Daly City might soon become one of the first U.S. cities to pass a local ordinance specifically reflecting the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Adopted by the United Nations in 1979, CEDAW is an international treaty that calls upon signatory countries to condemn discrimination against women and to ensure their equality in political, economic, social and cultural arenas. While President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty in 1980, the Senate never ratified it.
Daly City Councilman David Canepa has argued that in failing to ratify the treaty, the U.S. has put itself in the same category as countries like Iran and Somalia, who also have not ratified the treaty but do not have admirable human rights records.
Canepa said he hopes to see the City Council vote on his recently introduced ordinance next month, and if enough cities adopt similar measures, that could pressure elected officials in Washington to finally ratify the treaty.
San Francisco Department on the Status of Women Executive Director Emily Murase said that while several U.S. cities have passed non-binding resolutions expressing support for CEDAW, Daly City’s proposed legislation goes beyond mere symbolism, and mandates specific actions by the city government to ensure equal protections for women on numerous fronts.
Murase noted that if Daly City adopted the law, it would join San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles as the only U.S. cities that have passed such an ordinance.
While the proposed ordinance might not directly impact private employers in Daly City, it does direct all branches of the city’s government to ensure that their workplaces are free of discrimination and harassment.
Another important part of how the ordinance would affect government operations would be ensuring that Daly City devotes adequate resources to issues affecting women and girls, Canepa said. The councilman noted that domestic violence programs in the city could potentially receive better funding under the law, but he added that because the city currently faces significant budgetary challenges, it would have to partner with private nonprofits at the county level to achieve some of CEDAW’s goals.
Canepa said he would like to see city workers receive training on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, noting that the practice is not just limited to prostitution but can also include domestic workers being kept against their will. In addition to police officers, building inspectors from the Fire Department and Planning Division could be among the city workers best able to identify potential trafficking situations, he believes.
Some Bay Area sex worker activists have complained that anti-trafficking efforts can make sex workers less safe by further criminalizing them and forcing them further underground, but the Daly City legislation acknowledges that dynamic, saying, “Prostitutes are especially vulnerable to violence because their legal status tends to marginalize them. It shall be the policy of Daly City that the Police Department diligently investigate violent attacks against prostitutes…”
Transgender women might also enjoy greater protections under the proposed legislation. Canepa has pledged to closely examine the ordinance’s wording to make sure that it includes adequate protections for transgender women, and the existing language already defines gender as a social construct that is not tied to biology.