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Audrey L. Comstock

Countries vary greatly in the speed with which they ratify international human rights treaties. In this chapter, I argue that acknowledging different domestic institutional requirements for ratification is important for understanding ratification timing. Countries requiring legislative approval prior to ratification confront different, more difficult, domestic legal contexts than do states only requiring a head of state’s approval. Without acknowledging the domestic politics and contexts, scholars can dismiss treaties as codifying existing practices and polices when in actuality, the treaty motivated the changes in policies and human rights practices. Tracing the ratification process of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in the Netherlands, I argue that the legislative approval requirement delayed ratification and moved compliance earlier. While Conservative Christian groups contested expansion of women’s rights in the legislature, the Netherlands was able to implement treaty provisions around the opposition. Courts referenced the treaty, and the legislature adopted supporting, separate, legislation. The Netherlands case of CEDAW ratification highlights that countries requiring legislative approval for ratification have a commitment and compliance timeline distinct from a traditional expectation of compliance following ratification.