The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a joint subcommittee hearing on Wednesday on Women and the Arab Spring. The issue of the U.S. failure to ratify CEDAW, the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was raised several times. Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), who co-chaired the hearing, and Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, both referred to the importance of US ratification of CEDAW while promoting women’s rights around the world.
In discussing the importance of women to successful transitions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, Ambassador Verveer said in her testimony “I believe that many women woke up with the Arab Spring, and they will not go back to sleep.” Manalu Omar, Director of Iraq, Iran, and North Africa Programs for the US Institute of Peace, told the Senators that women were a critical motivating factor in Libya, but expressed concern about what the liberation will mean for women who have had the right to vote in Libya since 1964.
Looking to the future and what role the US can play in protecting and advancing women at this crucial time of transition, Senator Boxer emphasized that the US needs to use whatever leverage it has, including foreign aid, to ensure women’s rights.
Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal attended the hearing along with other women’s rights and human rights leaders and stated following the hearing, “It is unconscionable that the US is in the company of Iran, Somalia and Sudan, who are among the handful of nations that have not ratified CEDAW and yet we are telling others the critical importance of advancing women’s rights.”