The Senate Judiciary Committee recently debated whether the United States should ratify CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW guarantees a wide range of equal rights to women in areas such as employment, education and political representation.
Before stating why it’s imperative that the United States ratify this treaty, let’s admit what’s wrong with it: CEDAW’s focus on women’s rights is wrong in many respects. Even with gender equality as a goal, CEDAW’s efforts are limited by its focus on women. Its focus on women frames men and women as having a perpetrator/victim relationship. CEDAW’s goal of protecting women from discrimination in a variety of social, political, and economic settings presumes that men do not also suffer from sex stereotyping. It is this stereotyping that forces men into breadwinner roles as they take jobs that keep them from their families and put their lives at risk in mines or at war. Men are increasingly less educated than women – women currently constitute sixty percent of college students and soon will be two-thirds of higher education students. Furthermore CEDAW’s focus on women implies that there are two sexes, “men” and “women” when in fact there are increasingly large numbers of transgender and intersex people, as the controversy around South African runner Caster Semenya conveys. In short, CEDAW overlooks a huge source of gender inequality – this is what’s wrong with “women’s rights.”
And yet, I support CEDAW’s ratification. With regard to CEDAW’s focus, women’s rights, there are some claims to legitimacy. Many areas of society limit women’s participation – the Senate itself is emblematic of this problem. (read the rest of this post here)