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Freedom Watch

The danger of CEDAW

Late summer in an election year is generally a very hectic time on Capitol Hill, and this year is no exception. One item on the United States Senate's agenda has been particularly troubling: CEDAW. This is the acronym by which the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women has come to be known.

Given its name, one might well wonder why in modern America anyone would be opposed to this treaty? Given its content, however, one might equally as well wonder how a senator could support its ratification. Unfortunately, on July 30, 2002, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed CEDAW, and Chairman Joe Biden has stated that he intends to bring the treaty before the full Senate sometime this fall.

Home School Legal Defense has actively opposed CEDAW. Over the last several weeks, we have lobbied senators on the committee, organized a press conference with several other groups opposing CEDAW (including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America), conducted press interviews, and authored a letter to President Bush, which was signed by the principals of many leading pro-family groups. In response to HSLDA's e-lerts, thousands of our members have also personally called the Senate.

The problem with CEDAW

The basic problem is that CEDAW strikes at the heart of our nation's sovereignty over its domestic policy. Unlike the traditional treaty scenario ("We will not shoot you if you do not shoot us"), CEDAW seeks to appoint 23 moral "experts" from around the world to ponder a nation's laws and personal practices. Lest you think that this pondering would be limited to the overt discrimination based on sex, consider the broadness of CEDAW.

Article 5 calls for governments to eliminate all "practices which are based . . . on stereotyped roles for men and women." What is a stereotype? Is not normalcy today the stereotype of tomorrow? The fact is that United States law already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Are we now asking for an OSHA-like agency of the government to dictate how each family washes dishes? Indeed, having women at home as unpaid homeschooling moms could be considered by UN-certified progressives as discriminatory.

Likewise, consider Article 10, which calls for the elimination of

any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducation and other types of education which will help achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods.

Again, the UN "experts" would get to define the meaning of stereotype. Could this include the traditional American family?

Or how about Article 16? This provision directs governments to ensure women the

same rights [as men] to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights.

What does "responsibly" mean? Who decides the responsible number and spacing? What is the right "information"? These words must have meaning, and it will be the moral "experts" at the UN who will define the terms.

The CEDAW committee's track record

Should you think we are stretching the limits of rational interpretation, let me illustrate why we are so concerned. In 1999, the CEDAW committee recommended the decriminalization of prostitution in China. It has expressed concern that Belarus celebrates Mother's Day, and lectured Armenia on the need to "combat the traditional stereotype of women in the noble role of mother." The committee has stated that too many Slovenian mothers were staying home to raise their children. It has urged the nation of Andorra to order a review of textbooks concerning sex education used by the Catholic schools, given that a majority of young women attend Catholic schools in that country. The Washington Times reports that earlier this year the CEDAW committee criticized Belgium for failing to achieve recommended political quotas for that country. In response, Belgian officials announced a new law reserving 50 percent of all candidate slots for women.

Numerous other problems with CEDAW concern many Americans. For example, abortion would be protected by treaty. If new U.S. Supreme Court justices desired to reverse Roe v. Wade, they would be unable to do so. In fact, the "experts" who oversee implementation of the treaty actually were concerned with the nation of Andorra's laws outlawing abortion in light of the health provisions of CEDAW Article 12.

Women could not be precluded from serving in combat. Article 7 requires countries to "ensure women . . . the right to: (b) perform all public functions at all levels of government." Would this not extend to women in the military?

Finally, churches would be forced to have women pastors and elders. Article 2 declares, "State Parties . . . agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay . . . take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization, or enterprise." Churches certainly fit this definition and would be subjected to UN-backed harassment and lawsuits. This would go against the stated beliefs of many American denominations.

CEDAW would become the law of the land

Over 200 years ago, America fought a war so that we could decide issues of domestic policy for ourselves. We should not give this hard-won right over to anyone other than our own elected representatives. Unlike some other nations, our Constitution places ratified treaties equal to the provisions of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. CEDAW represents a direct threat to our nation's sovereignty. The final vote in the Senate, should Chairman Biden carry through with his intentions, will be close. We urge you to stand with us for freedom.

Keep abreast of the latest news on CEDAW and other UN conventions affecting homeschoolers by signing up for HSLDA's free elert service at