February marks the beginning of the season of commission meetings at the United Nations in New York, where the Commission for Social Development wrapped up last week and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is just beginning.
Delegates to the Commission for Social Development discussed the lofty goal of poverty eradication as their priority theme and debated the effectiveness of social protection schemes in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The CSW, typically a forum for international feminist frenzy, is poised to discuss the priority theme of “access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.” The U.S. delegation to CSW this year includes actress Geena Davis, Google’s Megan Smith, and Melanne Verveer, the new Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
Meanwhile, the year’s first meetings of several committees began in Geneva, where the “experts” who sit on various treaty monitoring bodies reviewed several countries’ compliance with some of the U.N.’s human rights treaties. These included meetings of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women—the treaty body that focuses on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)—which concluded its 48th session in Geneva with its review of Bangladesh, Belarus, Israel, Kenya, Lichtenstein, South Africa, and Sri Lanka.
After each submitting reports to the committee, delegations from these seven countries answered questions from committee members and received heavy-handed recommendations on how to better fulfill their obligations under CEDAW. This session was no different from the CEDAW committee’s usual fare, with recommendations urging countries to decriminalize abortion (Kenya), expand legal protections for same-sex couples (Sri Lanka), increase access to affordable family planning and contraceptive services (Bangladesh), and combat traditional gender stereotypes (Belarus). Each meeting of the CEDAW committee continues to provide additional illustrations of why the U.S. should steer clear of ratifying CEDAW.
U.S. advocates of the controversial CEDAW treaty have spent decades claiming that women are underrepresented in certain academic and professional fields as a result of gender discrimination and have successfully lobbied for a slew of legal and policy remedies (including Title IX programs) to their much hyperbolized grievances. Finally, a recent paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences evaluated 20 years worth of data and concluded that women are, in fact, treated equally—if not better—when interviewing for a job, receiving funding, or publishing papers in the United States.
There is some speculation that the Obama Administration will push for the Senate to ratify CEDAW this year. One hopes that reason and evidence prevail and that the U.S. Senate maintains its opposition to making the U.S. a party to CEDAW.