CEDAW: US. Ratification and Local Implementation Efforts

The Need for U.S. Ratification:


CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, calls for the equal opportunity and equal access  for women and girls in all social arenas and outlines mechanisms for reporting abuses and measures that can be taken to ensure these rights are respected.  In 1980, President Carter signed CEDAW but in the intervening thirty years the US Senate has yet to ratify the treaty.   The US is one of six other countries that have failed to ratify CEDAW: Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Nauru, Palau and Tonga.

The Obama Administration and Secretary of State Clinton have made clear that the rights of women and girls are a central part of the State Department’s agenda.  Despite the emphasis placed on the rights of women and girls, US law lags behind and has significant gaps without the ratification of CEDAW and women and girls are deprived of a tool through which they can advance and protect their own rights.

For more information about the movement for U.S. ratification of the Treaty for the Rights of Women, please visit the CEDAW 2010 website of the CEDAW Taskforce of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Local Implementation Efforts:


Despite the failure to ratify the treaty nationally, local governments around the U.S. have adopted CEDAW resolutions, explicitly embracing the principles and protections evoked in the treaty and providing for its implementation at the local level.

The 1998 San Francisco CEDAW ordinance, which called for the implementation of the treaty on a local level, was the first of its kind.  The passage of the ordinance was the result of a close collaboration between the city and various non-government organizations and was followed by the establishment of a CEDAW taskforce and the development of a detailed five-year implementation plan with a focus on employment practices, service delivery, and recourse allocation. 
A component of the implementation plan involved the use of a gender analysis tool, which also considered factors such as race and ethnicity, age, immigration status, sexual orientation, and language, within various departments and by the city.   These assessments revealed de facto discrimination and serious gaps in services for women and girls.  Once these areas of need were identified and acknowledged, creative but practical solutions from the city and various departments followed.  Disaggregated data began to be collected and budgets were drafted only after an analysis of how resource allocations would impact the rights of women and girls and other groups.  

The San Francisco experience, while just one of many local implementation projects, highlights that successful implementation must be accompanied by resources, dedicated staff, a detailed plan with benchmarks, monitoring tools, and a close collaboration with civil society.

For more information about the San Francisco CEDAW ordinance, visit the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women.