Women’s rights advocates are calling for concrete measures to increase women’s political participation in a US draft resolution that will be considered by the United Nations this month. The resolution is intended to highlight the need for more women in political office, but “for real change to occur, we have to move beyond rhetoric to reality,” according to June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).
WEDO proposes including in the resolution concrete, time-bound numerical goals of increasing women’s political participation. The group supports proportional representation, in which political parties are awarded legislative seats according to their percentage of the total vote. WEDO points out that the 14 countries with the most women in parliamentary seats use some kind of proportional representation or quota system, as opposed to the US, which ranks 60th globally in the number of women participating in the federal government.
After pressure from women’s rights groups, the Bush Administration has included a reference to CEDAW, the international women’s treaty, in the draft resolution. The US is the only industrialized nation that has not signed the treaty. “Here is a golden opportunity,” said Zeitlin. “With a snap of his fingers, President Bush could muster 67 votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to ratify CEDAW immediately. This would put some instant reality behind his rhetoric in support of women’s rights and some credibility behind US pressure on other countries to provide these rights.”
Along with WEDO, the Center for Women’s Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), and the Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC), the Feminist Majority released a scorecard grading the Bush Administration on its rhetoric on global women’s issues compared to the reality. Bush received an “Incomplete” on CEDAW. “The Bush Administration’s often-voiced commitment to women’s rights in Afghanistan and globally is undermined by their continued refusal to support CEDAW ratification,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.