On July 30, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved, 12-7, a treaty on the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The vote came after the CEDAW treaty had been delayed for two weeks while Members debated whether the committee should wait until September when Ranking Member and CEDAW opponent Jesse Helms (R-NC) returns to the Senate after recovering from heart surgery.
Adopted by the U.N.’s General Assembly in 1979, CEDAW also is known as an international bill of rights for women. The treaty defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” Currently, 169 U.N. member states have ratified CEDAW. The United States is the only industrialized nation that has not ratified the treaty.
After the August recess, the CEDAW treaty is expected to reach the Senate floor and opponents of the treaty will then have the opportunity to debate and amend the treaty.