Unsex Cedaw, or What's Wrong with Women's Rights
Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 20
98 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2010 Last revised: 13 Feb 2012
Date Written: July 31, 2011
This Article argues that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (“CEDAW” or the “Convention”) has failed to create gender equality because its scope remains limited to women. CEDAW’s focus on women enshrines an understanding of sex as a binary of men/women with a perpetrator/victim relationship. Instead of focusing on “women” as part of a binary, CEDAW should seek to minimize the categories themselves. CEDAW’s very title is its mistaken diagnosis. Its focus on the category “women” reifies rather than undermines gender disparities. This Article argues that CEDAW should instead focus on the category of discrimination women face - sex (or gender) discrimination - rather than establishing women as its sole beneficiaries. By moving toward a focus on the broad category of discrimination, CEDAW would reflect the complexity of sex discrimination in which perpetrators and victims are not reduced to male and female. This binary distorts the reality of sex identity and portrays an inaccurate picture of sex discrimination. Men and other sexes should be central, along with women, to any rectification of sex discrimination. Using a category of discrimination, rather than the identitarian category of “women,” is imperative for the future of this crucial international treaty.
Keywords: International Law, Gender, Women, Sex, Sexuality, Discrimination, Equality
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