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United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Ratify the Women's Rights Treaty

CEDAW defines discrimination against women and calls for action in education, employment, health care, law, politics, trade, and domestic relations. It is the most comprehensive international agreement seeking to support the advancement of women.  The Convention is being used in the nations that have ratified it as a tool to secure equal rights for women, such as in Kenya, where the national constitution lacks strong anti-discrimination provisions.  The Convention will also assist the United States as it supports human rights domestically and beyond our borders.


The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee needs to affirm this comprehensive human rights treaty for women by voting in favor of CEDAW. From there, a 2/3 majority vote (66 votes) of the full Senate is needed to ratify the treaty. The United States was very involved in drafting the text of the Convention and signed it, but due to conservative opposition, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has held it hostage for 22 years. Times have changed. The United States can no longer afford to act alone in the world; the CEDAW treaty will be an important resource for US foreign policy.

Optional Protocol Goes Into Force
The 21-article Optional Protocol on CEDAW allows women whose countries have ratified CEDAW to bring petitions of discrimination to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The protocol will serve women and their organizations when they have exhausted national remedies to gender discrimination. The Optional Protocol gives the Committee the right to investigate grave and/or systematic violations of women's rights. When the United States Senate takes serious consideration to the ratification of CEDAW, the Optional Protocol can also be considered.

Nations Supporting Women's Rights
Urge the United States to join the 170 nations that have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

UN Member Countries That Have Ratified: 2002 Update

Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus Republic, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi. 

Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France. 

Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgystan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, 

Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Maritius, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldavia, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda. 

Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Surinam, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Turkey. 

Uganda, Ukrainian Republic, United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe. 

UN member countries that have NOT ratified:
(* indicates signed, but not ratified) 

Europe and North America 
San Marino 
United States* 

Middle East 
Syrian Arab Republic 
United Arab Emirates 

Asia Pacific/Central Asia 
Brunei Darussalam 
Marshall Islands 

Sao Tome & Principe* 

Latin America/Caribbean 
(All nations have ratified.) 

Take Action

  • Urge CEDAW ratification by sending an e-mail to the President and the Secretary of State, as well as your senators.

  • Write your Senator and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Write the President & copy the Secretary of State. 

  • The Convention is currently in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  A favorable majority vote of this committee is needed to move the Convention onto the Senate floor, where it will need a two-thirds vote of the entire Senate. 

  • Please write your senator.  If your senator is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, your letter as a constituent is even more powerful. 

  • Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the 106th Congress are listed in the order of their seniority:

Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Delaware, Chairman 
Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland 
Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut 
John F. Kerry, Massachusetts 
Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin 
Paul Wellstone, Minnesota 
Barbara Boxer, California 
Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey 
Bill Nelson, Florida 
John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia 

Jesse Helms, North Carolina, Ranking Member 
Richard G. Lugar, Indiana 
Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island 
George Allen, Virginia 
Michael Enzi, Wyoming 
Bill Frist, Tennessee 
Chuck Hagel, Nebraska 
Gordon Smith, Oregon 
Sam Brownback, Kansas 

All members of the Senate may be contacted through their local offices or in care of: 
Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20510 

Send copies to: 
President George W. Bush 
The White House, Washington, DC 20500


Secretary of State Colin Powell 
Department of State, 7th Floor 
2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520 

What You Can Say 

  • I strongly support the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women which has been waiting for final action by the Senate for the last two Congresses.  It is high time that the US joined the other 168 nations which have ratified the Convention.

  • The bipartisan effort that led to the ratification of the Race Convention and the Torture Convention ought to be matched by a similar bipartisan effort to ban discrimination against women.

  • What the Convention does is ban discrimination, and ratification will help the US support the human rights of women around the world especially in places like Afghanistan where egregious violations are occurring.

  • Women around the world are using CEDAW in their own countries to protect their rights, such as in Kenya, where the Constitution lacks strong anti-discrimination positions.