Here's rare good news, rare indeed these days, about a truly worthwhile piece of new legislation that's about to be born in the City of Berkeley. The City Council will give the final YES on women's human rights becoming law in Berkeley this Tuesday 31 January 2012, when it formally approves the passage into Berkeley law of the safeguards and protections of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW-related legislation is already in force in the city across the Bay; San Francisco was the first city in the US to establish new law based on CEDAW principles, making Berkeley the second city in the US to be taking this historic step.
What this new law will offer is a well-recognized and globally-respected set of enforceable guidelines already in force in 187 United Nations members countries that have ratified CEDAW. While the US has not yet ratified the treaty, despite great efforts over the years by Senator Barbara Boxer and then-Senator Joe Biden to bring the US to the CEDAW sign-up table in the Senate, the Berkeley Municipal Code will (to quote the Berkeley language) "promote equal access to and equity in health care, economic development, educational opportunities, and employment for women." (See Chapter 13.20 of the Berkeley Municipal Code; www.ci.berkeley.ca.gov). At least as important, the new law will also address the terrible "continuing and critical problem of violence against women." Making the new law actually bring about improvements to women's and girls' lives will take the combined efforts of a wide range of well-informed women's rights grass-roots activists, lawyers, faith groups, medical practitioners, social workers, and more. We are on the way in Berkeley!
As United Nations Association-USA East Bay Vice President for Advocacy, and as a Commissioner on the Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission, I want to express my great appreciation for the efforts of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley City Council Members and staff, Peace & Justice Commissioners, and countless others who have persevered for decades in pushing for women's human rights across the board. No applause, please. Just add your shoulder to the wheel alongside the shoulders of the many women already there.