The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed yesterday’s scheduled vote on US ratification of the United Nations women’s rights treaty until Tuesday. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), the ranking Republican member of the committee, requested that the vote be delayed. “We look forward to the committee’s vote to approve this important treaty,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Due to the strong leadership of Chairman (Joseph) Biden (D-DE) and Sen. (Barbara) Boxer (D-CA), at last the women’s treaty will be out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in time for a Senate floor vote this fall.”
Ratified by 170 countries, the Convention for the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was drafted by the United Nations in 1979 to provide a standard for women’s equality and rights. The United States is the only industrialized nation that has not ratified the treaty, which means that our government is aligned with such nations as the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan. While the Bush administration told the Senate six months ago that CEDAW was “generally desirable and should be approved,” Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote the committee two weeks ago to say that the administration now feels that the treaty should be studied by the Justice Department and Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was an opponent of CEDAW when he was in the Senate.
Led by Biden and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the Senate committee held the first hearing in eight years on CEDAW last month. While a committee vote on the treaty was originally scheduled for last Thursday, an anonymous Republican Senator used a procedural tactic on the Senate floor to have that vote cancelled. This week’s vote was delayed per a Republican request. Tuesday’s vote is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the Senate Dirksen building.