WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)–After Fiji ratified a U.N. women’s rights treaty and began to adopt laws that mirrored its goals, good things began to happen politically for women.
The age for marriage for both men and women was raised to 18, finds a 2012 study commissioned by the World Bank. Divorce became easier to obtain and property was divided more equitably between men and women, measuring both financial and non-financial contributions to the family. Payments due after a divorce, such as alimony, became enforceable in law.
In Kenya, in 2005, a high court relied on the treaty to give daughters an equal right to family inheritance, which had been barred by law.
Women in many other countries have also benefited from the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW.
For girls and women in the United States–where gun violence, rape, sex harassment and domestic violence are all major problems –treaty approval is unlikely any time soon. That’s because the United States is one of only a handful of countries–including Iran, Somalia and Sudan–that hasn’t ratified the longstanding, U.N.-backed treaty, which is continually updated to strengthen human and civil rights for women.
U.S. presidents have given the treaty their backing. The Clinton and Carter administrations supported the treaty and in 2009 the Obama administration backed ratification. But for more than 30 years the U.S. Senate has refused to take the treaty to a vote.
In light of that, CEDAW backers are now turning to city governments to try to put pressure on the Senate.
At least 40 cities have expressed interest in putting in place their own version of CEDAW, says Karen Mulhauser, chair of the United Nations Association of the USA, which is pushing for ratification at the local level and by the U.S. Senate.