In response to American women’s human rights realities, Congress has proposed several legislative measures that echo the sentiment of women’s rights advocates. Both the House and Senate have proposed amending the language of Constitution to include equal rights not only for “men” but also “women” (H.J. RES. 31 and S.J. RES. 31). This is known as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
Written in 1923 by Alice Paul, a suffragist leader, the ERA simply states:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Congress has also moved to adopt H. RES. 20, which would ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW has been called the central human rights instrument for the realization of equality between men and women. To date 186 states are party to the convention—but not the United States.
In countries that have become a part of the convention, women have partnered with their governments to shape policies that create greater safety and opportunities for women and their families in areas such as educational opportunities, violence against women and girls, marriage and family relations impacting inheritance rights, and political participation.
As of yet, legislative measures associated with CEDAW have not come to the Senate floor for a full vote. If the Senate chooses to act boldly and answer the call of H.RES.20, the legislative body would be sending a strong message to the world about the United States’ stance on women’s rights.