NASW Calls for Action on CEDAW, Torture

Daniel AkakaThe legislation has been introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka in each Congress since 2000.

Prompted by an Aug. 24 NASW Action Alert, more than 2,700 social workers nationwide have e-mailed their senators, urging them to ratify the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Although adopted by the U.N. in 1979 and signed by the U.S. in 1980, the Senate has failed repeatedly to approve the CEDAW treaty.

However, a spokesperson for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told NASW News that the treaty is on its to-do list and the committee hopes to take action as soon as possible.

The treaty requires its signatories to eliminate all forms of gender-based discrimination, including political, economic, social, cultural and civil discrimination. It also calls on nations to suppress gender-based violence, the trafficking of women and exploitation of female prostitution.

"The United States has a strong record on human rights," said the NASW Action Alert. "In fact, U.S. laws already reflect most of the treaty's principles. However, to make a meaningful contribution in the area of human rights, the U.S. must show its commitment to ensuring that fundamental human rights are guaranteed to women both here and abroad. As long as it remains one of the few nations that have failed to ratify CEDAW, the United States compromises its credibility as a world leader in human rights."

NASW, a long-time supporter of the treaty, is a member of the Working Group on Ratification of the CEDAW — an assemblage of more than 190 organizations engaged in outreach efforts and public education to achieve ratification of the CEDAW.

Prisoner interrogations. The Department of Justice is investigating allegations that CIA interrogators and other U.S. personnel violated federal laws in their interrogations of prisoners detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the investigation Aug. 24.

Holder's announcement came just as NASW sent President Barack Obama a letter pressing his administration to look into how such acts could have been allowed to happen in the first place.

"Answering that question we believe could protect against a reoccurrence," the letter said. NASW also sought assurance "that our government and its elected and appointed officials will not disregard our laws and national, as well as international standards in the future."

NASW's own policies, catalogued in "Social Work Speaks: National Association of Social Workers Policy Statements (Eighth Edition)," are to support the right not to be subjected to dehumanizing treatment and punishment, advocate for the elimination of the practice of torture and advocate for policies within the U.S. government in its methods of providing homeland security and combating terrorism that are consistent with human rights values and ethics.

Native Hawaiians. In an Aug. 21 letter to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, NASW reaffirmed its support for the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009 (S. 1011, H.R. 2314).

Dan InouyeSen. Dan Inouye co-sponsored the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act

Reintroduced May 7 in the Senate by Hawaii Democrats Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye, and in the House by Hawaii Democratic Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono, the legislation would allow Native Hawaiians to establish a sovereign government similar to those of certain Native American and Alaskan Tribes within the continental U.S.

The bill would establish a new division of the Department of the Interior, the Office for Native Hawaiian Relations, to serve as liaison between Native Hawaiians and the U.S. as well as a federal interagency coordinating group composed of federal officials from agencies that administer Native Hawaiian programs.

"The indigenous people of Hawaii have suffered extreme loss of their right to self-governance and land access and extraordinary violation of physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being," the letter said. "This legislation provides the means to address these losses and violations."

The legislation has been introduced by Akaka in each Congress since 2000. The House in 2007 approved it; however, the Senate did not act on the legislation.

NASW believes the chances of passage in both houses of Congress this time are better because the bill has the support of the Obama administration.

Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch testified at an Aug. 6 Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the Akaka bill.

Hirsch said: "The Department of Justice strongly supports the core policy goals of this bill, and I am pleased to testify on this historic legislation. In recognizing a Native Hawaiian sovereign entity, Congress would in effect determine that Native Hawaiians constitute a distinct community as it has done with Indian tribes."

He continued: "The history of Native Hawaiian sovereignty and the extent to which Native Hawaiians continue to function as an organized community — engaging in collective action and preserving traditional community and culture — are relevant to this analysis."