CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW)

UN CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
 
Welcome to the new CEDAW blog, where as the UNA-GP’s Legal Fellow and CEDAW researcher, I will be posting weekly updates on my research and on news and current events regarding the issues that the CEDAW treaty seeks to address. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women, according to the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The treaty contains a preamble and 30 separate articles, defines what constitutes discrimination against women, and sets up an agenda for nation states to act to end such discrimination. The United States, though initially a strong proponent of CEDAW and a key party in drafting the treaty, has not yet ratified it (and the only other countries which have not done so include: Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga). The goal of this blog is to provide information, spark debate, and generate interest at the local and national level for women’s rights issues and CEDAW ratification.
 
This past week, on November 25, the UN celebrated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Following this day will be 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, to end on December 10 (Human Rights Day), as a chance to mobilize and raise awareness for gender-based violence. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated in commemoration of the event: 
 
“Simply put, we must all do more to end violence against women in all its forms, wherever and whenever it occurs, and it starts by acknowledging it. There can be no conspiracy of silence. The sad truth is that one in three women will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. This violence knows no class, religious, or racial boundaries. And it comes at a terrible cost – not only for the woman or girl, but for families, communities, and entire countries. Preventing it is the only way to achieve a future of peace, stability, and prosperity.”
 
The CEDAW treaty does not contain a provision directly addressing violence against women. Yet Article 6 of the treaty, for instance, states, “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.” Violence against women includes both physical and sexual violence. According to UN statistics, about 120 million girls have been forced into intercourse or other sexual acts at some point in their lives; and 133 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation. 
 
It is often hard to imagine that in 2014, millions of girls and women around the world still experience widespread violence and gender-based discrimination without impunity. It is even harder to believe that the United States still has not stepped forward to ratify CEDAW and thereby cement its commitment to protecting women’s rights. The passage of the Violence Against Women Act was a strong step forward, but CEDAW ratification would signal to the world a true commitment to protecting women’s rights on an international scale. In the next few days until Human Rights Day, the focus on ending violence against women will enhance the focus on strengthening women’s rights as a whole. Stay tuned for other posts addressing such rights to follow. 
 
Watch remarks by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the Commemoration of the International Day to End Violence Against Women:
 

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