UFI at the United Nations:
The Tyranny of CEDAW
By Cecil Ash
Feb. 5, 2007
Shakespeare's observation that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” has application in the reverse when it comes to social policies, laws and legislation. Some things with sensible sounding names – like “pro-choice,” “Planned Parenthood,” “Equal Rights Amendment,” and “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” (“CEDAW”) – can actually be deleterious in their impact, irrespective of the respectable sounding names. After all, who can be against the “elimination of all forms of discrimination against women?” Who can be against “equal rights?”
In the 1970's and 1980's, the United States Senate offered the Equal Rights Amendment to the states for ratification. The effort fell three states short of passing. Those who had pushed the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States did not give up. They went to the United Nations and there succeeded in enacting similar provisions in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women treaty. The problem with these provisions is not in their noble purpose of guaranteeing equality between the sexes, but rather in what else they attempt to do, and in how they are interpreted by a liberal UN oversight committee charged with implementing the provisons.
On January 26, the nation of Colombia had its opportunity before the CEDAW Committee. Colombia, as a signatory of the CEDAW Treaty, is obligated every four years to present evidence demonstrating its compliance with the treaty.
Following Colombia 's presentation, members of the panel of experts were permitted to ask questions. The first question was posed by the chairperson, Ms. Dubravka Simonovic from Croatia. She asked the Colombian representative if there had been any cases in Colombia in which the courts have used the CEDAW Treaty to overturn existing Colombian laws. Ms. Simonovic pointed out that inasmuch as Colombia had signed the treaty, it was obligated to bring all of its domestic laws into compliance with the treaty. Failure to do so, as implied by Ms. Simonovic, subjects Colombia , and other signatories, to sanctions by the committee.
This incident served as a grim reminder that once a country signs a treaty, it cedes a portion of its sovereignty to a group of people who may or may not have the same value system, and who may or may not understand the society of the country. For example, last year, the representative of Algeria was asked why the country had not established more day-care centers, enabling more women to work outside the home. The Algerian representative's reply was that in her country, the women wanted to be in the home to be with their own children. Judging from the comments of the panel of experts, they believe Algerian women have not found the highest and best use of their time. While there may be aspects of Algerian society that are repressive to women, a desire to rear their own children is not one of them.
The Equal Rights Amendment was rejected by the American people, but it is alive and well in international law as the Convention on the Elimination Against All Forms of Discrimination against Women. During his administration, President Jimmy Carter signed the CEDAW Treaty, but it has never been ratified by the U.S. Senate. Now that there has been a new majority in the Senate, it remains to be seen whether the U.S. will ratify CEDAW. If it is ratified, it will mean that the Equal Rights Amendment has come in through the back door, so to speak, when it was denied passage through the Constitutional process. Activist judges, including those on the Supreme Court, have already demonstrated a propensity to cite international law as justification for altering long-standing law and tradition.
The 185 countries which have signed CEDAW are now in the position of having their own sovereign laws set aside. There will be no respite from the CEDAW experts -- 23 officials from the various state parties. Their opinions are final. They are not subject to review or appeal. They advance opinions and judgment that is considered “progressive” and liberal. Whether that is appropriate for, or in the best interests of, the individual countries is unimportant. The countries must conform to CEDAW. That's their law now, as interpreted by an international panel of 23 experts.