This document summarizes the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and describes the status of CEDAW in the United States, and describes CEDAW’s impact on several issues, including HIV/AIDS. It provides excellent insight into how CEDAW has been received by the federal government, and state and local government declarations with regard to CEDAW. It also specifically discusses the issues unique to women and HIV/AIDS and how CEDAW addresses these problems.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”), addresses women’s rights within the political, social, economic, cultural, and family life. It calls for state parties to overcome barriers of discrimination against women in areas of legal rights, education, employment, health care, politics, and finance, and sets benchmarks. Particularly relevant to HIV/AIDS issues are: the definition of discrimination against women (Article 1); a mandate that states condemn discrimination in all its forms and ensure a legal framework that provides protection and embodies the principle of equality (Article 2); mandate of the end of discrimination in employment, including the right to work, employment opportunities, equal renumeration, free choice of profession and employment, social security, and protection of health, including maternal health (Article 11); requirement of steps to eliminate discrimination in health care, including family planning access (Article 12); a focus on the unique problems that rural woman face in access to health care and adequate living conditions (Article 14); requirment of steps to ensure equality in marriage and family relations, including the right to freely determine the number and spacing of children (Article 16). Article 18 requires parties to submit reports periodically to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on measures they have taken to give effect to the Convention.
As a treaty, CEDAW is binding on all parties that ratify it; those who sign but do not ratify it are obligated not to act contrary to the purpose of the convention under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention. CEDAW also has an optional protocol that allows individuals to submit complaints to the Committee arguing that their rights have been violated by the state party, and which allows the Committee to investigate grave or systematic violations of CEDAW. Although the United States has signed CEDAW, it has failed to ratify it, placing it among a small minority of countries including Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.