[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 11, 1998]
[Pages 360-361]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Letter to Congressional Leaders on the Convention on the Elimination of 
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
March 11, 1998

Dear __________:
    I write to seek your support in obtaining Senate consent to the 
ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW is the most comprehensive 
and detailed international treaty developed to date relating to the 
rights of women. The United States actively participated in the drafting 
of CEDAW and signed the treaty in 1980. Although the Senate Foreign 
Relations Committee voted in favor of ratification in 1994, the Senate 
has not formally considered the treaty since that time.
    The rights of women are an issue of global importance--and one that 
is integral to our foreign policy. The success of any government depends 
ultimately on ensuring that all its citizens can participate fully in 
the decisions that affect their lives. Too many societies continue to 
shunt women to the sidelines, limiting their access to education, health 
care, and economic opportunity. Moreover, violence against women remains 
a widespread problem. I think you would agree that, as we enter the next 
century, we must address these issues. CEDAW provides us with an 
effective tool for doing so.
    I believe that the ratification of CEDAW is critical to our efforts 
to advance the status of women throughout the world. To date, 161 
countries have ratified CEDAW, including all our European allies and 
most of our important trading partners. The United States is one of the 
few countries that has not. This impedes our efforts to ensure that 
women everywhere are treated fairly and have the opportunity to achieve 
their full potential.
    As you know, U.S. state and federal law already provides strong 
protections for women and is largely consistent with the provisions of 
CEDAW. In 1994, the Administration submitted a detailed analysis of the 
consequences of CEDAW ratification for U.S. law. All concerns at that 
time were addressed by the small number of reservations, understandings, 
and declarations upon which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 
the State Department agreed. These include an explicit understanding 
that the treaty does not create a right to an abortion.
    Today, in celebration of International Women's Day, I am announcing 
that obtaining Senate advice and consent to the ratification of CEDAW is 
a top Administration priority during

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this session of Congress. I am also announcing my goal of having the 
full Senate act on CEDAW this year, which marks the 150th anniversary of 
the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York.
    I would very much like to have your support in ratifying CEDAW and 
look forward to working with you on this very important issue.

                                                      William J. Clinton

Note: Identical letters were sent to Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House 
of Representatives; Trent Lott, Senate majority leader; Thomas A. 
Daschle, Senate minority leader; and Jesse Helms, chairman, and Joseph 
R. Biden, Jr., ranking member, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. An 
original was not available for verification of the content of this