Monday, December 10, 2012

The U.S. Lags Behind in Ratification of Human Rights Convention

Happy International Human Rights Day! December 10 was chosen to honor the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. According to the UDHR, human rights are indivisible and inalienable, and encompass three categories: 1) civil and political rights, 2) economic, social, and cultural rights, and 3) rights that extend beyond the confines of a country and an urge for all countries who have signed the UDHR to mutually safeguard these rights for each other.

Eleanor Roosevelt and the UDHR

This morning, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, released a press statement celebrating the important of human rights and also reiterating the United States’ priority commitment to protect human rights for both its citizens and those abroad. “Human rights cannot be disconnected from other priorities,” she wrote. The U.S. is no doubt in a privileged position, with both political power and technical knowledge that allows it to contribute to far-reaching human rights work. Our nation seems to excel in the open discussions of many human rights issues and does not have as serious of human rights violations as some other countries. Isn’t it uncanny then, that the U.S. has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)?

The U.S. is among one of seven countries who have yet to ratify the CEDAW, placing it alongside Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga. It is also the other country besides Somalia who has not ratified the CRC to this day, although it has ratified two provisions: 1) prohibiting the involvement of children in armed conflicts, and 2) prohibiting the sale, prostitution, and pornography of children.

Both the CEDAW and CRC are crucial in protecting the freedoms of children. The CEDAW promotes equality for women in the legal system, in political and public life, in access to education, in the right to equal pay, in the right to enter marriage, in the right to maternity leave. It protects women from discrimination linked to parental responsibilities and places women on the equal footing as men to enjoy human rights. The CRC protects children from neglect, abuse, exploitation, sexual abuse, underage labor, and deprivation of a national identity, healthcare, and education. It even calls for pre-and post-natal care for mothers, and seeks to ensure that children have adequate living standards that are conducive to their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development.

There are several reasons for why the U.S. has not reached ratification of both of these long-overdue treaties. Opposition to the CEDAW comes from the contentious debate on women’s rights in the U.S. with regards to family planning, reproductive rights, and gender equality. Some of the same individuals and organizations that protest adoption of the CRC fear that parental rights to raise children at each parent’s discretion and traditional family structures will be undermined. However, the CRC does emphasize the importance of family involvement and guidance in nurturing the child.

It has been 31 years since the CEDAW and 12 years since the CRC went into force. The women and children of the U.S. have been waiting to have their rights. The people of the U.S. have a responsibility to recognize them and do them justice by serving them as equal human beings. 

Esther Liew
AATOP program development intern

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