President Obama has done it again.
With his most recent visit to India, he created more controversy as he appealed to women’s rights and religious tolerance for the Indian community. Obama is quoted saying, “Every woman should be able to go about her day – to walk the streets, or ride the bus – and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves.”
This controversial appeal was sparked in response to recent high profile gang rape cases and other violent acts against women in India.
One case in particular made major news, as a 23 year old student in New Delhi was gang raped, sparking outrage in the Indian community.
Though this story is shocking, this has been a theme of everyday life for many Indian women. India is considered the 4th most dangerous country for women. UNICEFF reported in a 2012 study that more than half of Indian adolescent males think it justifiable to beat a wife under certain circumstances.
Even the fact that nearly half of India’s girls are married by 18 raises major red flags.
Ravi Verma from the Huffington Post writes, “With stories like these, its no surprise that data has shown that throughout India, many women don’t feel safe in public spaces[…] And with data from the National Crime Records Bureau showing that 92 women are raped across India everyday, it’s not hard to understand how some women feel as if they have little option but to physically fight back.”
However, though these facts are convicting, it is difficult to feel like there is any way people half way across the globe can help. So it begs the question, what can we as American millennials do?
That is were the UN’s ‘bill of rights’ for women comes in. It is called the “Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women”, or CEDAW for short.
The UN describes it as, “establish[ing] rights for women in areas not previously subject to international standards. The treaty provides a universal definition of discrimination against women so that those who could discriminate on the basis of sex can no longer claim that no clear definition exists.”
187 countries have ratified the convention as of recent, pledging to give women equal rights in all aspects of living.
Only 7 countries have not signed, including: US, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Palau, and Tonga.
Yes, India has signed this ‘bill of rights’ for women while the US has not.
In India’s 2007 update for The CEDAW, they state that, “the Constitution of India guarantees equality and prohibits discrimination[…] and state policies obligate the state to secure equality and eliminate discrimination on the basis of sex and marital status.”
Further through the update, the Indian officials report to the UN different actions they have taken to progress equality in their country. However, it also lays out funding deficits for their current projects in four areas: legislative action, training and awareness, supportive services, and social action.
It seems that India’s well-meaning efforts are being held back by red tape and funding deficits.
With this in mind, we turn our attention to the American side. As a country with major global influence, it is disturbing that we have not ratified CEDAW. Though Obama is quoted supporting its ratification in the US, no action has been taken.
That needs to change. Action needs to be taken.
American millennials can help the progression of equality by calling out our government on why it has not ratified the CEDAW in this country. We can insist on change.
Ratifying the CEDAW in the US could be the first step to creating a better system for all countries to benefit from, including India. Though a universal system of operation might not work in every country the same way, the US could use its wealth to find better ways of operation and translate that to other countries with smaller wealth. We can use our wealth to find a positive example of operation that do not get held up by red tape or funding deficits.
One American millennial shares her opinion on this issue. Deya Maldas, a student at Vanderbilt University, spent the summer of 2014 working in India with Sanlaap, an Indian organization based in Calcutta that aims to protect human rights of women and girls.
Having strong family roots in India and seeing the work first hand, Maldas reveals, “Because the world has become so globalized, people use the excuse of volunteering or working on a social issue to go visit another world, which is sadly why voluntourism exists. However, if American millennials really want to make a change on the women’s rights social front, they should focus their efforts where they are culturally aware, know the deep injustices of the issues, and can figure out solutions that would work in the society where they are working. Thus, they should work in America, not India.”
With this in mind, American millennials can take to heart the importance of stirring a movement in the American culture they are apart of. Taking this first step of ratification in the US could then create the opportunity for women across the world to have their voices be heard. By calling attention to the lack of action the US has taken toward this ratification, millennials can kick start a much needed movement towards action and equality.
Though it can be slow, change is coming. And it starts with us.