cote d’IvoireMali *Trinidad and Tobago
CubaMarshall IslandsTurkey *
Cyprus *Mauritania Turkmenistan
Czech Republic *MauritiusTuvalu
Democratic People’s Republic of KoreaMexico *Uganda
Democratic Republic of the Congo MicronesiaUkraine *
Denmark *MonacoUnited Arab Emirates
DjiboutiMongolia *United Kingdom *
DominicaMontenegro *United Republic of Tanzania *
Dominican Republic *MoroccoUruguay *
El SalvadorNamibia *Venezuela *
Equatorial GuineaNepal *Viet Nam
EstoniaNew Zealand *Zambia
Ethiop ia Ni caragua Zi mb abwe
Finland *Nigeria *
France *Norway *
Ga b o n O m a n