“Cities for CEDAW” Seeks To Adopt UN Women’s Treaty into Local Laws

By Wendy Wright | January 29, 2015

NEW YORK, January 30 (C-Fam) Frustrated by the U.S. Senate’s decades-long refusal to ratify the UN Women’s Treaty activists are now asking local governments to adopt the controversial treaty as a city ordinance.

“Cities for CEDAW” was launched last year to “bring the global local” by leapfrogging the federal government and embedding “international human rights principles” – as defined by UN officials – into domestic practices. The campaign hopes to get 98 cities to adopt CEDAW in time for the U.S. National Mayor’s Conference in San Francisco in June 2015.

“This mobilization of civic engagement for Mayoral action in 2015 should create conditions under which the U.S. senate will ratify CEDAW,” says campaign organizers.

Around since 1979, neither Democratic nor Republican majorities in the U.S. Senate have ratified the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Part of the resistance is the overreaching of the treaty monitoring body before which signatory governments must appear. Without authority or agreement, the CEDAW committee has rewritten whole swatches of the treaty with new understandings including a right to abortion.

The CEDAW Committee has directed scores of governments to liberalize their abortion laws.

Last June the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution encouraging cities to pass laws to apply the principles of CEDAW. It calls on local governments to use the international treaty as a standard to judge whether local policies and practices discriminate against women.

At the time, only two cities had adopted CEDAW: San Francisco and Los Angeles. Since then, only one more has gone along. Louisville, Kentucky, passed a non-binding “Resolution Supporting Cities for CEDAW Initiative” as a “first step toward adopting a future ordinance that would call for: a gender analysis of all Louisville Metro departments and commissions; the designation of an oversight body; and resources to support these actions.”

The Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice supported the resolution.

Right to Life groups opposed it, triggering a curious reaction. Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, the chief sponsor, denied the effort was associated with abortion – or about ratifying the treaty. “It’s in the title, for crying out loud,” responded Councilman Kevin Kramer. An amendment to take “CEDAW” out of the resolution’s name was defeated, The Courier-Journal reported.

Ivan Šimonović, a top UN human rights official, endorsed Cities for CEDAW, telling supporters last week the U.S. has “challenges in sexual and reproductive health,” a phrase often used for abortion, even though the U.S. has among the most liberal abortion laws in the world.

Sheila Katzman is leading efforts to get New York City to adopt CEDAW. The oversight committee is a “tremendous benefit,” she said. It allows citizens to bring complaints without going to court, and “we get to assess and determine” if a violation has occurred.

In August a conference in California will put together a tool kit for municipal leaders, said Gavin Newsom, former mayor of San Francisco.