Why Hasn't the US Ratified the UN Women's Rights Convention?

27 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 31 Aug 2011

Date Written: 2011


The Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international bill of rights for women that has set the standard achieving equality between men and women around the world. One hundred eighty six countries have ratified CEDAW since the United Nations' General Assembly approved it on December 18, 1979. Of all the UN treaties, only the Convention on the Rights of the Child boasts more signatories. Seven member-states of the United Nations have yet to ratify it: Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga - and the United States. This makes the US the only industrialized democracy in the world that has not ratified CEDAW. Why? Why hasn’t the US ratified CEDAW? What impact would CEDAW has in the US? While few Americans have even heard of this treaty, CEDAW has been on the American political agenda for the past thirty years. President Carter signed it in 1980 and since then Senate has held hearings on CEDAW ratification five times - in 1988, 1990, 1994, 2000 and 2010. Each time senators have failed to bring the ratification question to a vote on the Senate floor. The failure to ratify CEDAW surprises those who assume that the United States is a world leader when it comes to women’s rights. Three factors explain why the US has not ratified CEDAW: the institutional rules governing treaties in the US; partisan conflict over the United Nations and women’s rights between the Democratic and Republican parties; and changes in the geopolitical climate that have reshaped the standing of the US with regard to global leadership on women’s rights.

Keywords: United Nations, treaties, United States, women's rights, gender, CEDAW

Suggested Citation

Baldez, Lisa, Why Hasn't the US Ratified the UN Women's Rights Convention? (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900265

Lisa Baldez (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH
United States
603/646-0762 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~govt/faculty/baldez.html

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