U.S. Ratification of CEDAW: From Bad to Worse?
Stetson University College of Law
October 6, 2009
Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Forthcoming
Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2009-28
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Thirty years later, the U.S. has yet to ratify the Convention, let alone pass any of the necessary implementing legislation. Many scholars have propounded reasons why the United States should ratify this treaty, yet the question remains whether ratification would, in fact, accomplish anything at this late date. Some scholars propose that the U.S. should ratify the treaty for symbolic reasons, to help women everywhere. However, research shows that countries’ human rights records do not always coincide with their membership in human rights treaties. This article proposes the possibility that ratification of CEDAW could, in addition to not helping women in the U.S. or elsewhere, create problems in advancing women’s rights. Symbolic ratification of CEDAW, without full commitment to the treaty’s objects and purposes, could bring to an end any meaningful conversation about ongoing discrimination against women in the United States. Unless and until the U.S. internalizes the norms that are articulated in CEDAW, perhaps it is better if this country does not move forward with a hollow ratification that could prove to be worse than meaningless.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 47
Keywords: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW, women's convention, international human rights, women's rights, discrimination against women
JEL Classification: K10, K33
Date posted: October 6, 2009 ; Last revised: October 10, 2009