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Abstract

Why did the United States fail to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women? This overarching question forms the basis of this paper and will be answered using an array of primary and secondary sources. This paper gleans most of its evidence from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings of 1994 and 2002, letters from both President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Congressional Research Service reports on CEDAW from 2013 and 2007, several Senators’ statements in the Congressional Record, Congressional testimony, and the text of the CEDAW treaty. This paper integrates these primary sources with secondary sources, citing legal analyses by former Attorney General Harold Hongju Koh, positions taken by lobby groups such as Amnesty International, the Heritage Foundation, and Concerned Women for America, the text, “Circle of Empowerment” by CEDAW Committee veteran Hannah-Beate Schopp-Schilling, and research on the legislative impact of CEDAW by Dutch legal analyst Rikki Holtmaat. This paper contends that CEDAW’s failure stemmed from:

1) the belief that U.S. women’s rights are already “covered,”

2) the convergence of federalism and inherent constitutional restrictions,

3) the belief that CEDAW will subvert American sovereignty, and,

4) distorted interpretations of the CEDAW Committee’s recommendations.