January 27, 2003

S.A. Passes Gender Equality Resolution

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The Student Assembly (S.A.) last Thursday joined 160 countries in passing a resolution calling for the end of discrimination against women.

The Convention on Eliminating Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a sort of international treaty that details a women’s bill of rights, was initially adopted by the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly in 1979.

Over 160 countries have ratified the CEDAW, which, according to the U.N.’s Division for the Advancement of Women Web site, “defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.”

Countries that accept the Convention commit themselves to promoting legal gender equality, outlawing discrimination against women and establishing institutional legal measures to protect women, according to the Web site.

“The U.S. is the only industrialized country that has not ratified the treaty,” said Max Eisenburger ’05, president of Cornell Amnesty International. Eisenburger, who drafted the S.A.’s resolution, was the main catalyst in getting it introduced and passed.

“The goal, primarily, was to raise awareness on campus, to politicize the campus, because a lot of people don’t know that the U.S. didn’t ratify [CEDAW],” Eisenburger said.

The S.A. had several motivations for its resolution.

“First, and foremost the Student Assembly is bringing public light to an issue that is long overdue — the ratification by the United States of the United Nation’s treaty. Our passage will hopefully spark debate and encourage other campus leaders from around the country to pass similar resolutions,” said S.A. President Noah Doyle ’03.

In order for the U.S. to ratify the Convention, it will have to be passed by the Senate. Although the international treaty has existed since 1979, it has only come up for discussion in the full Senate once in 1994.

Last year, the CEDAW passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the second time, and it is expected to be up for vote again in early 2003.

“When [ratification of the treaty] was up for vote in 1994, it was near the end of the session, and a small group of Republicans stonewalled the treaty by filibustering,” Eisenburger said.

Major American proponents of the treaty, such as Amnesty International and the National Organization of Women, are pressuring liberal Senators to make sure the treaty is passed the next time it comes up for a vote.

In addition to raising awareness on campus about the issue, Cornell Amnesty International and the S.A. created the resolution to “urge the Senate, especially Senators Clinton and Schumer (D-N.Y.), to advocate for the treaty to be introduced, discussed and ultimately passed,” Eisenburger said.

Erica Kagan ’05, LGBQT liaison to the S.A. and chair of the Assembly’s committee on women’s issues, added that the S.A. intends to “get the other university assemblies to pass [the resolution] — and in the next few weeks, bring it to our senators.”

Additionally, “a copy of this resolution will be sent to President Rawlings. We encourage President Rawlings to join us in support of this resolution and hope our President will encourage Cornell’s Government Affairs Department to lobby our elected representatives in support of CEDAW’s passage,” Doyle said.

Kagan and the women’s committee worked with Eisenburger to ensure that the resolution was passed by the S.A.

“The agenda of the women’s committee is based on whatever people want us to do,” Kagan said. “As a relatively new committee [this resolution] is an awesome thing to start the committee off with.”

Many students said they appreciate the S.A.’s action in its role of representing students.

“I think the Student Assembly is making an important statement to our senators. It is important to have this resolution passed because discrimination is a big part of our society. It doesn’t make sense that we are the only industrialized country that hasn’t passed it, putting us in ranks with Iran and Somalia,” said Asmi Shah ’05. “Even though there have been a lot of improvements in women’s rights in the last 100 years or so, things still aren’t where they need to be and the Senate needs to recognize and acknowledge this.”

Although Erica Frank ’03 said she felt that it is important for the U.S. to ratify the treaty, she said, “I think it’s a nice thing to do but I don’t really think that it can have much of an effect. I also think it would be nicer if the S.A. worried more about what’s going on at Cornell.”

Archived article by Aliza Wasserman