"Native Lives Matter" is displayed on a square as part of The Monument Quilt at the U.S. Capitol on December 7, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Opinion: International treaty can help protect indigenous women from violence

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is an international treaty aimed a protecting and promoting women's human rights. So why hasn't the United States, where Native women suffer from extremely high rates of violence, signed on? Professor Karen Melissa Hannel and researcher Eric Hannel, a former Congressional staffer, explain how the agreement can be implemented in America:
In 1979, the United Nation adopted the Treaty for the Rights of Women, also known as The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This treaty, Amnesty International explains, “provides an international standard for protecting and promoting women’s human rights.” Every nation in the world has ratified CEDAW, except for a very small few…less than 10, such as Iran, South Sudan, Somalia, and…the United States. For the record, the European Union recently renewed human rights-related sanctions against Iran, while both South Sudan and Somalia have remained in chaos as years of war have gripped both countries, respectively. While the United States signed CEDAW in 1980, it has not ratified it. In fact, it seems the issue has never even been presented to the full Senate for a vote.

While the treaty appears to be consistent with current U.S. laws, there are those who proclaim ratifying it would give the international community power over America; however, there is no truth to such an allegation and no such evidence has ever been provided to support it. Contrary to fear-mongers, CEDAW does not undermine the family, support abortion, mandate gender neutral textbooks, legalize prostitution or sanction same-sex marriage, all uninformed excuses presented to undermine CEDAW. In fact, the treaty has no bearing on these factors for Americans because it’s not self-executing, which means Congress must develop legislation that implements the treaty; therefore, any concerns about its implementation can be flushed out in the legislature where any “reservations, understandings and declarations” may be expressed. In other words, if some of the language of the treaty even appears confusing when compared to current federal laws or governing documents, it is clarified so that America is not adopting a provision that it cannot support.

CEDAW is not just a treaty pertaining to Native American women; rather, it supports the rights of all women by acknowledging an international standard of comprehensive rights across the spectrum of life socially, politically, economically and culturally.

Read More on the Story:
Karen Melissa Hannel & Eric Hannel: CEDAW and engaging the International Community in Confronting Violence Against US Women (Indian Country Media Network 8/3)

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