Senate Hearing on Women and the Arab Spring Movement Highlights Need for U.S. to Ratify Women’s Rights Treaty

A Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing this week on the role of women in the Arab Spring movement drew attention to the need for the United States to join with 187 other countries that have committed to advance and protect the rights of women by ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Advocates provided testimonyabout the positive role that CEDAW can play in the movements for democracy taking place in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and around the world.

“U.S. ratification would strengthen the efforts of activists for democracy and women’s equality throughout the Middle East,” said Mahnaz Afkhami, president of Women’s Leading Partnership, in her testimony. “Our partners in the region have made clear to us that U.S. ratification of CEDAW would reinforce their own efforts to fully institutionalize and implement the treaty provisions for gender equality within their national legislation and constitutional reforms.”

Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for the Office of Global Women’s Issues in the U.S. Department of State, also underscored the importance of CEDAW when addressing a question proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Barbara Boxer, D. Calif. “CEDAW is used as a prong to leverage women’s rights,” Verveer said. “Women will fall back on what these conventions mean to them, and it would be nice if we [the U.S.] stand with them.”

CEDAW is the most comprehensive women’s rights treaty and has been used around the world to ensure primary education for girls; to enable women to own and inherit property; to improve health care services, saving lives during pregnancy and childbirth; and to address domestic violence and human trafficking. As noted by Afkhami, the United States, typically a global leader on human rights, is only one of six countries that have not ratified the treaty.

The Leadership Conference is coordinating a campaign for U.S. ratification of CEDAW with partners and allies.