The UN Women’s Treaty: The Case Against Ratification

In the late 1970s, a United Nations committee drafted a treaty called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW commits signatory nations to abolishing discrimination against women and also to ensuring their “full development and advancement” in all areas of public and private life. Since its submission to the UN’s member states in 1979 nearly every nation has ratified what has come to be known as the “Women’s Treaty” or the “Women’s Magna Carta.” The United States has held out until now with Jesse Helms being one of the biggest proponents against the bill in its implications to U.S. sovereignty. However, now that ratification has become a live prospect, there will be a real debate and actual votes—and public opinion, not just interest-group positioning, will come into play. Americans are clearly committed to helping women in the developing world: no nation on earth gives more to foreign aid or has more philanthropies and religious groups dedicated to women’s causes. Two basic questions will decide the matter. First, will ratification really improve the well-being of women throughout the world? Second, for better or worse, how will ratification affect American life?

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