St. Mary's Law Journal


This Article addresses whether the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Women’s Convention) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because international treaties such as the Women’s Convention carry the same weight and are subject to the same treatment as U.S. federal law, the constitutionality of the Convention is dictated by U.S. jurisprudence. Part II of this Article outlines and discusses the origin and content of the Women’s Convention. Part III contains a historical review of gender jurisprudence in the United States, with particular emphasis on recent United States Supreme Court decisions. Part IV describes the procedure for obtaining ratification of an international human rights instrument and analyzes whether, in light of gender case law, the Women’s Convention violates the Equal Protection Clause. This Article concludes with an analysis of the current status and constitutionality of the Women’s Convention and suggestions for gaining U.S. ratification. The Women’s Convention appears to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the Convention advances what appear to be important governmental interests, the Convention probably does not bear a fair and substantial relationship to the achievement of those goals. The Convention enumerates rights which apply solely to women, ignoring the ability to accomplish its goals without gender specificity. Thus, while the Convention’s gender-based goals may be constitutional, its gender-specific articulation of rights is not. Additionally, application of the Women’s Convention may be counterproductive to advancement of women’s human rights. By isolating women’s human rights as distinct from general human rights, the Convention releases the enforcement bodies of the gender-neutral human rights treaties from any moral obligation to protect women’s human rights.


St. Mary's University School of Law