USICD Submits Written Testimony for Senate Hearing

November 18, 2010

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law

224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510


Honorable Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Coburn, and Members of the Subcommittee:

The United States International Council on Disabilities, a nonprofit membership organization with a mission to direct U.S. foreign policy and foreign assistance programs to include the rights and concerns of people with disabilities and to bridge the American disability community with the global disability movement, is pleased to submit this statement to support the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

In too many countries, fewer girls than boys attend school, fewer women than men participate in the legislative process, and women still struggle for economic equity. These challenges are further compounded for women and girls with disabilities.  Women and girls with disabilities are more often the victims of educational and employment discrimination, domestic violence, and rape as a weapon of war.  According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the literacy rate for people with disabilities is 3%, with the literacy rate for women and girls with disabilities as low as 1%.[1] In Europe, North America and Australia, over half of women with disabilities have experienced physical abuse, compared to one-third of non-disabled women.[2]  The intersection of gender and disability-related discrimination twice marginalizes and twice excludes women and girls with disabilities from full participation or even basic recognition in society.  CEDAW adds an important tool to the legal arsenal to raise the visibility of women and girls with disabilities and thereby erode the systemic and attitudinal barriers we encounter. 

The United States has long been recognized as a leading voice for human rights, and our role in the recognition and promotion of disability and women's rights at home has been historic.  Our passage of disability rights laws, for instance, catalyzed countries around the world to enact similar laws, and our leadership on human rights inspires others to follow suit.  Our failure to ratify landmark human rights treaties such as CEDAW is especially troubling when we are often in the company of only a few "rogue" states that have not ratified.  In the case of CEDAW, the U.S. joins only six countries that have not ratified the treaty:  Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and three small Pacific Islands.  The United States’ absence from this global consensus undermines both American ideals of opportunity and equality and our own position as a global leader in standing up for human rights and human dignity for all.  Our ratification of major international human rights agreements such as CEDAW recommits us to living our values at home and lending our global voice and leadership to the benefit of women and girls around the world, especially those with disabilities who remain largely invisible.

The marginalization of 50% of the world's population, and the exclusion of women and girls with disabilities, reflects a world that will not progress.  Ratification of CEDAW would reinforce the United States’ unequivocal commitment to all women’s progress at home and around the world and highlight the importance of ensuring non-discrimination and equal opportunities for women and girls with disabilities.  The Senate should vote to continue cultivating a culture of human rights at home and abroad, and thereby support CEDAW ratification.                                                    


On behalf of the Council,

Marca Bristo, President
U.S. International Council on Disabilities



[1] USAID Women in Development. Available at wid/gender/wwd_statistics.html.  Last visited 11/16/2010.

[2] United Nations Secretary General’s Campaign.  Available at  Last visited 11/16/2010.