What Impact Would CEDAW Have in the US?

23 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2012 Last revised: 26 Aug 2012

Date Written: 2012


The Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international bill of rights for women. CEDAW has set the standard for eliminating legal and cultural obstacles to the achievement of equality between men and women around the world. One hundred eighty seven countries have ratified CEDAW since the United Nations' General Assembly approved it on December 18, 1979. Seven member-states of the United Nations have yet to ratify it: Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tonga — and the United States. This makes the US the only industrialized democracy in the world that has not ratified CEDAW. What impact would CEDAW have in the United States? More precisely, what effect would CEDAW have on domestic women’s rights policy that is not possible, or less likely, otherwise? Activists on both sides of the debate make a series of claims about the impact of CEDAW. Advocates maintain that the Convention will strengthen US foreign policy but will have relatively little impact in the United States because American women already enjoy all the rights that CEDAW guarantees. Opponents, on the other hand, predict that dire consequences will ensue if the US ratifies CEDAW. I demonstrate that CEDAW could strengthen the rights that American women enjoy, especially in the area of violence against women. CEDAW guarantees women from protection from discrimination whether public or private actors cause the harm — but the American constitution does not protect US citizens from harm caused by private individuals.

Keywords: Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women, Equal Protection, Violence Against Women, CEDAW, women's rights

Suggested Citation

Baldez, Lisa, What Impact Would CEDAW Have in the US? (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2106667

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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