Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The U.S. hasn’t signed the world’s foremost women’s rights treaty. Activists have gotten local versions passed instead.

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Heidi Nichols Haddad reports in the Washington Post:

On International Women’s Day, how is the United States doing on women’s rights? That question could be answered in many ways, pointing to anything from Harvey Weinstein’s recent conviction for sexual assault to how a diverse Democratic field of presidential candidates narrowed to a race between two white men. But let’s look at a different, less celebrated arena: local governments. In the past several years, HonoluluCincinnatiPittsburghSan JoseBerkeley and the counties of Miami-Dade and Santa Clara have put binding gender equality laws on the books.

Turning to local government to get past national gridlock

These local laws are a direct answer to federal inaction on women’s rights. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would constitutionally enshrine equal rights regardless of sex, failed to win the necessary 38 state ratifications by the legislation’s 1982 expiration date.

Further, the United States is one of only six United Nations member states — and the only industrialized democracy — that hasn’t joined the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The other non-signatory countries are Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga.

The U.S. might ratify the ERA. What would change?

Dubbed the “international women’s bill of rights,” CEDAW represents the most comprehensive global consensus on promoting and protecting women’s rights and the associated obligations of both governments and private actors. President Jimmy Carter signed CEDAW in 1980. The Senate held hearings on CEDAW in 1988, 1990, 1994, 2002 and 2010, and twice reported favorably on it, but the treaty never reached the Senate floor for a vote.

U.S. policymakers have generally agreed with CEDAW’s goal of eliminating gender discrimination. But they clash, mostly along party lines, over its likely effect on the private lives of Americans. During the 2002 hearing on CEDAW, Republican Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) questioned why the United States would join a treaty that did not reduce women’s oppression in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. The activist groups Concerned Women for America and the National Right to Life Committee mobilized against CEDAW, seeing it as undermining traditional family roles and implicitly endorsing abortion.

Democratic senators countered with expert testimonies asserting CEDAW is “abortion neutral” and does not obligate governments to regulate gender roles and family structures. They also highlight United Nations and NGO studies demonstrating CEDAW’s efficacy in developing countries. In the 2010 hearing on CEDAW, Ambassador Melanne Verveer said U.S. CEDAW ratification was critical to the legitimacy of U.S. efforts “to promote and defend the rights of women across the globe.”

Local CEDAW ordinances are not just symbolic. They have a real effect.

Into this logjam stepped local activists. Two San Francisco-based women’s rights activists attended the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing — and decided to bring human rights directly to their city. Because of their work, San Francisco adopted the first-ever local CEDAW ordinance in 1998. Los Angeles followed suit in 2003.

These original CEDAW ordinances had two goals: . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

A local approach to women’s rights is not merely a strategic response to federal inaction. Local governments most closely touch everyday lives. Cities and counties provide critical services like education, policing and public health care; by applying a CEDAW analysis, they can examine whether they are serving women and men with equal effectiveness. They employ thousands of firefighters, teachers and municipal workers; a CEDAW analysis can help expose pay inequities. Cities and counties also have broad regulatory powers, governing everything from plastic bag bans to minimum wage laws — and can use those to correct gender imbalances.

My research on the implementation of the two longest-standing CEDAW ordinances demonstrates CEDAW ordinances have in fact advanced gender equality. In San Francisco, a CEDAW-related analysis of the Department of Public Works led the city to put in curb cuts to accommodate strollers and reconsider streetlight placement so women could feel safer walking at night. A major work-life policy survey, commissioned under the CEDAW ordinance, recommended city government implement flexible schedules and telecommuting, long before these became popular, to accommodate workers with families and other life demands. After reforming policies and expanding services for domestic violence survivors, the city went 44 months without a domestic violence homicide.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2020 at 10:30 am

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