The U.S. was active in drafting the Convention and signed it on July 17,1980. It was transmitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in November, 1980. In the summer of 1990, the Committee held hearings on the Convention. At that time, the State Department testified that it had not prepared a legal analysis of the convention to determine how it comports with U.S. law.
In the Spring of 1993, sixty-eight senators signed a letter to President Clinton, asking him to take the necessary steps to ratify the Women’s Convention. In June of 1993, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna that the Administration would move on the Women’s convention and other human rights treaties.
In September 1994, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported out favorably on the Convention, by a vote of 13 to 5 (with one abstention). Unfortunately, this occurred in the last days of the Congressional session, when several senators put a hold on the Convention, thereby blocking it from the Senate floor during the 103rd Congress. When the new Senate convened in January 1995, the Convention was submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations committee for action, where it remained at the end of the 104th Congress in October 1996.
On March 8, 1999, International Women’s Day, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) , Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, made a statement on the Senate Floor expressing his deep concerns over the increased efforts to bring CEDAW to a hearing and eventual ratification.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), on April 12, 2000, introduced S. Res. 286 in support of CEDAW. S. Res. 286 expresses the sense of the Senate that the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations should hold hearings and the Senate should act on CEDAW by July 19, 2000.
The U.S. has put four reservations, three understandings, and two declarations on the Convention (see “Glossary” for full explanation of these terms). The reservations state that the U.S. is not obligated to any of the following: “Assigning” women to all units of military service (though women are free to participate in any), mandating paid maternity leave (article 11-2-b), legislating equality in the private sector (articles 2,3,5), and ensuring comparable worth(equal pay for work of equal value). The understandings say that the state and federal implementations will be made according to the appropriate jurisdiction, that no restrictions will be made to the freedom of speech, expression, or association under the Convention (articles 5,7,8, 13), and that any free health services to benefit women will be determined by states and not automatically mandated by U.S. ratification of CEDAW(article 12). The declarations made are that the convention is “non self-executing,” and that disputes on the interpretation of the Convention will be handled on a “case-by-case” (articles 29-2, 29-1).
The Convention needs 2/3 of the votes, or 67 “yes” votes, for the Senate to consent to ratification. Action by the House of Representatives is not required for ratification to international treaties. To date, five states, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and South Dakota, have endorsed U. S. Ratification in their state legislatures.
Sources: “Action Alert” Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs 122 C Street, NW, Suite 125 Washington, DC 20001-2172 National Committee on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (fact sheet). 520 N. Camden Drive Beverly Hills, CA 90210-3202 Grassroots organizing packets can be obtained through: National Committee on U. N./CEDAW Billie Heller, Chair, UN/CEDAW 520 N. Camden Drive Beverly Hills, CA 90210-3202 (310)271-8087 The Working Group on the Women’s Human Rights Treaty Pat Rengel, Amnesty International, U.S.A., (202) 675-8577 Kit Cosby, Bahais of the U.S., (202) 833-8990