Another UN abomination: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Originally posted by me elsewhere on 11/17/2010

Treaties and international conventions should be used to further our national security interests, or to regulate international trade. Period. Why would we even consider signing a treaty that would allow an unelected, international body to oversee any aspect of our internal affairs? Our constitution gifted us with representational government. The Senate does us a grave disservice whenever it ratifies a treaty delegating any aspect of U.S. governance to an international body whose members are not elected by the American people.

In addition the U.S. Constitution purposely constructed a federal system of government with the intent of having as much governance as possible occur as locally as possible. The idea was to empower people. I realize that federalism has been eroding over the years through a ridiculously broad interpretation of the commerce clause and through federal mandates, but have we so given up on federalism that we would even consider shifting power further away from the people to an international body that does not represent the will of the people?

Tomorrow afternoon the Senate will begin to hold hearings on the U.N.’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). According to NRO’s Christina Hoff Sommers, any nation which signs this treaty has committed to

abolishing discrimination against women and to ensuring their “full development and advancement” in all areas of public and private life.

Discrimination is interpreted as being “any distinction” based on sex with an insistence on equality of outcome instead of equality of opportunity. And pay particular attention to the fact that the treaty authorizes the CEDAW committee to oversee aspects of private life.

As I said at the outset I’m against such treaties in principle because they are anti-democratic and erode our national sovereignty. However below I do look at some of the specific provisions of this CEDAW treaty. Since CEDAW committees have been overseeing treaty compliance for several decades now, I’ll also look at how the wording of the treaty is being interpreted by looking at their past rulings.

  • Part I, Article 2.a requires states to “embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation”; however, the people of the U.S. have already rejected such a change to our constitution when we chose not to ratify the Equal Right Amendment. One reason it wasn’t ratified was because people did not want to see equal representation of men and women on the combat field. I note in passing that New Zealand is trying to achieve full compliance with the CEDAW by ensuring female representation on the combat field (see here).
  • Part I, Article 4 allows for discrimination against men until de facto equality between the sexes has been achieved. In practice the CEDAW has censured China for not bringing about numerical equality between vasectomies and tubal ligations and for having labor laws that sought to protect women.
  • Part I, Article 5 requires governments to engage in social engineering in order “to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women”. In practice, the CEDAW committee has censured Belarus for celebrating Mother’s Day since this celebration expressed esteem for women in their traditional role. And countries such as Norway and Iceland have been censured because of the primary role women play in childcare.
  • Part I, Article 6 condemns the “exploitation of prostitution of women;” however in practice the CEDAW committee has demonstrated that it has nothing against prostitution, but simply against society marginalizing prostitutes by making prostitution illegal.
  • Part III, Article 10 requires the State to eliminate “any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education” (including private or religious education). Despite the growth of the Department of Education, many people believe there is no constitutional basis for the federal government inserting itself into education at all. Check out objections to CEDAW by home schooling advocates here.
  • Part III, Article 12 requires “access to health care services, including those related to family planning”. In practice this has been shown to mean that States agreeing to the treaty are supposed to legalize and/or increase access to abortion (see 80 Nations Arbitrarily Pressured by CEDAW Committee To Legalize or Increase Access to Abortion). A CEDAW committee has already censured Croatia and Italy for not overriding the conscientious objections of doctors who do not want to perform abortions. However, a CEDAW committee has never censured a country for allowing female fetuses to be aborted at a much higher rate than male fetuses simply because they are female.

Although a number of countries have ratified the treaty with “reservations,” it is unclear what legal standing these reservations have, and the wording of the treaty itself forbids reservations to the treaty which undermine its intent.

It’s time to get back to formulating treaties which protect U.S. interests in the larger world rather than become a party to those that undermine sovereignty and democracy at home.



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