An Open Letter to the Senate

From the Working Group on Ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

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 (CEDAW).

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 population.

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.


Alice Paul Centennial Foundation, Inc.
American Association of University Women
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Amnesty International USA
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
Business Professional Women
Business Professional Women, USA
Campaign for UN Reform
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
Center for Reproductive Rights
Center for Women’s Policy
Center of Concern
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Church Women United
Clearing House on Women’s Issues
Congregational Council Member Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Episcopal Church, USA
Family Violence Prevention Fund
Feminist Majority Foundation
Foundation for International Community Assistance
Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN
General Federation of Women’s Clubs
Heifer Project International
Hunger Project
Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament of Corpus Christie, Texas
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Marstellar & Associates, Non-Profit Coaching
McAuley Institute
Mennonite Central Committee US, Washington Office
National Abortion Federation
National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health
National Association of Orthopedic Nurses
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Committee on UN CEDAW
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Women’s Organizations
National Education Association
National Network to End Domestic Violence
National Organization for Women
National Peace Foundation
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States
National Women’s Conference
NCA Union Retirees
NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund
Older Women’s League (OWL)
Pact, Inc.
Peace and Justice Coordinating Council, Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph
Population Action International
Population Institute
Stop Family Violence
The Alan Guttmacher Institute
The American Friends Service Committee
The Brehan Law Society
The Leadership Team of Sisters of the Holy Cross
The Union Institute
The White House Project/Women’s Leadership Fund
The Women’s Information Network (WIN)
Trickle Up Program
U.S. Committee for UNIFEM
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Unitarian Universalists Service Committee
Ursuline Convent of the Sacred Heart
Voters for Choice
Women Employed
Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
Women of Reform Judaism
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)
Women’s Business Development Center
Women’s EDGE
Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom United States Section (WILPF)
Women Legislator’s Lobby (WiLL)
Women’s Research & Education Institute (WREI)
World Federalist Association
YWCA of the USA