Why the U.S. Should Ratify CEDAW By Mx. Colin Blevins

Human rights have become a controversial, yet crucial, topic in 21st-century America. Aggressive foreign policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has led to questioning the constitutionality of the Iraq war and the legality of U.S. drone strikes. Meanwhile, domestic policies regarding the right to privacy have recently been deemed unconstitutional, extreme police brutality is beginning to be addressed, and evidence of violence in the ever-growing prison-industrial system is being examined. Perhaps the most important aspect in the recent discussion is that the United States can no longer claim to be a human rights champion.

When it comes to human rights on the global level, international law has become increasingly important in the conversation. As globalization continues to change how countries operate both domestically and internationally, the various treaties that form international law attempt to address human rights violations in hopes of honoring the dignity of all human beings. The International Criminal Court, various committees, and specific campaigns have all been designed to enforce these human rights norms that emerged after WWII. These various instruments have been created due to the emphasis on the right to sovereignty in every nation, and the resulting contention between international and domestic law.

However, regardless of contending views about international law, the United States government is already subject to the treaties it has ratified and has a clear legal obligation to uphold them.

The United States has a checkered past when it comes to human rights violations. Acknowledging the need for greater enforcement of treaties that the United States has already ratified is important, but the government must go one step further by ratifying conventions to give more protections to its citizens. While there are a number of eligible treaties for the United States to ratify, there is one that would affect over 50% of the population – the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

What is CEDAW?

CEDAW, written in 1979, is part of a body of treaties that comprises international human rights law. In order to be enforced, a country must accede or ratify the convention, thereby agreeing to uphold the articles therein, with the exception of any reservations outlined at the time of accepting the treaty.

When a country ratifies CEDAW, it agrees to:

  • uphold the civil and political rights of women, from discrimination and sex role stereotyping to representation and involvement in public and political life;
  • uphold the economic, social and cultural rights of women, from education and employment rights to marriage and family life;
  • and to set in place mechanisms to enforce the articles in the convention

While many recent scholars have discussed the prospects for CEDAW across the globe, one prominent scholar, Sally Engle Merry, has been fair in analyzing the convention. In her book, Human Rights and Gender Violence, Merry notes that “the committee charged with monitoring compliance with CEDAW, like those monitoring the other major UN treaties, has limited power to compel states to comply.” However, she continues her analysis by concluding that “a close examination of the way the CEDAW process operates suggests that although it does not have the power to punish, it does important cultural work” by fostering “new cultural understandings of gender and violence.”

Why Should the U.S. Ratify CEDAW?

The United States signed CEDAW on July 17, 1980, making a commitment to the treaty, even though it has not been ratified. According to the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties, when a country signs a treaty it “is obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty.” While it can be argued that the United States already has legal protections for women, the ratification of this treaty could only serve to further goals for equality in the country.

According to Amnesty International, the United States is one of three countries that has not ratified CEDAW – the other two being Iran and Sudan. It also “has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the Western Hemisphere and the only industrialized democracy that has not ratified this treaty.”

There are a number of ways that gender discrimination is active in American society, and CEDAW is an important step toward reaching gender equality. Some of the gender discriminations faced by women are:

  1. Rape Culture
  2. Workplace Discrimination
  3. Underrepresentation in Politics
  4. Lack of Maternity Leave (in which the U.S. is the only “Developed Econom[y]” that “does not pay maternity benefits”)

While there are arguments against the ratification of CEDAW, they largely hinge on the fact that the treaty would be detrimental to women’s rights. While this is a complex argument with a variety of examples, it stems from an ideology that wishes to restrict all women’s rights on the basis of one traditional set of beliefs about women.

CEDAW is a comprehensive treaty that would further the ability for women to be in control of their own lives and make decisions regardless of conflicting beliefs. In fact, there is even a provision in CEDAW that states that “nothing in the present Convention shall affect any provisions that are more conducive to the achievement of equality between men and women,” whether that be in domestic law or “any other international convention, treaty or agreement in force.” Essentially, CEDAW can only serve to further goals for gender equality, and will take a back seat when another law or policy goes beyond the minimum goals set in the convention.

The United States is clearly in need of policy changes when it comes to human rights, starting with upholding and extending international law. Ratifying CEDAW would not hurt American women; rather, it would function as an important tool in the fight for gender equality. It is time to solidify America’s commitment to human rights. It is time for the United States to ratify CEDAW.

To learn more about why the United States should ratify CEDAW, or to get involved, click here.

About the Author:  Colin Blevins is an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado Denver. He is pursuing a degree in Political Science with a certificate in Democracy and Social Movements. His academic interests include political theory, social movements, and human rights. He is the co-founder and President Emeritus of the International Studies Club at the University of Colorado Denver. He has worked for LGBT military nonprofits since 2011 and currently serves in the United States Army Reserve.

Colin Blevins

Summer CLAS Dismissed – July 8; 5-6:30 – UPDATE *PIZZA REPUBLICA* UPDATE



Hello, to all our CU Denver Political Science Department Alumni!

Dean Pamela Jansma

Dean Pamela Jansma

This is Department Chair, Tony Robinson, writing to invite you to a special food and drinks mixer, tomorrow,  Wednesday July 8th, from 5:00-6:30, at Pizza Republica.  You will find several of your old Political Science faculty there, and enjoy some light food and libations with our college Dean, Pam Janmsa, who hosts these events.

CU Denver Poli Sci Students & Friends

CU Denver Poli Sci Students & Friends

This mixer will be specifically sponsored by Political Science, so this is the perfect opportunity for you to come out for and catch up on old department news – and maybe even seen an old classmate or two!


Dr. Sasha Breger Bush

Dr. Sasha Breger Bush

You can learn about new department developments such our recent new hires of faculty like:

  • Sasha Breger Bush
  • Jim Walsh
  • Bassem Hassan. 

Or catch up with some of your favorite old faculty like Jana Everett, Mike Cummings, or Thorsten Spehn.   I’ll be there too, and some additional faculty from our program will drop by as well.

Dr. Thorsten Spehn

Dr. Thorsten Spehn

We would love to hear what our alumni are up to, from travels to jobs to new family developments– and we can share recent department news such as the launch of our departmental peer-reviewed journal, a new political science student-reporter media credentials program that we are operating, and stories from recent faculty study-abroad trips to New Zealand, Africa, Germany, China and South Korea!

Dr. Tony Robinson and Dr. Mike Cummings on their latest travels to Korea!

Dr. Tony Robinson and Dr. Mike Cummings on their latest travels to Korea!

I hope to see many of you there tomorrow!


From Closeted Soldier to Queer Activist: How “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Shaped My Life by Mx. Colin Blevins

As a senior in high school, I made a life-changing decision; instead of going to college, I enlisted with my older brother to join the United States Army.

I joined the military for a number of reasons, but one affected that decision more than any of the others – the idea that being in a hyper-masculine organization would make me more “masculine;” that it would “set me straight.”

Colin Blevins (center) with team members at Fort Polk, LA 2010.

Colin Blevins (center) with team members at Fort Polk, LA 2010.

This idea transformed itself: beginning as a mantra, solidifying as a natural belief that affected every important aspect of my life, and embodying the lifestyle that deprived me of my integrity.

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Violent Extremism and U.S. Response: A Conversation with Senators’ Graham and McCain by Ms. Breann Garcia

Protestors outside of the event.

Protestors outside of the event.

On a pleasant evening in downtown Denver, protestors took to the streets for an anti-war rally in response to Senators’ Lindsey Graham and John McCain’s political discussion on violent extremism. Denver police filled the area, and a strange amount tension lurked in the environment, especially given the recent criticism against local law enforcement nationwide.

That, however, is a discussion suited for a different blog post… This post explains the importance of the recent event, hosted by the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (CELL), and what we can learn moving forward in an increasingly unpredictable world.

During the sit-down, the two most central topics of discussion were U.S. response against ISIS, and Iran’s nuclear capability. First, as most nightly news programs have advertised since the summer of 2014, ISIS or ISIL continues to become a more prominent threat to the U.S. and other states. Both Senators’ endorsed an offensive approach to this threat, but for different reasons.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  Alex Wong / Getty / Meet the Press

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Alex Wong / Getty / Meet the Press

Senator Graham stated that ISIS is a group who is both wealthy and firmly entrenched in the region, which is why the need for U.S. deployment is necessary.

Senator McCain however, boasted a different perspective- explaining that the U.S. cannot merely count on Iraqi (or other) troops to fight ISIS due to their likeliness to join forces with the Islamic State. McCain reminded the audience, that the same troops we fought against in Iraq are now the ones we are hoping will fight off this powerful new threat.

American boots on the ground are not ideal, and most certainly are not what the Obama administration would like; but according to Senator Graham, there is no way to defend this country without sending troops.

Senator John  McCain Kasfter/AP

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Regardless of one’s political perspective, McCain makes a valid point suggesting the unlikeliness of success against ISIS without some powerful military reinforcements.  American boots on the ground are not ideal, and most certainly are not what the Obama administration would like; but according to Senator Graham, there is no way to defend this country without sending troops.

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Love America and Love It so Much to Guide It with Wisdom in the Future – Learning from General James Mattis by Mr. Richard Hancock and Mr. Zachary McArthur

General Mattis in front of the CU Denver Veteran Services department.

General Mattis in front of the CU Denver Veteran Services department.

On February 17th, former commander of the U.S. Central Command General James Mattis came to CU Denver on behalf of the History and Political Science departments. General Mattis had a 41 year military career as a General in the Marine Corps. The General came to CU Denver for addressing a variety of topics to the school’s veteran student population. This is part of a series of blogs that critically analyze the General’s discussion. Our blog will focus on the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.

General Mattis consistently stressed the importance of using history to guide strategic thinking in U.S. foreign policy. In 2011 a female intelligence analyst informed the General that in the summer of 2014 a new Muslim extremist group would emerge as an evolution of the Al-Qaeda model. This analyst predicted this group would redefine Muslim extremism.

General Mattis consistently stressed the importance of using history to guide strategic thinking in U.S. foreign policy.

General Mattis with author RIchard Hancock

General Mattis with author Richard Hancock

While this analyst’s forecast proved to be true, the U.S. government has struggled to adopt an effective strategy to combat the Islamic State ideology. General Mattis advocated the need to define the ideology before moving forward. After this, the government must clarify its political end state. While defining the ideology and political end state the U.S. must include other Arab countries who share common interests. Effectively working with other MENA countries will allow the U.S. to weaken IS’ funding through its black market networks. A crucial ally to combatting the ideology is utilizing Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is well known for his expertise in counter-terrorism. Effective Muslim leadership must also be utilized to attack the IS ideology from a grassroots level. The General also emphasized cracking down on IS social media presence.

With that being said, a strong and effective military presence is required from the U.S. General Mattis specifically mentioned a more nuanced use of special operation forces. One example is striking sensitive IS targets that are unapproachable by conventional boots on the ground. Also, moving a battalion of the 82nd airborne off the coast of Syria would send a clear message to IS that the U.S. is serious.

It is important for our generation to avoid the pitfalls of cynicism; and instead, use this energy to guide America with wisdom in the future.

General Mattis with author, Zachary McArthur

General Mattis with author, Zachary McArthur

General Mattis briefly switched gears to discussing Egypt. Egypt is a crucial ally for combating extremism across the MENA region; however, this country must improve its human rights record. The General acknowledged that Egypt’s public impeachment of the Muslim Brotherhood clearly violates human rights.

Mattis aimed his discussion to the student body and the millennial generation as a whole. He encouraged our generation to provide fresh perspectives to guide strategic thinking in the U.S. government. Mattis stated, “foreign policy requires passion and human connection.” It is important for our generation to avoid the pitfalls of cynicism; and instead, use this energy to guide America with wisdom in the future.

About the Authors:

Mr. Richard Hancock.

Mr. Richard Hancock.

Richard Hancock: Richard is a recent graduate from CU Denver’s International Studies Program with a focus on the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region and Arabic. He has helped found CU’s Arabic program where he has served as the Teaching Assistant for 1 ½ years. Previously Richard lived and studied at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, a city that is struggling to handle Syrian refugee flows because it is less than twenty miles from Syria. After briefly living in Egypt, Richard was employed by the Department of Defense as a Contract Administrative Assistant in the MENA region. Currently he is working on freelance journalism and job opportunities primarily within the MENA region. Richard is excited to start a career in Political Risk Consulting.

McArthurZach McArthurFollowing a stint in the Army, Zach moved back to Colorado where he enrolled in college courses, majoring in Political Science with minors in Chinese Studies and Economics at University of Colorado Denver. He helped pioneer a program at CU Denver combining students studying as part of the ICB program from China with Americans in an effort to increase cultural awareness and help integrate students into American culture. Following graduation he hopes to continue his studies of the Chinese language and culture by moving to the country. His favorite aspect of life at CU Denver is the diverse student population that affords everyone the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life.



Win YOUR ticket to see Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

The CU Denver Political Science Department is thrilled to announce it is sponsoring an essay contest for CU Denver students to WIN their ticket to see Malala Yousafzai – the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, activist, and author – speak in Denver on June 24th, 2015.

Essay Question: Why do you want to see Malala?

Submit your essay below:

Essay Contest Rules

  1. Pieces must be between 300-600 words in length.
  2. Pieces must be submitted no later than 11:59pm Wednesday, June 17th, 2015.
  3. Pieces must completely answer the essay question.
  4. Work must be original, written by the participant.
  5. Participant/s must be available on June 24th,  from 5:00-9:00pm for the event and promotional photos.
  6. Entries are limited to one entry per student.
  7. Participant/s must be a current or former CU Denver student.
  8. Winner/s will be expected to write one departmental blog post about the experience due within one month (by July 24th, 2015) for publication.
  9. Essays must be submitted through: http://ucdenverpoliticalscience.org/malala-essay-contest/
  10. All entries will be judged by the CU Denver Political Science faculty and/or staff.
  11. No transfer, assignment, or substitution of a prize permitted.
  12. Sponsor is not responsible for lost or late entries nor for electronic-transmission errors resulting in omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operations or transmission, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to or alterations of entry materials, or for technical, network, telephone-equipment, electronic, computer, hardware, or software malfunctions or limitations of any kind, or inaccurate transmissions of or failure to receive entry information by Sponsor or presenter on account of technical problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website or any combination thereof.

If a participant does not comply with any of the aforementioned rules, he or she loses his or her opportunity to participate.

CU Denver Faculty, Betcy Jose, to Lecture in Pittsburgh – “Topics in Human Security: Global Humanitarian Norms and Practices”

Betcy Jose flyerA wonderful opportunity has just arisen for students and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

On February 25th, CU  Denver Political Science Department,  Associate Professor, Dr. Betcy Jose will be presenting on Global Humanitarian Norms and Practices at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Jose’s talk stems from her time as a researcher at the Ford Institute for Human Security, and research for her dissertation, entitled: “The Fog of Protection: Contested Meanings and Deliberate Civilian Deaths during Armed Conflict.”

For more on this event, please click here.

With CU Succeed, Everybody Wins by Mr. Richard Elkind

My name is Richard Elkind and I am the Chair of the Social Studies Department at Collegiate Prep Academy in far northeast Denver.

Collegiate Prep Academy algebra teacher Christopher Bakke, right, visits with a student Wednesday, the first day of school. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post )

Collegiate Prep Academy algebra teacher Christopher Bakke, right, visits with a student Wednesday, the first day of school. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post )

For the past year and a half I have taught both American Political Systems and Intro to Political Science through CU Succeed. The school I teach at is a Title I high school. Statistically, only eight percent of students from Title I high schools have earned a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s.

I view this as unacceptable. Indeed, I entered teaching largely to combat this trend and fight what I believe to be the civil rights issue of my lifetime, access to a quality education. Prior to teaching I worked as an attorney doing both civil and criminal defense. Specifically on the criminal defense front I was animated by what I struck me as an unfair system creating unfair results.

Working with the students I work with, I believe I am working on the exact same battlefield but at the front end, attempting to even the playing field prior to some terrible potential consequences.

“Working with the students I work with, I believe I am working on the exact same battlefield but at the front end, attempting to even the playing field prior to some terrible potential consequences.”

Working with CU Succeed over the past year and a half, I have been able to add an effective tool to my arsenal. Allowing my students exposure to real college courses and real college credit gives them a head start in terms of understanding what it means to be a college student, what it take to succeed, and has the potential to help cut down on costs for their education.

“Working with CU Succeed… [gives] my students exposure to real college courses and real college credit. It gives them a head start… and [helps] cut down on costs for their education.”

My students have enjoyed the CU Succeed classes tremendously, and particularly enjoyed viewing their sister class at CU-Denver in person. This helped them to realize the work they were doing was indeed college work, and helped to foster a true attitude of academic achievement.

CU Succeed has been a huge success at CPA and my high school has firmly gotten behind the program after seeing my student’s success. We’ve since added three other CU Succeed classes to our course offerings.

About the Author: IMG_20141002_131716_246

Mr. Richard Elkind is a CU Succeed Political Science teacher and the Social Studies Department Chair at Collegiate Prep Academy in northeast Denver. He received his undergraduate degree from George Washington University and his law degree from Cornell University where he served as Executive Editor of the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. Prior to transitioning to a career in teaching, Richard worked as an attorney with the United States Department of Justice, The Cornell Death Penalty Project, and the law firms of Winston and Strawn and Senter, Goldfarb, and Rice. 

For more on CU Succeed, please click here.

The Relationship Between IS and Al-Qaeda: It’s Complicated by Mr. Richard Hancock

So called “experts” in Western media often claim the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda are one and the same. Such a claim fails to acknowledge the complex relationship between the two groups. The main differentiator between IS and Al-Qaeda is that IS is a highly organized bureaucratic organization that holds territory and provides social services for its constituents; whereas, Al-Qaeda “is a loose collection of small groups and factions that tend to be guided by charismatic individuals” (Gerges, Fawaz).

Al-Qaeda Flag

Al-Qaeda Flag

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