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J. Michael Smith, Esq.

Michael P. Farris, Esq.

Senate Holds Hearing on CEDAW

November 22, 2010

Melanie Palazzo
Congressional Action Program Director

A sharp whistle echoed through the halls of the U.S. Senate Office Building. “I need everyone to get to one side of the hall and lower your voices—this is a place of business!” bellowed a Capitol Police officer. The seemingly endless line of women wearing pink “Ratify CEDAW” stickers momentarily quieted as they edged near the wall.

The commotion was due to a treaty called CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) drafted 31 years ago by the United Nations. It was signed by President Carter but never ratified by the Senate—much to the chagrin of internationalist and liberal feminist groups. To change this 30-year-old hold, the CEDAW2010 campaign was born in order to renew pressure on the Senate.

So, the dust was blown off the treaty and a hearing was scheduled in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law on Thursday, November 18, 2010. When HSLDA learned this, we immediately went on the offense, sending action emails to our membership urging them to tell their Senators to oppose this treaty.

HSLDA opposes CEDAW because of numerous sections in the treaty that require nations which have ratified it to regulate curriculum and education methods in order to eliminate gender bias. We believe that these sections would lead to federal regulation of homeschooling. You can read more about our concerns online.

Homeschoolers across the nation heeded the call to action. Senator Richard Durbin (IL), chair of the subcommittee, received so many calls that his staff began to try to get our callers to contact other offices. When the calls did not cease, the senator’s staff started to answer the phone asking, “Are you calling to oppose CEDAW?”

Will Estrada, HSLDA’s director of Federal Relations, visited the office of every senator on the subcommittee the day of the hearing. Upon entering each office, he was greeted with the sound of ringing phones—every call was from homeschoolers across the nation urging opposition to CEDAW. When he mentioned to staff members that they may have received a few calls about CEDAW, they wearily laughed and retorted, “That’s an understatement.” After receiving dozens of phone calls, staff for Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) urgently notified HSLDA that the senator opposed CEDAW. Senator Graham previously had no stated position.

While we were incredibly effective in letting our voices be heard, the other side was quite vocal as well. Pink “Ratify CEDAW” stickers were everywhere the day of the hearing, and the line to get in the hearing room stretched down several halls, sending Senate employees scrambling to provide an overflow room.

During the hearing, the two panels of witnesses were full of pro-CEDAW individuals from the U.S. State Department and U.S. Justice Department, Hollywood, Afghanistan, and liberal feminist groups. Steve Groves, from The Heritage Foundation, had the lone opinion that CEDAW was dangerous to the freedom of U.S. citizens.

As the hearing began, each witness assured Senator Durbin—the sole senator at the hearing—that the treaty would not affect U.S. law. They said the United States had to ratify the treaty to take the lead in women’s rights. When it was Mr. Groves’ turn, he alone brought up the fact that the United States already leads the world in advocating for human rights and the protection of women and girls with the example of its laws and culture, and stated that it is unnecessary for the United States to ratify this treaty. Furthermore, he explained that CEDAW would endanger America’s national interests.

In a humorous exchange, Mr. Groves pointed out that the UN CEDAW Committee has made shocking recommendations to nations which ratified CEDAW, for example, suggesting Belarus ban Mother’s Day and that Guinea de-criminalize prostitution.

Senator Durbin responded by asking, “and did Belarus ban Mother’s Day?” Mr. Groves responded, “No, I do not believe any country banned Mother’s Day.” The room erupted in laughter, but the point was made—most nations ignore CEDAW, but with our activist courts, ratification of CEDAW may not be a laughing matter in the United States.

For the time being, we are confident that the U.S. Senate heard our message of opposition to CEDAW loud and clear. No further hearings or votes on CEDAW are scheduled. We are grateful for each and every family who called in opposition to CEDAW. However, CEDAW is not going away. Its activists will continue to strategize and push for its ratification. We must be equally alert, unified, and vocal.

HSLDA will continue to monitor CEDAW and provide action updates as needed.

 Other Resources

“CEDAW and the International Threat to Homeschool Freedom” by Michael P. Farris