The CEDAW: How a Cold War Product Could Become a Key Instrument for Women's Rights in the Global Society
Women’s rights were controversial in the international arena at the early 20th century. Nowadays, women’s human rights and women’s empowerment have spread over the world. This process has been supported by the United Nations agenda for gender equality, the global women’s movements, the international public opinion, and Western powerful democratic countries. The CEDAW, and its Optional Protocol, is the most relevant legal instrument in this global trend. The CEDAW itself has a global dimension, since just a few countries have not already signed the document. Feminist movements all over the world use the CEDAW in order to put pressure on nation-states for the recognition of women’s rights.
In this paper we will analyze three aspects of the CEDAW from a global society perspective that can be useful to think about current and future strategies to face gender inequality in the 21st century. First, we will try to find out global and regional trends in the expansion of the CEDAW and its Optional Protocol in order to identify contagion effects, reference groups and followers. Second, we will focus on the role of the inter- and transnational women’s movements regarding the success of the CEDAW ratifications. Diverse considerations and uses of this document need to be seen in relation to the different “waves” of the transnational women’s movement and its ideological debates. And third, we will address the content and limits of this document since its approval in 1979. We will take into account the Cold War context – with emphasis in the shocking US refusal to sign the CEDAW – that shaped the document and we will set out current transnational women’s movements proposals to update our “international bill of rights”.