Friday Fax/US Senate Committee Considers Ratification of CEDAW
US Senate Committee Considers Ratification of CEDAW
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing yesterday to
address whether the United States should ratify the controversial UN
women's rights convention, called the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Senator Joseph Biden
(D-DE), the chairman of the committee, and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA),
organized the hearing in an effort to build support for the Convention,
and perhaps to goad the Bush administration into approving its
ratification. Biden stated that he was "concerned by the casual attitude
of the Executive Branch toward the treaty process and the legitimate
requests of this Committee for testimony on a significant treaty pending
Both Boxer and Biden asserted that the current failure to ratify CEDAW
damaged US credibility worldwide, and hampered US leadership on broader
human rights issues. These sentiments were echoed by the individuals
testifying in favor of CEDAW, many of whom called the current US stance an
"embarrassment" within the world community.
Addressing concerns that CEDAW would undermine US sovereignty, Biden
asserted that "The US Constitution and existing federal laws will satisfy
the obligations of the treaty.The United States will not need to enact any
new laws." There was also an effort to minimize the influence of the CEDAW
compliance committee, which has frequently told states to legalize
prostitution and abortion. Boxer admitted that the committee "says some
controversial things," but assured the hearing that it "cannot force
governments to do anything."
Speaking against CEDAW, former US Permanent Representative to the UN
Jeane Kirkpatrick stated that "it is silly to pretend that ratifying a UN
treaty will help women." Instead, "we should share the experiences of
American women worldwide."
Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), also testifying against CEDAW,
asserted that CEDAW committee recommendations were far from "benign,"
since they "exert a great deal of informal pressure upon countries that
depend upon United Nations funding of human aid programs." Davis also
questioned why the US should seek to make CEDAW the international standard
on women's rights, when the CEDAW committee has called for the
legalization of prostitution in a number of countries. "This is simply
inexcusable. Prostitution is inherently demeaning and degrading to women,
and in no way promotes sexual equality." Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) also
stated that the committee's stance on prostitution could impede US efforts
to stop sex slavery and the trafficking of women.
Kathryn Balmforth, former director of the World Family Policy Center at
Brigham Young University, called CEDAW a "threat to fundamental freedoms,"
since it obligates governments to change patterns of behavior by limiting
freedom of speech and religion.
The hearing ended on a strange note, with Biden asserting that those
opposed to CEDAW would not have signed the Declaration of Independence.
Biden allowed no response to this charge. "I have the gavel," he said as
he brought the hearing to a close.
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