by Emily J. Martin, Vice President, 
National Women's Law Center

The United States is one of only seven countries in the world that has not ratified the international women's rights treaty. The others? Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga—not inspiring company. It is past time for the United States to show global leadership in standing up for the rights of women and girls and ratify the treaty, called the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW.

What is CEDAW exactly? Like all human rights treaties, it is a blueprint for action that ratifying countries can take through their existing legal systems. Countries ratifying CEDAW commit to undertaking steps to end discrimination against women in all aspects of their lives—like those steps the United States has already taken by, for instance, prohibiting discrimination in employment and education.

CEDAW has made a real difference in the lives of women and girls around the world. The United States should have a seat at the table when the international community discusses how best to continue that progress, and work to end violence against women, stop trafficking, and promote access to educational opportunities for women and girls. Ratification also would create an important opportunity for continuing our national conversation about how best to overcome persistent barriers to women's progress here in the United States. By ratifying CEDAW, we would continue a proud tradition of advancing human rights both at home and around the world.

President Obama has time and again declared his support for women's advancement worldwide and has announced that ratification of CEDAW is an important priority for his administration. But the window of opportunity for CEDAW ratification is closing fast. The Senate must act now to ratify CEDAW—but it won’t do so unless the President makes clear that CEDAW matters to the White House. Tell President Obama that women and girls have waited long enough: we need CEDAW now.

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