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A People's Democratic Platform | The Nation

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A People's Democratic Platform

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Ellen Chesler

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The Nation
The Nation is America's oldest weekly news magazine, and one of the most widely read magazines in the world for...

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Ellen Chesler, a senior fellow at the Open Society Institute, has an essay on women's rights in What We Stand For: A Program for Progressive Patriotism, edited by Mark Green.

The platform should call for immediate US ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UN's visionary global treaty for advancing women's rights and opportunities in all aspects of life. One hundred seventy-seven countries around the world have ratified CEDAW, leaving the United States among a handful of "rogue" states, including Sudan, Somalia and Iran, in failing to do so, because intransigent conservatives, opposing both international obligations and women's rights, have exercised a veto.

Adopted in 1979, CEDAW acknowledges the importance of women's traditional obligations as mothers responsible for the raising of children and the preservation of families, but it also establishes new norms. It catalogues a broad range of rights for women in marriage, including property, inheritance and access to healthcare, with an explicit mention of family planning, though not of abortion. It demands equality for women as citizens with full access to suffrage, political representation and other legal benefits, including the right to education free of gender stereotypes and segregation. It establishes their rights as workers deserving equal remuneration and protection from sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

In a number of countries, ironically now including Afghanistan and Iraq, treaty provisions have been incorporated into democratic constitutions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently cited CEDAW as an argument for increasing our own government's obligation to promote women's full work-force participation and to protect parenting through paid family leave and subsidized childcare.

We owe CEDAW to ourselves and to women around the world.


Margaret Cho


Margaret Cho is a comedian.

Upholding and expanding the ideology of democracy is a mission far more worthy of our devotion than serving the theology of prejudice. The Democratic platform should state that we believe that a democratic nation does not seek to unite church and state. Our court system must not be the battleground for a holy war. Our current system has led to unbalanced treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals. It has also proved unfair to women, leaving out choice in the matter of reproductive rights. When we base our laws on tolerance, not contrition, repentance or faith, we work to achieve a higher ground.


George Lakoff


George Lakoff is the author of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think.

At a time when terrorist threats come from groups of individuals rather than states, when wars occur within nations, when "free markets" exist without freedom, when overpopulation threatens stability, when intolerant cultures limit freedom and promote violence, when transnational corporations act like oppressive governments and when the oil economy threatens the planet's future, the central problems in today's world cannot be solved by state-level approaches.

Part of the answer is to recognize interdependence and focus foreign policy on diplomacy, alliances, international institutions and strong defensive and peacekeeping forces, with war as a last resort.

But what is needed even more is a new kind of moral foreign policy, one that realizes that America can only be a better America if the world is a better world. America must become a moral leader using fundamental human values--caring and responsibility carried out with strength--to respond to the world's problems.

In a values-based foreign policy, issues that were not previously seen as part of foreign policy become central. Women's education is the best way to alleviate overpopulation and promote development. Renewable energy could make the world oil-independent. Food, water, health, ecology and corporate reform are foreign policy issues, as are rights--rights of women, children, workers, prisoners, refugees and political minorities.

Moral values not only define world problems but direct us to their root causes.

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