On this Mother's day, let us consider the rights of all girls and women around the world. Let us ratify our support of CEDAW, the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Referred to as an international bill of rights for women, CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations in 1979. President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty, but the Senate has never ratified it. The Clinton administration urged its passing in 1994. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended it be ratified, but Senator Jesse Helms, a leading conservative, prevented a vote in the Senate. President George W. Bush favored ratification, but later changed his position. In 2002, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-7 to approve the treaty, but it was never sent to the full Senate.
More than 100 organizations support ratification of CEDAW including Amnesty International, the League of Women Voters, and AARP. But the bill is opposed by Religious Right Conservatives. They argue that the treaty will undermine traditional family values, force equal pay which goes against our free-market system, ensure access to abortion services and contraception, create feminists, allow same-sex marriage, legalize prostitution and undermine parental rights.
While the Senate turns a blind eye to the worldwide problem of discrimination against women, women suffer each and every day.
I grew up in a family where my mother is still occasionally verbally abused, but she insists that that my dad never put his hands on her. He would come home drunk, overcome by outrageous anger and toss us all out of the house. Or worse, he would beat us children. We all bear the scars of his anger. Christine was beaten one time and ended up in the hospital for weeks. Dad told her she must tell doctors she fell from a tree. Faida's ears were pulled so hard, so frequently, she had wounds behind her ears for years. Scars behind her ears are still visible today. I have no original nail on my right hand because I would try to protect my backside. He administered beatings so well that the whole village would come to get him to beat thieves.
Because he punished my mother through beating us, mom prayed for him and prayed for us. One of her prayers was that we would grow up and forgive him. The other one was that we would be better parents and successful children. Fortunately, the Lord heard and answered those prayers.
While CNN was filming me in 2012, I told a story of Freda, a teacher who encouraged me as boy. I tried to quit school one day due to heavy beating by my father. Freda said to me, "Look, you can stay in school and become a better person one day. I bet one day you will build a house for your mother and save her from all the abuse." I did build a house that my parents live in today and I have worked hard to build many small houses for many grannies in Kanungu and Rukungiri districts of my home country, Uganda.
Uganda signed and ratified the CEDAW in 1985. It ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Maputo Protocol) in 2010, and launched its National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR) in December 2008. But there is a high level of traditional and societal discrimination against women in rural areas. More than 78 percent of women in Uganda continue to experience domestic violence. Reported cases of deaths resulting from domestic violence rose from 2008 to 2009. Rape, forced and early marriage are widespread in Uganda.
I have told many close friends that if we were born in USA, we would have grown up in the system where my father could be jailed for physically beating his children. I can only ask that this country take a leading role for woman around the world and ratify the CEDAW treaty.
This mother's day, help a woman who is in abusive relationship. She needs you. She needs us.