Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

John R. Murray

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Sherman

Third Advisor

Martin Quitt


This thesis is designed as an exercise in critical thinking which attempts to trace the little-known and vaguely understood international effort to address women's rights as human rights. Specifically, it is intended to introduce and actively engage the reader in the application of critical thinking processes through an analysis of the history and status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW. Given the potential significance of CEDAW for the United States, it is ironic that this human rights treaty is not commonplace in discussions regarding women's rights. Many associate the women's rights movement with efforts during the 1970s to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA. Some may recall that the ERA was penned in 1921 after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, or simply the efforts to secure voting rights for women. Few, however, associate the women's movement with international efforts to codify such rights into law through treaties such as CEDAW. CEDAW emerged as a product of the three World Conferences for Women that comprised the "Decade for Women" from 1975 through 1985. In 1995, a Fourth World Conference for Women followed. Of all of the documents produced, however, CEDAW stand alone as a legally binding treaty which, under Article II, section 2 of the Constitution, has the potential to become "…the supreme Law of the Land." CEDAW serves as a contextual framework for the introducing the processes of, and understanding the need for, critical thinking. The central hypothesis of the studies is that critical thinking enables the public to determine if information is accurate, reliable, relevant and sufficient to support of refute a given option. Correlated with the fundamental premise that a democracy requires a well informed citizenry, is that information must be accessible and citizen need to think critically. Upon these premises rests the hope that the resultant standards will be applied in the adjudication of the important social issues. This thesis asserts that issues of substance can easily be obscured and even discarded when selective emphasis is placed on secondary issues. Analyses of CEDAW are made with respect to medial presentation, US Senate proceedings, and provocative topics, which served to prevent the public from being well-informed. The results of these analyses reveal an astounding degree of misinformation (in the form of omission, Bias, digression, fragmentation, contradiction, and general confusion) that continues to obscure CEDAW from public consideration and debate. Although, through an in-depth critical analysis the status of this treaty may be tragically unclear, the flaws in the treatment of human rights issues, a well as path of correction, are exposed for public consideration. In sum, critical thinking processes are viewed as necessary to protect the public's perception of the issues. Absent critical thinking, the public may fall prey of misinformation. Through its use, it is hoped that a higher level of humanity, understanding, and truth will emerge within the process and as the product of the sound and careful reasoning.