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India gang rape: Why US should ratify UN treaty on women's rights

The gang rape and death of a student in India, which has sparked protests there to change cultural views on women, should remind the United States why it’s high time to ratify the UN 'bill of rights' for women. American criticism of the treaty is based on misconceptions.

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Indian women march to mourn the death of a gang rape victim in New Delhi, India, Jan. 2. Op-ed contributor Jennifer Norris writes that monitors of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women urged India in 2007 to reform its laws relating to rape. 'Far from imposing radical agendas,' she writes, the convention 'has actually been an important source of...change for the advancement of women abroad.'

Dar Yasin/AP

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The gang rape and subsequent death of a university student in India, which has sparked protests there to change laws and cultural views on women, should remind the United States why it’s high time to ratify the United Nations “bill of rights” for women.

The US has demonstrated global leadership on women’s rights, but it has failed to ratify the seminal treaty on such rights – officially titled the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Only eight countries have failed to ratify the convention, leaving the US among Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.

The Obama administration must move with urgency to ensure that the convention is ratified and end this embarrassment.

The US was a primary drafter of the convention, and President Carter signed it in 1980, but it has lingered in the Senate for more than 30 years. Opponents argue that it proposes a radical feminist agenda that gives a right to abortion and legalizes prostitution.

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