Life Moments for Women video produced by the Film, Media & Social Justice Department
of Mount St. Mary's College.
Song "Women of Today" by Faith Rivera & Beth Eichel, performed by Faith Rivera.
When I first read those words 40 years ago, I believed the message was so simple that it would be added to the constitution in a few months. How naïve I was.
The Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress in 1923. It took 49 years until it passed both houses in 1972. Ten years later, the amendment was three states short of the 38 states needed for ratification.
Does it really matter if we have an ERA? Unquestionably! For women, full citizenship has not yet been achieved. Ever since we attained the right to vote, issues affecting women have polarized the nation.
Decade after decade, we are faced with a see-saw battle over most of the issues that define or affect women’s lives: health care, reproductive freedom, contraception, rape, domestic violence, equal pay, paid family leave, childcare, gender balance in office, gay marriage and lesbian rights. The fight for women’s equality is ongoing.
An equal rights amendment would “provide a fundamental legal remedy against sex discrimination and ……would clarify the legal status of sex discrimination for the courts.” Women would have a legal path to equal rights ending the need to fight issues on a case-by-case basis.
Across the nation, attacks on women’s rights continue. Here are some examples that have occurred this past year:
● Rush Limbaugh denigrates a young law student testifying before Congress on the need for access to contraception;
● The Komen Foundation denies funding to Planned Parenthood, an organization that offers free breast cancer screening to women, but it backfires;
● Republicans continue to oppose the reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act denying protection for immigrants, Native
Americans and LGBT;
● Georgia and Louisiana pass bills that criminalize abortion after 20 weeks gestation with no exception for rape or incest, joining six other states with similar restrictions;
● Congressman Tod Akin’s comments that “legitimate rape rarely causes pregnancy” create a national political firestorm.
American women remain far behind the rest of the world when it comes to equality. The U.S. Senate has refused to approve the treaty known as CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination on all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.) Adopted in 1979 by the United Nations, CEDAW is the only international instrument that comprehensively addresses women's rights, politically, culturally, economically and socially.
Throughout the world, this treaty is used to empower women and enforce their rights. The United States is one of four countries that have not passed the treaty including Iran, Somalia and Sudan, third world countries known for violations of international human rights principles.
Film maker Kamala Lopez created a video to educate voters, especially young people who are unaware of the need for an ERA. Her video reveals that three-quarters of Americans believe women have a constitutional guarantee of equality despite the fact that they do not.
Since women represent only 17 percent of the members of Congress, we lack the critical mass to impact public policy. With the U.S. Senate’s refusal to approve the CEDAW treaty, American voters must pass a national ERA to send a signal that women have a written guarantee to equal treatment in the law, once and for all.
But how do we get there? We must organize to pass the ERA! Make the ERA an issue for the 2012 presidential election. I call on all women to join forces and work for the advancement of our mothers, sisters and daughters. Women may differ on many issues, but we all share the belief of equality ─ the basic tenet of our democracy.
Susan J. Rose, a contributing writer to Life Moments for Women, was honored by the California State Legislature for her efforts on behalf of women and girls. Inducted into the California Women Leaders Hall of Fame, she is a founding member of the county’s Women Political Committee. Susan is currently working with Antioch University Santa Barbara to create a women’s leadership program.