The Role of the United States

The United States was active in drafting the Treaty for the Rights of Women. President Carter signed the Treaty on July 17, 1980, and it was sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in November 1980 for a vote on ratification. A decade later, in the summer of 1990, the committee held hearings on the Treaty. In the spring of 1993, 68 senators signed a letter to President Clinton asking him to take the necessary steps to ratify the Treaty.

In June 1993, Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna that the Clinton Administration would pursue the Treaty for the Rights of Women and other human rights treaties. In September 1994, the Treaty was reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) favorably with a bipartisan vote of 13 to 5, with one abstention. This vote occurred in the last days of the Congressional session and the Senate adjourned before any Senate action could be taken.

When the Senate, under new Republican leadership, convened in January 1995, the Treaty reverted back to the SFRC where no action was taken. Momentum for the Treaty grew in 2002 under the leadership of Sens. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). The Treaty was voted favorably out of the SFRC by a bipartisan vote of 12 to 7 on July 30, 2002. However, an overcrowded fall session prevented the Treaty from being considered by the full Senate.

Senate rules required that the Treaty revert back to the committee in the next Congress. The new SFRC committee chairman, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), indicated that he would wait for a signal from the Bush Administration before he would take action on the Treaty. No action has been taken on the Treaty since 2002. In February 2007, the State Department notified the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the CEDAW Treaty for the Rights of Women was among the "treaties currently on the committee's calendar on which the administration does not support Senate action at this time."

Click here for a list of the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Local and State Support

With U.S. Senate action stalled for so many years, momentum for ratification has grown in states and counties. To date, legislatures in 12 states and territories have endorsed U.S. ratification: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Guam, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Connecticut and Wisconsin Senates and the House of Representatives in Florida, South Dakota and West Virginia also have endorsed U.S. ratification. Nineteen counties have endorsed U.S. ratification: Alachua Co., FL, Cook Co., IL, Cuyahoga Co., OH, Dade Co., FL, Dane Co., WI, Fayette/Lexington Co., KY, Jefferson County Fiscal Court, KY, Los Angeles Co., CA, Marin Co., CA, Milwaukee Co., WI, Monterrey Co., CA, San Francisco Co., CA, San Mateo Co., CA, Santa Barbara Co., CA, Santa Clara Co., CA, Santa Cruz Co., CA, Sonoma Co., CA, Spokane Co., WA and Ventura Co., CA.