The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)– is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. The CEDAW agreement was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and entered into force in 1981 The United States has long been recognized as a leading voice for women’s rights and human rights, but has failed to ratify CEDAW. The U.S. is one of only seven countries in the world that has failed to ratify this landmark international human rights agreement. The United States’ absence from this global consensus undermines both the ideals of opportunity and equality set out in CEDAW and our own position as a global leader standing up for women and girls.
The American public strongly supports the principles and values of equality, fairness, education, and basic human rights. In the United States, the CEDAW treaty has been voted on favorably twice on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (the Committee that typically reviews and votes on international treaties before they are considered by the full Senate), but the CEDAW treaty has never been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. Ratification of a treaty requires two-thirds of the Senate (67 out of 100 Senators) to vote for it.
CEDAW, unquestionably, embodies American values - fundamental to America’s national security interests and a cornerstone of our foreign policy. The ratification of this treaty will be a testament to the US commitment to promoting basic rights and open opportunities for women and girls around the globe. Most fundamentally, it recognizes that women’s rights are human rights, and that societies that empower women are prosperous, stable societies.
Human Rights for All
Recognizing Rights Promoting Progress
Global Resources and Opportunities for Women to Thrive Act (Growth Act)
Women are a vital part of the global economy and their share of the labor force is increasing all over the world. Women farmers produce 60-80% of the food in most developing countries - yet they tend to work in the lowest-paid sectors, have less stable incomes, work longer hours, have less education and training than men, and do not enjoy the same economic opportunities.
The GROWTH Act introduced in the 110th Congress (S. 2069 /H.R. 2965) was an innovative bill that would make the U.S. a leader in reducing poverty and promoting opportunities for women and families around the world. Through policy initiatives, it would have helped women start and grow their own businesses and attain land and property rights, increased women’s wages and improved working conditions. The Growth Act did not pass in the 110th Congress.
Senator Durbin reintroduced the Growth Act in the 111th Congress. S. 1425, but the legislation did not pass.
Economic Stimulus Package
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, which included $325 million in critical funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): $175 million dedicated for Stop Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program (STOP); $50 million for Transitional Housing; and $100 million for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund. Collectively, this money will create and sustain thousands of jobs for victim advocates and specialized law enforcement officers trained in issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Although the final number is $25 million less than what was originally passed by the Senate, it is still a victory in that the bulk of this critical money was preserved in spite of the economic crisis.
Read the entire bill
Public policies supporting women’s reproductive rights, ranging from comprehensive sex education to family planning, emergency contraception to abortion services, have been eroding over the last several years. JWI is strongly committed to reproductive choice and is working in coalition with secular and religious organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) to ensure that women’s reproductive rights are protected and strengthened. JWI, working with other national faith-based groups, created a transition document on reproductive rights for President Obama’s administration.
View the transition document.
Global Gag Rule Repealed
On January 23, 2009, President Obama repealed the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) which ended eight years of policies that blocked women’s access to basic health care worldwide. The Global Gag Rule required all foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that received federal funding to refrain from dispensing information, counseling and/or performing abortion services (except in cases of rape and incest) as a method of family planning in countries outside the United States. The highly controversial policy was called the “gag” rule because it stifled free speech and public debate on abortion-related issues. The rule forced foreign NGOs into the difficult decision to either accept U.S. funding for essential health services with restrictions that threaten the health and safety of patients, or reject the policy and lose vital U.S. funds.
Comprehensive Sex Education
Research shows that comprehensive sex education programs are effective in promoting abstinence along with other protective behaviors, whereas there is no empirical evidence to support that abstinence-only programs – which currently receive over $1.5 billion dollars in federal money – delay the onset of sexual activity among teens. Currently, no federal dollars are allocated for comprehensive sex education, despite studies that show this type of education would be more effective. This issue needs strong advocacy so our youth can be educated about their sexuality and reproductive health.
JWI strongly believes that comprehensive sex education programs are critical to ensure that teens are healthy and safe. JWI joined other national and faith-based organizations to endorse the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act (S. 972/H.R. 1653) in the 110th Congress to support responsible, comprehensive and medically accurate sex education in public schools, and to lobby on this important issue. In the 111th Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate re-introduced the bill, H.R. 463 and S. 21. JWI will continue to work with its national and faith-based partners to help ensure this legislation is passed.
Family planning reduces maternal deaths, deaths of infants and children, and unintended pregnancies; improves the health of mothers; and helps prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Ultimately, family planning can help conserve vital natural resources and minimize food insecurity.
Since January 2007, more than 3 million college students and hundreds of thousands of low-income women have lost access to affordable birth control because of a provision in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act (DRA), which unintentionally ceased access to low-cost drugs for college and university health centers and hundreds of safety-net providers. Many students and low-income women simply cannot afford birth control.
The House of Representatives introduced The Prevention Through Affordable Access Actof 2009 (H.R. 398), a bipartisan piece of legislation that will provide a no-cost technical fix to restore eligibility for college health centers and safety-net providers to obtain low-cost birth control. The Senate introduced the Prevention First Act (S.21), a bill to reduce unintended pregnancy, abortion and improve access to women’s health care, which also includes a provision to restore access to affordable birth control.
The Obama Administration rescinded a harmful Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that went into effect on January 20, 2009 in the final days of President Bush’s administration. The HHS rule, commonly referred to as the provider conscience regulation, was widely criticized as undermining patients’ access to vital health care services and information for a range of reproductive and other healthcare issues, including contraception, abortion services, treatments for infertility, depression, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, and more.
On February 27th 2009, the White House issued a notice to rescind the rule and on March 10th, 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulation that would rescind the rule.
More information and analysis about the Rescission Proposal.
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1913, would empower federal, state and local governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. The Act will address problems in the current hate crime legislation, expanding its protection to include all hate crimes – including those based on disability, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, the legislation would give the Department of Justice the authority to assist state and local jurisdictions in prosecuting violent hate crimes, or to take the lead in such prosecutions where local authorities are unwilling or unable to act.
HR 1913 has passed in the House of Representatives and is now being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
S. 909 Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevent Act is a related bill introduced by the Senate in April.