July 2, 2002

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Examines CEDAW

On June 13, 2002, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to address whether the United States should ratify the controversial United Nations women's rights treaty: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). U.S. Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE), the chairman of the committee, and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), organized the hearing. Senator Biden stated that he was "concerned by the casual attitude of the Executive Branch toward the treaty process and the legitimate requests of this Committee for testimony on a significant treaty pending before it."

The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is an international treaty drafted by the U.N. and signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. This Convention attempts to break down natural jurisdictional distinctions between the individual, the family and the state.

HSLDA believes that there will be more efforts in the coming year to ratify this treaty by Senators Biden, Boxer and others. The Constitution requires a 2/3 majority of the Senate for the United States to enter into such a treaty.

Both Senators Boxer and Biden asserted that the current failure to ratify CEDAW damages US credibility worldwide, and has limited US leadership on broader human rights issues. The individuals testifying in favor of CEDAW, many of whom called the current US stance an "embarrassment" within the world community, echoed these sentiments.

Speaking against CEDAW, former US Permanent Representative to the UN Jeanne Kirkpatrick said "It is silly to pretend that ratifying a UN treaty will help women." Instead, she noted, "We should share the experiences of American women worldwide."

The United Nations does provide a process by which signatory nations can ratify the treaty but indicate they have problems with certain sections of it. CEDAW supporters say that the United States should sign the sign the treaty (to show general support for the rights of women) while expressing its concern by noting what the UN calls "declarations, reservations or understandings." This, however, is flawed thinking.

No amount of declarations, reservations or understandings can reform the CEDAW. While the treaty is laced with questionable policy objectives, American freedoms should not hinge on the interpretations of legal technicalities found in reservations attached to the treaty and subject to U.N. approval. The United States Senate should not try to reform a document whose very premise is fatally unsound. Nor should it allow an international organization like the United Nations to have any say over American domestic policy. Whatever the internationalist trend, the concept of U.S. sovereignty is not something to be frittered away as a means of appeasing radically feminist agendas.

HSLDA will continue to inform our members of attempts to ratify this treaty.

For a more detailed analysis on CEDAW please visit: