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I attended the American Nurses Association (ANA) meeting as a delegate last June. One of my most vivid memories involves a delegate standing up at the general session and proposing that the ANA take on the U.S. Senate.
My mouth dropped open when this nurse described how ratification of what's been dubbed the "international bill of rights for women" has stalled in the United States. She wanted the ANA to push for U.S. ratification of the Treaty for the Rights of Women, which the United Nations adopted in 1979 as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Nations that ratify this treaty commit to recognizing and combating abuses and discrimination against women, including sex slavery, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and genital mutilation. Since 1979, 177 nations have ratified the treaty. The United States is one of only 17 nations that hasn't.
More than 190 American professional, religious, and civic organizations support U.S. ratification to strengthen CEDAW throughout the world. As a human rights leader, our country already has laws consistent with the treaty's principles, so why are we dragging our feet?
When I visited the CEDAW Web site, I learned that approval requires 67 votes in the Senate. The House of Representatives doesn't have to act and no U.S. laws would change. Since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12 to 7 for ratification in July 2002, the treaty has languished waiting for the Bush administration to complete a review. So the United States is in the company of Iran, Palau, Sudan, Oman, and other nations that haven't signed on.
As an educated woman with many freedoms, rights, and privileges, I'm embarrassed about my country's inaction on this issue. I urge you to join me in exploring the Web sites below to find details about the Treaty for the Rights of Women.
Three major articles beginning on page 42 of this issue of Nursing2004 explore abuse and how it devastates its victims. As nurses, we have the numbers, the passion, and the influence to help victims of abuse here at home. But we also need to be willing to stand up for women worldwide. Please think about contacting your senators and prompting them to act.
Cheryl L. Mee, RN,BC, CMSRN, MSN
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing 2004
CEDAW: Treaty for the Rights of Women: http://www.womenstreaty.org
United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/
Last accessed on September 1, 2004.
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