News & Events

Print/PDF this page:

Print Friendly and PDF

Share this page:

Prof. Harold Koh Testifies in front of Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Women's Convention

The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was passed by the General Assembly in 1979 and entered into force in 1981. Since that time, 169 nations have become parties to the treaty, leaving only nineteen UN member states that have not ratified it. The United States is one of those nineteen.

President Carter originally submitted the treaty to the Senate, and the Foreign Relations Committee approved CEDAW in 1994, but it has never been considered by the full Senate. On June 13, 2002, the Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), convened a hearing on the question, "Why Hasn't the United States Ratified the Treaty for the Rights of Women?" and asked Harold Hongju Koh, the Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, to testify.

Koh, a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, urged that the Senate ratify the CEDAW. The convention is essentially an "international bill of rights for women. The CEDAW simply affirms that women . . . have an inalienable right to live and work free of discrimination," said Koh. "Ratification would make an important global statement regarding the seriousness of our national commitment to these issues."

Koh analyzed several objections that have been raised to the treaty and found that they are largely "unfounded fears," as the treaty would not impose a burden on the U.S. government nor would it subvert national autonomy. "The violent human rights abuses we recently witnessed against women in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, and Rwanda painfully remind us of the need for all nations to join together to intensify efforts to protect women's rights as human rights," argued Koh.

To read Professor Koh's testimony, follow the link below.

Related Documents:
Prof. Harold Koh's Testimony