Friday, May 17, 2002
By Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D.
All of a sudden there is a movement afoot to get the Bush Administration to ratify the treaty known commonly as CEDAW and more formally as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Obviously, this is a political maneuver with political timing. There are political advantages to bringing the so-called “women’s issues” to the fore prior to the important Congressional elections this fall and the next presidential election that is not that far off for die-hard politicians. On the surface, what is not to like about a treaty that would supposedly “end discrimination against women”? Who among us wants discrimination against anyone and especially against women in this era of political correctness? If that were what the CEDAW treaty was about, there would be no dissent; we’d all be cheerleaders for CEDAW.
CEDAW was signed by the United States in 1980, but the U.S. Senate has never ratified the treaty –for very legitimate reasons –so it has languished in never-never land. Suddenly, the State Department classified the treaty as a “Category 3,” (acceptable, ready for ratification, but low priority) a move that brought the document to the attention of Congressional leaders, put the president on a collision course with important segments of his constituency, and threatened the well-being of women around the world under the guise of concern for women’s needs and increasing women’s opportunities.
The high-pressure salesmen are telling us:
- This treaty is not so much for U.S. women –it won’t change much for women here –but, women in other countries need help and the U.S. ought to get behind policies that would empower women around the world.
- Legally, CEDAW can’t be enforced, therefore, it is not a threat to U.S. policies.
- Any problems we have with the treaty can be taken care of by posting official “reservations.”
- The United States would be in a stronger position to affect the debate about women if we were part of the negotiations about the terms and implementation of CEDAW.
All of the above-mentioned sales points have been refuted by lawyers who understand the nuances of national and international law, but the best refutation that I have heard came from CWA’s vice president for government relations, Michael Schwartz, who said, “That’s like saying Mrs. Beverly LaHaye, founder and chairman of Concerned Women for America, should have joined the National Organization for Women 25 years ago and worked from within for pro-life and pro-family concerns.”
As with most important documents, it is necessary to read the fine print. CEDAW contains some very troubling provisions including the very definition of “discrimination.” Discrimination would include “any distinction, exclusion or restriction” based on sex. Such a broad-based interpretation has been used already to decry “sex-role stereotypes” and lament the celebration of Mother’s Day. In addition, this definition of discrimination has been used to advocate legalizing prostitution and to recommend “equal protection” for prostitutes in terms of labor and civil laws. Perhaps more problematic is the vague phrase, “based on sex” which opens the door to the homosexual agenda. Indeed, Kyrgyzstan received an order to “re-conceptualize” lesbianism so that it would be a “sexual orientation” rather than a sexual offense in that country’s Penal Code.
Equally troubling is the redefinition of the family. This battle, of course, is taking place in many arenas, but CEDAW is up-front about seeking to “change the traditional role of men as well as the role of women in society and in the family” in order to “achieve full equality between men and women.” To that end, the CEDAW committee has complained to some countries that their men “are not assuming an equal share of family responsibilities.” Other nations have received complaints from the CEDAW committee about their “stereotypical” portrayals of men as heads of households and women as mothers and homemakers.
CEDAW also reinforces the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) in several negative respects –such as advocating children’s autonomy from parental decision-making and promoting federally funded day care in order to facilitate “women’s re-entry into the labor market.” CEDAW mandates sex education and gender mainstreaming. One of the most insidious aspects of CEDAW is the demand for quotas and the insistence upon “comparable worth” –sex-based wage and salary price fixing. Like similar international treaties, CEDAW supports universal abortion-on-demand.
The new push to get CEDAW ratified in the United States appears to be sheer opportunism. American women do not need the treaty because it would do nothing to enhance the rights and privileges that women in the United States already enjoy. Instead, the treaty is a way to slip in the radical agenda that is being advanced on so many fronts and in so many different arenas today –the agenda of abortion, autonomy, sexual promiscuity and redefinition of the family. Sadly, the legitimate needs of women around the world are being subverted at the same time that privileged women are shamelessly using these women’s desperate needs to push a frivolous and morally corrupt agenda.