J. Michael Smith, Esq.

Michael P. Farris, Esq.

CEDAW and Homeschooling Families

July 16, 2009

William A. Estrada, Esq.
Director of Federal Relations


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been at the forefront of HSLDA’s lobbying efforts recently, but there is another UN convention that may also be sent to the United States Senate for ratification, and would also threaten home educating families: the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).1

CEDAW calls for sweeping changes in law and policy to eliminate “all forms” of discrimination against women. It was drafted around the time that the Equal Rights Amendment movement was at its zenith. If ratified (requiring two-thirds of the Senate or 67 senators to approve it), CEDAW would become the supreme law of the land under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause in Article VI, thus trumping state laws and being used as binding precedent by state and federal judges.

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, CEDAW was signed by President Carter’s administration in 1980. Now that the women’s treaty has a favorable majority in the U.S. Senate and supporters in the Obama administration, proponents of CEDAW are pushing to have it ratified.

Why is CEDAW Dangerous to Homeschooling Families?

The greatest danger posed by CEDAW is its requirement that curricula be revised to ensure that there is no differentiation made on the basis of gender. CEDAW’s Article 10 gives the government the power to make these revisions: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women … and in particular to ensure … 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 to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods.” Under the guise of eliminating bias against women, CEDAW attempts to eliminate any differentiation between the sexes.

CEDAW prohibits making distinctions between the roles of mother and father, and teaching a traditional understanding of the family. Children are to be taught that they can get along just as well with two mothers or two fathers, and any attempt to show otherwise could be considered discrimination against women.

If CEDAW is ratified, Congress will not only acquire the duty to implement the treaty, but it will also acquire the jurisdiction necessary to pass legislation to comply. Such necessarily far-reaching legislation will impact the education of all children, including those who attend homeschools and private Christian schools.

Another danger posed by CEDAW, just like the CRC, is that a committee of “experts” on gender issues from 23 foreign nations has the power to supervise all nations that ratify CEDAW, to ensure that they are taking steps to enforce the convention’s requirements. This strikes at the heart of our system of representative government, where elected officials represent us in state legislatures and in Washington, D.C. No one on this committee has ever been elected by a U.S. voter, yet the committee would make rulings that could affect the lives of all U.S. residents.

Possibly most shocking of all, under the Optional Protocol to CEDAW passed by the UN General Assembly in 1999, individuals or groups who disagree with how the treaty is enforced by Congress and the U.S. judicial system can take claims alleging violations of CEDAW directly to the CEDAW Committee. The CEDAW Committee has an “inquiry procedure” whereby it can directly investigate possible CEDAW violations.


It is possible that CEDAW will be sent to the U.S. Senate for a ratification vote this year, even before the CRC. Regardless of which treaty is sent first, it is imperative that homeschoolers and other freedom-loving Americans work together to defeat both.

We will continue to monitor this treaty, as well as the CRC, and provide updates.


1. All references are from the text of CEDAW, located on the United Nations website at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm