Honors Projects


Kasie DurkitFollow


In November of 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed what was one of the most comprehensive women’s rights treaties of its kind: the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Authored by United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women, “CEDAW” was designed to galvanize states to take all appropriate measures to modify existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against women. As of April of 2014, 187 world countries have signed and ratified CEDAW, thereby adopting many of its principles. Yet, the United States is one of only seven countries (including Iran and Sudan no less) not to ratify the treaty.

Thus, this paper explores what factors have contributed to the United States’ non-ratification of CEDAW. Was it the United States' long history of dubiousness towards multi-lateral treaties and American Sovereignty, or was it because political leaders believed the US was already a shining example of equality towards women? Was it federalism that killed CEDAW, or perhaps the US’ disagreement with the CEDAW committee's recommendations for change? In fact, this paper argues that it was all four of these factors that brought CEDAW to its knees in the US, and have effectively buried it for 34 years in the US Senate. Further yet, this paper helps to illustrate why the US needs CEDAW, and contributes to a body of work that sheds light on why the US is NOT number one anymore—and certainly not number one in terms of women’s empowerment and equity.



First Advisor

Benjamin Greene

First Advisor Department


Second Advisor

Melissa Miller

Second Advisor Department

Political Science

Third Advisor

Neil Englehart

Third Advisor Department

Political Science

Publication Date

Spring 2014