I'm a lucky double XXer. I woke up in L.A. on a beautiful, blue-sky day, remembering last night's long-awaited Academy Awards, still reeling from the level of creativity and talent that was represented during the show. I watched the glamorous event with family and friends at home on our own big screen -- which wasn't as exciting as being there in person of course, but it does have its advantages, like the bird's eye-view close-ups, really good wine, and any-time-I-want-bathroom breaks.
I'm also thinking, however, that in a matter of days, thousands of women and men from around the world will congregate in New York at the United Nations for the 57th Convention on the Status of Women. This is an event I WILL be attending in person, as a Representative from the United State's State Department to the UN. This year's theme is the "Elimination and Prevention of all forms of Violence Against Women and Girls."
Now what does the New York CSW event have in common with last night's Academy Awards? Well, first of all, the entertainment business is global in scope, and extremely philanthropic. Films are frequently produced to raise awareness on critical issues. And, as individuals, numerous actors devote themselves to causes they care about, and donate their time, talent, and their treasure too. Ben Affleck, for example, has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the suffering of the Congolese people. Charlize Theron is a passionate United Nations Messenger of Peace. Many actors make similar efforts and their work and visibility makes a hell of a difference. I, for one, am sincerely grateful.
I'd be willing to bet, in fact, that nearly every entertainer who received an award, or who presented an award last night, is an advocate for something that will make this world a better one. I'm also fairly certain that all the entertainers present last night are on the side that wants to eliminate and prevent violence against women and girls.
Perhaps that's why when the song "I Saw Your Boobs" was performed, it got some strange looks from a few in the audience -- and I wonder if some were thinking that, just to be equally silly, there should have been another song that gave a "shout-out" to a few of the famous males in the crowd and their particular body-parts. Okay -- I snickered at that song after a while, but do you see where I'm going here? There are some seriously deep "What's good for the Goose isn't good for the Gander" assumptions built into our societal mindset.
That's a conversation that will be had at the upcoming conference. But for now, just think about all the women and girls you saw on the stage and in the audience last night -- then ponder the focus of this year's CSW -- the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls -- and remember the fact that there is a dire need to have such a conference. If you're the parent of a daughter, or if you have a wife or a mother, it should scare you witless.
How does the United States measure up in the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls? Well, in terms of progress, we're not the leaders we should be, even though we've got some of the most powerful, dedicated women in the world advocating for it, specifically former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador-at-large Melanne Verveer. Our women leaders and advocates are doing their jobs -- but we need to do better in some other areas, because despite their efforts, which are herculean, we haven't managed to get a handle on human trafficking in our own country. About 15,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year alone, mostly girls and women, and that's in addition to the thousands trafficked within our borders.
And we can't manage to keep track of sex offenders. Thousands of sex offenders are dismantling their GPS tracking devices, and getting away with it. They are not going back to jail, and if they do, they may bounce back out within a day or two. There's no room for them, that's true -- but it's also true that they haven't reformed, or changed their behavior. Unfortunately, and sometimes tragically, these are individuals who often go right back out into the public and commit sexual assault and molestation crimes again. In your neighborhoods.
Something is wrong with our system, and we all need to get involved in the conversation, so that functional solutions can be found. Did you know that a person convicted of selling drugs could get more jail time than someone convicted of violently raping a woman? Like I said -- something is wrong.
Sadly -- after years and years of trying to reduce it, violence against us is trending upwards -- not just in places like South Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where we've heard of some devastatingly gruesome cases lately, but here in the United States as well. You have to ask yourself -- why is this happening? Where is the rule of law? In fact, do laws exist that truly protect women and deter and/or punish violent perpetrators? The more appropriate questions would be, are the laws enacted, and are the punishments imposed?
These are all topics of discussion that will get plenty of attention at the upcoming Conference on the Status of Women, because these issues are relevant all over the world, in every country. Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women Michele Bachelet and Assistant Secretary General of UN Women Lakshmi Puri are on the road constantly, making the case for women across all spectrums of public and private life. Ending violence against us -- particularly domestic violence and rape, which kills more of us than cancer, car accidents, malaria, or war -- is of critical concern.
As far as the United States goes, however -- there are some steps we could take that would at the very least bring us up to par with the rest of the world. We could ratify CEDAW -- the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. This is a treaty that basically provides a blueprint for all countries to achieve progress for women's rights in multiple areas. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has been in existence for 34 years. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1979 to ensure fundamental human rights and equality for women and girls around the world. Essentially -- a no-brainer. With this treaty, countries can make headway in establishing rights for women for maternal health, domestic violence, human trafficking, education, employment, and more.
What is truly mind-boggling is that while the U.S. was a key player in drafting CEDAW and President Jimmy Carter signed it in 1980, we, as a country, never ratified it. In fact, the United States is one of only seven countries that haven't ratified CEDAW. Can you guess who some of our teammates are in this one? Sudan, Somalia, and Iran. Tell me you agree that something's wrong with this picture.
But there is a silver lining. Apparently, the Obama administration strongly supports ratification, so there is a window of opportunity. All we need to get CEDAW ratified is for 67 senators to stand up for women and girls, and we're there. Thirty-three years late, but then as long as we get it done, hurrah, and better late, than never.
Breaking news this morning is that our new Secretary of State John Kerry has given this treaty a 'thumbs up.' Now, hopefully we'll finally get this ratified once and for all.
And while we're at it, let's encourage Congress to ratify the (CRC) Convention on the Rights of the Child too. ALL OTHER COUNTRIES have ratified this, except two: the United States and Somalia. Once again, why are we lagging behind the rest of the world, when something as vital as the health, safety, and welfare of our children is at stake?
There is one more thing we could ask our Government for the People to do to help make our country a safer place for 50 percent of the population, and it's called VAWA -- the Violence Against Women Act. This is a landmark piece of legislation that improves criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States, and it needs to be reauthorized. This legislation was first passed by Congress in 1994, and subsequently reauthorized in 2000, and again in 2005. Conservatives opposed the 2012 renewal, but on February 12th of 2013, the Senate approved the extension of VAWA, and now it goes to the House of Representatives. I'll send emails to my representatives to encourage them to hear my opinion on this one. If you have an extra moment, please do the same.
And don't think this conversation is just women talking about a woman's and girls issue, because it is a human issue, and the violence perpetrated against women is inhumane. Twitter has a several projects with men who have gotten together to end violence against women. Check them out @goodmenproject, @whiteribbon, @jeffperera.
Whether you were in the comfort of your own homes last night, or dressed to the nines for one of the entertainment business's most honored traditions, just look around at the women and girls in your midst today, and be grateful they are safe. I hope you'll become one of the people who help to keep them that way.