Geopolitics and Drafting the UN Treaty on Women’s Rights

43 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 24 Aug 2012

Date Written: 2012


Cold War battles between the United States and the Soviet Union had blocked progress on women’s rights, both at home and in the transnational arena, since the end of World War II. In the 1970s, a window for change opened up as the result of two major shifts, one domestic and the other geopolitical. Within the US, the emergence of the feminist movement led to strong bipartisan support for women’s rights legislation. The Democrats and Republican both supported ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, publically funded childcare, and family planning. Representatives from both parties participated in the committee that drafted CEDAW. Within the UN, developing countries formed a majority bloc that voted down the preferences of the United States and, often, the Soviet Union. The Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations supported women’s rights to capitalize on women’s electoral support at home, to strengthen their alliances with third world countries, to challenge the dominance of the Soviet Union on women’s rights, and to reassert leadership within the United Nations. The US supported two major UN initiatives for women — International Women’s Year and the drafting of CEDAW — as a way to press its advantage with regard to the Soviets.

Keywords: CEDAW, women's rights, human rights, United Nations, Cold War

Suggested Citation

Baldez, Lisa, Geopolitics and Drafting the UN Treaty on Women’s Rights (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Lisa Baldez (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College ( email )

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


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