Editor’s Note: On the heels of a 2010 landslide election, the Senate used the lame duck session to hold a hearing on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a controversial U.N. women’s treaty. CEDAW was signed by President Jimmy Carter over thirty years ago, yet has not gained support in the Senate; Concerned Women for America (CWA) has diligently worked against its ratification.
The more that people learn about the treaty and how the U.N. and radical feminists take advantage of it to impose extreme, outdated opinions upon countries, it loses support.
CWA regularly meets with Senate offices to oppose CEDAW and created a website (www.SaveMothersDay.com) dedicated to exposing the radical nature of this U.N. women’s treaty.
Below is testimony that Wendy Wright, president of CWA, submitted for the Senate hearing.
President of Concerned Women for America
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law
“Women’s Rights Are Human Rights: U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)”
The United States has rightfully declined to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The United States has solidified legal protections and cultural advances for women in the U.S. and extended aid, protection, and opportunities for women in other countries without being subject to CEDAW or its committee of “gender experts.” The ideological basis and framework of CEDAW are antithetical to our Constitutional system and American values. The U.S. should not lend our credibility, or risk our freedoms, to a fundamentally flawed treaty.
If the U.S. ratifies CEDAW, we would be in the company of countries that rank among the most persistent discriminators against women. This treaty provides cover for countries that allow and perpetuate abuse against women and a means for them to divert attention from their records. Ratifying CEDAW will not convince those that systemically discriminate women to mend their ways, particularly since most abusers are vehemently anti-American.
The desperate plight of women in other countries deserves attention. Impoverished women in developing nations are deprived of basic needs, education, and voting and property rights. Americans – through government, religious groups, and private associations – utilize and develop means to help women throughout the world. The U.S. has done more to promote human and civil rights, education, and economic development for women than CEDAW could accomplish because CEDAW denies the nature of women, the need for families, and the proper role of government.
After thirty years, CEDAW has not significantly improved the standing or conditions of women in the countries that need it most – yet, if adopted, it would deny women basic freedoms and rights in America. Americans can respond with confidence on why our country has not – and should not – ratify CEDAW.
CEDAW is contrary to America’s constitutional system
CEDAW’s sweeping language covers nations’ laws, culture, political systems, schooling, family life, personal relationships, and professional choices. Its all-encompassing scope is contrary to the U.S. Constitution’s limits on government and respect for state governments to handle matters such as family law. CEDAW – especially how it has been interpreted by the CEDAW Committee – also violates our Constitutional rights of freedom of religion and association.
Ironically, this “women’s rights” treaty would limit American women’s freedom. Ratifying CEDAW would subject American women to the supervision of a U.N. committee. It would infringe on liberties established since the founding of our country which created the framework that allowed America to flourish.
The U.S. already provides legal protection for women
The U.S. Constitution already covers women, and this is dramatically illustrated by the 14th Amendment. Buckley v Valeo stated that, “The term ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment has never been limited to men, and fully protects women against denials of ‘equal protection.’”
Notable among federal statutes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects women from discrimination.
If discrimination occurs, women have recourse to state and federal courts, commissions, and a culture of shame. Recently, a court ruled that the world’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart, could be sued for discrimination by female employees. Even the most powerful man in the country, the president of the United States, is accountable and can be sued for sexually harassing women.
Women flee to the U.S. when they face horrific discrimination. In many cases, the U.S. is the asylum for women systemically discriminated against in countries that have adopted CEDAW.
The U.S. has done more to help women internationally than CEDAW has accomplished
The U.S. exerts international influence, spends billions of dollars, and provides innumerable resources – government and private – to advance women’s well-being and rights around the world. Development programs, micro-credit loans, building schools, providing teachers and curriculum specifically for girls, democracy promotion – in a myriad of ways, America nurtures the status of women and girls.
In the 1990s, it was universally known that one of the most intractable abuser of women’s rights was the Taliban in Afghanistan, a country that had signed CEDAW. The legal advances, access to education, and political promise that Afghan women experience today is thanks to America’s military, resources, and commitment. America’s actions do more to help women around the world than the symbolism of ratifying this irreparably flawed treaty.
In 2010, Secretary of State Clinton announced the “Secretary’s International Fund for Women and Girls.” It is a public-private venture “to meet the critical needs of women and girls around the world.” While it remains to be seen what it accomplishes, its existence proves that the U.S. does not need to ratify CEDAW to prove its commitment to helping women around the world.
Direct action by the U.S. is far more effective and does far more to prove our moral leadership than diluting our influence and values through the U.N. One example is the difference between how U.N. officials dealt with heinous sex crimes committed by U.N. peacekeepers and how the U.S. tackles the appalling crime of modern-day slavery. U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers raped women and children – in the most notorious cases exploiting desperate refugees by selling food for sex – with impunity. In contrast, the U.S. addressed trafficking domestically and internationally by passing and enforcing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It penalizes perpetrators and foreign countries that fail to address trafficking. These enforcement measures carry more weight against abusers and governments that allow trafficking than U.N. treaties or statements.
America’s commitment to women’s equality is already established. The U.S. “stands with the women of the world” by promoting human dignity, training to establish just legal, judicial, and political systems, and providing aid for education and medical care. The top-down approach of a U.N. treaty does not persuade dictators and tyrants, the source of oppression against women.
Advocates for CEDAW argue that ratification will advance America’s foreign policy and national security. Yet America’s opponents and enemies who perpetuate systemic and inhumane discrimination against women, who treat women in practice and law as sub-human, will not repent merely because the U.S. signs a women’s treaty. This simplistic view reveals a deep misunderstanding of the entrenched ideology of America’s opponents and the underlying belief systems that subjugate women.
CEDAW Imposes Gender Feminist Views
Women in the U.S. are free to decide their profession, education, education for their children, political representation – or run for office themselves. Women are free to negotiate their roles as wives, mothers, and caregivers. Yet CEDAW would infringe on all these freedoms, and more, if the U.S. were subject to the irrational views of the “gender experts” on the CEDAW Committee.
CEDAW was crafted during the turbulent times of the 1970s. Feminists from the developed world gained control of the document, alienating feminists from the developing world where women are most in need of rights – women who faced violence, enslavement, and less-than-human status. These women complained of Westerners “denigrating woman’s maternal role” and weakening marriage.
This same divide exists today between gender feminists – whose views are reflected in CEDAW and its committee members – and social feminists, who expect the same rights as men and value the unique traits of women and the noble role of mothers.
CEDAW does not reflect the views of the majority of American women. In addition, the CEDAW Committee, which oversees implementation of the Convention, makes the treaty even more repulsive to Americans. CEDAW Part V (Articles 17-22) creates a Committee of 23 “gender experts” to oversee the implementation of CEDAW. This places the well-being of American women and families at the mercy of foreign opinions. This committee includes representatives from China (which forcibly aborts women) and Cuba (which murders women who attempt to escape the island). Other representatives on the committee have been from North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the CEDAW Committee has made the best case for why the U.S. should not ratify CEDAW. Ratifying CEDAW would lend the United States’ prestige and credibility not only to the treaty, but also to the CEDAW Committee’s opinions.
It told China to decriminalize prostitution, which degrades women as objects to be bought and sold, and destroys the health and marriages of women whose husbands buy prostituted women.
It criticized Ireland for the Catholic Church’s influence on attitudes and state policy. It told Italy to revise school textbooks to reflect non-stereotypical gender roles.
Singapore, which reported that its system is based on merit, was told to impose “minimum quotas for women political candidates.” It told Austria to increase women’s appointments to academic posts. Slovenia reported, “There were clear differences in what women and men preferred to study.” The Committee told the country to institute quotas to limit women’s choices of what field they may study.
If political, educational, or professional slots are filled based on sex, it reduces respect for women who actually qualify based on merit. It reduces the ability of women to vote for or hire the candidate of their choice, and harms the wives of men who lose positions to women who are not as qualified.
The Committee has pressured countries to provide abortions which, more than half the time due to sex selection, kill unborn girls and can cause serious and sometimes fatal medical and psychological damage to women. It criticized Slovenia because an insufficient number of infants and toddlers were in government daycare, revealing their prejudice that no woman should choose to raise her own children. Ironically, it would be fine for women to work in daycare institutions raising other women’s children. It criticized Belarus for celebrating Mother’s Day and told Armenia to “combat the traditional stereotype of women in the noble role of mother.”
The Committee opines on issues that Americans – and not an unaccountable, unrepresentative U.N. committee – should decide for themselves.
CEDAW would detrimentally impact families
CEDAW forbids recognizing the wonderful differences between men and women, even in the most personal relationships – family, marriage, and religious. CEDAW defines discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of sex,” in “any field.” This would invite an avalanche of frivolous lawsuits in the United States.
Articles 5 and 16 affirm that in family matters, “the interests of the children shall be paramount.” This superficial statement places children in the hands of “experts” who follow the latest fads or believe governments can raise children better than parents.
CEDAW requires that textbooks and teaching methods comply with CEDAW. Single-sex schools are discouraged because their “perspective” on gender is not acceptable. Taxpayers are forced to pay the cost of “gender neutralizing” textbooks and school programs to conform to the CEDAW Committee’s opinions.
The foundation of a healthy society is strong families, individual morality, and freedom. CEDAW and its Committee view all these as hindrances to women achieving equality.
How Advocates Plan to Implement CEDAW
Proponents argue that CEDAW is not self-executing. Activists are already planning ways to implement it.
CEDAW proponents intend to use the courts to implement CEDAW by bringing lawsuits challenging U.S. laws or policies. The CEDAW Committee pressures governments to train judges and legal professionals on the treaty.
The American Bar Association (ABA) produced a document to score countries that have ratified CEDAW. The CEDAW Assessment Tool is clearly meant to train activists in how to implement CEDAW within countries. Two of the questions it asks are: “Is CEDAW directly applied and given effect in courts as part of national law?” And, “What training programs exist to educate judges and other legal professionals about CEDAW’s precedence over national law?”
Other CEDAW proponents look to the international arena to force compliance with the treaty. A publication by The Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice explains “the creation of the world’s first permanent criminal court,” (the International Criminal Court) provides “an opportunity to codify as international law many of the strategic objectives outlined and committed to by Governments in [such documents as CEDAW and the Beijing] Platform for Action.”
Legal authorities debate whether these kinds of lawsuits – in national and international courts – would be successful. Yet, as Americans have seen too often, all it takes is a zealous judge with bizarre interpretations to impose social agendas that would never be voted in by citizens.
Proponents argue that CEDAW won’t affect women in the U.S. However, would CEDAW advocates go to such lengths to ratify the treaty if it were ineffective or purely political symbolism? Julia Ernst, an attorney who organized a “Rally for CEDAW” at the American Bar Association’s national convention in 2002, stated she believed ratifying CEDAW would have no affect on U.S. citizens.
But Julia was also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against President George W. Bush. She sought to overturn the Mexico City Policy, which bans U.S. funding of international organizations that commit or promote abortions. The suit argued that, under customary international law, the Mexico City Policy was illegal and the United States is required to fund organizations engaged in abortion advocacy. (The suit was dismissed.)
A privilege of our American system is that we decide our laws and who will represent us. Advocates of CEDAW intend to use the treaty, and its interpretations dreamed up by the CEDAW Committee, to formulate legislation as regulations, and challenge existing laws. Rulings from a U.N. body, consisting of people from foreign countries and cultures, will be relied upon to attempt to direct the policies, culture, and laws of America.
Joining Abusive Nations
Advocates for CEDAW make the strange assertion that by not ratifying it, the United States is in the company of other countries that have not ratified it, such as Iran and Sudan.
But if the United States ratifies CEDAW, it would put us in the company of:
Saudi Arabia, which denies women the right to vote, to drive, to be elected to political office, and requires women of all ages to have a male guardian. China, which forcibly aborts women and persecutes religious people. Cuba, which kills women who flee the country and jails dissidents. Libya, which practices female genital mutilation and murders political opponents.
Nine out of the 14 countries identified by the U.S. State Department in 2008 as having the worst records on sexual trafficking of women and girls have ratified CEDAW.
If the United States ratified CEDAW, it would cause other countries to obey it, say its advocates. But this is a wish with no foundation or evidence to back it up. The countries that are the worst abusers of women are also anti-American, rejecting our values and standards.
Ironically, ratifying CEDAW would condemn women in America and around the world to destructive social policies that devastate the foundation for stable societies – motherhood, marriage, and family. The treaty is used by the Committee to promote the very ideology that leads to a loss of freedom, such as redistributing wealth, and quotas on how many women and men can be in certain academic programs, professions, or elected offices.
CEDAW will be used in the United States to harm our democratic system, national sovereignty, families, and religious institutions. But in the countries that truly need reform to bring dignity to women, it has done too little.
Dictators and totalitarian regimes will sign treaties with no intention of honoring them. Yet it allows them to have a representative sitting on U.N. committees in judgment over other countries.
Answering Advocates Arguments
CEDAW advocate Eleanor Smeal argued, “The word ‘abortion’ is not in CEDAW,” in an attempt to dismiss pro-lifers’ concerns that the convention would be used to promote abortion. The word “abortion” is also not in the U.S. Constitution, yet judges and radical feminists claim it’s implicitly there. The CEDAW Committee and others have done the same by telling countries they are obligated under CEDAW to provide abortion and force doctors and hospitals to commit abortions.
Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, testified to this committee that the U.S. needs to ratify CEDAW to gain moral leadership and to dismiss abusing countries’ excuse for perpetuating discrimination against women. Former diplomat Harold Koh testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002 that he was “embarrassed” when delegates from other countries accused the United States of having no authority to speak on human rights since we have not ratified CEDAW.
With all due respect, the embarrassment is that America’s diplomats are incapable of enthusiastically citing America’s rich achievements in promoting women and human rights.
The United States has done more to promote human rights – within its borders and in other countries – than any other country in the history of the world. The United States has provided aid and developmental support to virtually every country of the world. We have sent our soldiers into harm’s way to protect countries from regimes that persecute its people as well as threaten the security of others.
Advocates claim the U.S. could influence CEDAW’s rulings if it has a representative on the Committee. The Committee has 23 members, with representatives elected from among the company of nations that adopt CEDAW. Yet, even if the United States ratifies CEDAW, there is no guarantee we will have a seat on the Committee.
Representation is restricted to reflect “equitable geographical distribution [and] different forms of civilization as well as the principal legal systems.” Countries gain moral equivalence by signing CEDAW. At any time, the United States may not get elected onto the Committee. If an American representative were on the Committee, she would be one voice out of 23.
The U.S. vigorously provides protection for women from discrimination and promotes respect for women worldwide. Ratifying CEDAW would not be a harmless act. It would deny Americans our freedoms and be used to promote an extreme worldview that is rejected by women worldwide.
Under the guise of “eliminating discrimination against women,” CEDAW would limit Americans’ freedom to make personal, professional, and political decisions – such as family duties, parental rights, religious exercise, education, employment, and political representation. Government agents and an unaccountable U.N. Committee would be free to impose a radical vision of restructuring society according to “gender experts.”
America’s Founding Fathers trusted that the U.S. would not adopt a treaty that violates our Constitution. CEDAW is a direct threat to the hard-fought American right of self-determination. It would radically alter the U.S. by handing over the right of “we the people” to decide our laws and culture – even family decisions – to a U.N. committee of foreign representatives.
The United States should not give our prestige, nor subject its citizens, to CEDAW.
Get it in PDF: The CWA resource, “Testimony for the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law on CEDAW” is also available for the Web via Adobe Acrobat. The Acrobat Reader is available for free by clicking the button below.