From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopal Church urges Senate to sign UN convention

Date Fri, 7 Dec 2001 11:45:17 -0500 (EST)


Episcopal Church urges Senate to sign UN convention on discrimination against 

by Jan Nunley

     (ENS) The Episcopal Church has joined about 60 signers to an open letter to 
the US Senate asking for ratification of the United Nation's Convention on the 
Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

     The UN adopted CEDAW in 1979, calling on all countries to end discrimination 
against women in politics, law, employment, education, health care, commercial 
transactions and domestic relations. The United States is the only industrialized 
country that has not yet ratified CEDAW. 

     The State Department cleared CEDAW in 1994, referring it to the Senate for 
ratification, but Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), chairman of the Foreign Relations 
Committee, declined to schedule hearings on the matter. Helms has announced he 
will retire at the end of his term in 2003.

     The 1991 Phoenix General Convention supported CEDAW and "deplore(d) the 
continued failure of the U.S. Congress to ratify this simple (UN) statement of 
the humanity of women." An Executive Council resolution in November of 1996 
called on the United States government to advocate for the women of Afghanistan 
specifically by "asking that the provision of the United Nations convention to 
Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the United Nations Fourth 
World Conference on Women's Platform for Action be honored by the Taliban 

     The text of the letter follows:

     December 6, 2001

     An Open Letter to the Senate:

     As the world observes International Human Rights Day on December 10, we join 
together to ask the Senate to take a step for the promotion of human rights of 
women worldwide and the women of Afghanistan by ratifying the United Nations 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 

     December 18 marks the 22nd anniversary of the United Nations' unanimous 
adoption of CEDAW. This treaty provides a universal standard for women's human 
rights. It addresses discrimination in areas such as education, employment, 
marriage and family relations, health care and reproductive health, politics, 
finance and law. To date, 168 countries have ratified CEDAW. The United States is 
the only industrialized nation that has failed to do so, and as such is in the 
company of countries such as Iran and Afghanistan. 

     In the last several months, the world has seen an even greater struggle for 
freedom and the promotion of fundamental human rights principles. We see the 
protection of women's rights as vital to the success of these efforts. There can 
be no civil society in Afghanistan without the full restoration of women's 
rights. CEDAW is critical to ensuring that the future of Afghanistan will have a 
democratic government that includes equal rights for women and protects the human 
rights and freedoms of all its citizens. 

     As President George W. Bush proclaimed earlier this year, "Repressed people 
around the world must know this about the United States... We will always be the 
world's leader in support of human rights." The United States should demonstrate 
its commitment to human rights by ratifying CEDAW, the most comprehensive treaty 
ensuring the human rights of women - imperative for half of the world's 

     In 1992, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of 
communism, the United States ratified the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights (ICCPR). In doing so, the U.S. held up that treaty as a model 
for the new democracies in Eastern Europe and the development of their 
constitutions. Today, U.S. ratification of CEDAW would not only set the stage for 
U.S. leadership in ensuring women's human rights in the rebuilding of a more 
democratic Central Asia, but would also reaffirm the U.S. commitment to promoting
and protecting equality for its own citizens.

     We urge you to work to ensure immediate ratification of CEDAW.

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