The Teeth and Claws of CEDAW

    On July 30, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee brought a dangerous UN treaty one step closer to ratification. It approved the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, known by the acronym CEDAW. If ending discrimination against women were all the treaty would do, opposition would not be so heated -- nor advocacy from the left so incessant. CEDAW's supporters claim ratifying the treaty would not change U.S. laws -- it's simply symbolic. Then why go to all the trouble of ratifying it? "Because," they say, "it would send a message to the world that we uphold CEDAW's principles." What principles? Article 1 of CEDAW defines "discrimination against women" as: "Any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which impair[s] or nullif[ies] the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, . . . of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field." To end discrimination, the CEDAW Committee -- that's the group that monitors this -- has urged that governments: abolish laws against abortion, legalize prostitution, end traditional views of the roles of men and women, mandate sex education, instigate comparable worth laws, and incorporate homosexual rights in their policies. Current committee members include individuals from China, Turkey, and Cuba. And if the U.S. ratifies CEDAW, we subject ourselves to their judgment. Examples of that judgment? The committee has urged Uruguay to provide "reproductive and sexual health services," including abortion, to girls aged ten and up. It has pressured Sri Lanka to broaden abortion rights. The committee told the Russian Federation to enact comparable worth laws. And it urged China to legalize prostitution, and Germany and Greece to apply labor laws to prostitutes. One expert inquired how fathers in Denmark participated in raising children and sharing housework to which the Danish delegate replied that the Danish government was continuously "monitoring" families. Now I don't think dads should neglect helping out, but it's not the place of government -- and certainly not an international body -- to "monitor" our homes and tell us how to live. And CEDAW is more than a nag -- it has teeth. Through the World Bank, the UN holds the power of the purse over needy developing nations. Further, the new International Criminal Court will act as an enforcer of CEDAW "rights." In addition to those teeth, CEDAW's Optional Protocol gives it claws. Individuals and organizations -- like pro-abortion groups -- can bring complaints against nations to the committee, and the committee may then investigate those countries. CEDAW will affect our laws. In the CEDAW committee's words, countries are "legally bound to put its provisions into practice." The American Bar Association has published plans to educate judges and lawyers about "CEDAW's precedence over national law." I'll talk more about that tomorrow. U.S. women don't need CEDAW because they already enjoy full rights, privileges, and protection. As former UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick said at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, "we should share the experiences of American women worldwide." You can learn more about CEDAW at our website ( or by calling 1-800-995-8777 for a hard copy of our CEDAW fact sheet. Let me urge you also: Call your senators today and tell them, "No on CEDAW." Take action: Call your senators and urge them NOT to ratify CEDAW -- say "No to CEDAW." The Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121. They may be in their home offices now -- some are campaigning for re-election: Please call their state and/or campaign offices and urge them to vote NO on CEDAW. Find a list of the senators and their contact information on this page. For more information: Get BreakPoint's "CEDAW Fact Sheet" by calling 1-800-995-8777 or visit BreakPoint Online. Catherina Hurlburt and Laurel MacLeod, "Exposing CEDAW," CWA, 5 September 2000. Wendy Wright, "CEDAW Committee Rulings: A History of Interference in the Sovereign Affairs of Nations," CWA, 27 August 2002. Thomas W. Jacobson, "Comparing the U.N. Charter and CEDAW," Focus on the Family, 3 June 2002. Patrick F. Fagan, "How U.N. Conventions on Women's and Children's Rights Undermine Family, Religion, and Sovereignty," Backgrounder, Heritage Foundation, 5 February 2001. To view the CEDAW Committee's assessment of signatory nations, go to the Treaty Body Database and click the arrow next to "CEDAW," then click the arrow next to "concluding comments and observations." Wendy McElroy, "Senate Must Not Ratify CEDAW," FOX News, 13 August 2002. George Archibald, "Bar association urges U.S. to ratify women's rights pact," Washington Times, 11 August 2002. Ramesh Ponnuru, "Treaty Trap," National Review Online, 10 June 2002. John Leo, "U.N. Women's Rights Treaty Should Be Ignored,", 24 June 2002.


Chuck Colson


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