CEDAW: A United Nations Treaty for the Elimination of Motherhood
by Editorial Staff
“We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” — The Family: A Proclamation to the World
On July 30, 2002, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted once again to send a 22 year-old United Nations treaty, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to the U.S. Senate for ratification. The CEDAW (pronounced “see-daw”) committee which monitors compliance with this treaty, has issued numerous statements that comprise an assault on almost every principle enunciated in the Proclamation on the Family. This new push to get CEDAW ratified is sheer political opportunism, sadly, at the expense of the real needs of women worldwide.
After the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) failed in the United States, feminists took their cause to the United Nations and influenced the creation of CEDAW – a significantly more powerful women’s rights document. It was adopted by the U.N. body in 1979 and has since been ratified by 169 member states. CEDAW was signed by President Carter in 1980 but has never been ratified by the Senate as required under our Constitution. It is interesting to note that during the last 22 years, regardless of which party controlled either the Senate or the White House (or both), the U.S. Senate has declined to ratify this treaty because its provisions run contrary to fundamental American notions of family, motherhood, religion and sovereignty.
CEDAW is being used as a tool to eliminate the traditional family and its attendant gender roles. Specifically targeted is the role of motherhood. The CEDAW Committee responsible for implementing the treaty uses the treaty’s vague language to modify acceptable roles and relationships within families and cultures by redefining the family to conform to feminist and homosexual ideologies. The Committee seeks to dictate a new role for women throughout the world and in effect, eliminate all cultural, religious and legislative obstacles to its objective. It is predicted that if ratified, CEDAW will become a tool in the hands of activist judges to bring about radical social changes.
The treaty defines discrimination as “any distinction . . . on the basis of sex.” 1 The goal, says the treaty is to “modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women with a view of achieving the elimination of . . . all . . . practices which are based on . . .stereotyped roles for men and women.” 2 According to the Committee, the way we should do this is through nationwide re-education, or as CEDAW puts it, “the revision of textbooks and school programs and the adaptation of teaching methods.” 3
The CEDAW Committee, a 23-member panel of selected UN bureaucrats, determines whether or not a country is in “compliance” with the treaty and then issues “recommendations.” Compliance with these “recommendations” can be and has been tied to United Nations funding. Promoters of CEDAW have been careful to present CEDAW as a benign treaty that simply attempts to end discrimination against women. However, the following will show CEDAW’s assault on many foundational and fundamental freedoms heretofore protected under the U.S. Constitution.
CEDAW’s Assault on National Sovereignty
The CEDAW Treaty puts the onus on countries to pursue “a policy of eliminating discrimination against women . . . to take all appropriate measures, including legislation to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices . . .” 4 Also, “to repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.” 5 Thus the CEDAW committee has issued numerous statements to governments around the world suggesting that they review their laws to conform to their recommendations.
The Committee’s activities show how national sovereignty can be undermined. For example, the CEDAW Committee has told China to decriminalize prostitution: “The Committee is concerned that prostitution which is often a result of poverty and economic deprivation, is illegal in China. The Committee recommends the decriminalization of prostitution.”.6 In Kyrgyzstan, the Committee urged a radical modification of the penal code in contravention of that nation’s cultural heritage and beliefs: “The Committee is concerned that lesbianism is classified as a sexual offense in the Penal Code. The Committee recommends that lesbianism be reconceptualized as a sexual orientation and that penalties for its practice be abolished.” 7 So much for the advocates of CEDAW who claim that the treaty does not and will not attempt to change any national or domestic laws.
Senators in support of CEDAW claim that the threat to U.S. sovereignty can be eliminated by means of “reservations” that would exempt the U.S from compliance in specified areas of the treaty. However, Article 28 of CEDAW expressly declares that reservations “incompatible with the object and purpose of the present Convention shall not be permitted.”
CEDAW’s Assault on the Family
CEDAW seeks to fundamentally alter the family — the very structure that has forever served as the basis of human civilization. The preamble to CEDAW claims that “a change in the traditional role of men as well as the role of women in society and in the family is needed to achieve full equality between men and women.”
The CEDAW Committee has taken the treaty’s preamble seriously. For example, the Committee has expressed concern that in Singapore too much emphasis was placed on family.8 In addition, the Committee has called on Germany to assess its tax structure, which in the Committee’s view, is unduly furthering the institution of the family: “The Committee urges the Government to study the impact of measures aimed at reconciliation of work and family responsibilities so as to create a firm basis for policies and programmes that will accelerate change and eradicate stereotypical attitudes . . . It also recommends that the State party assess the current legal provisions on the taxation of married couples and its impact on the perpetuation of stereotypical expectations for married women.” 9
CEDAW’s Assault on Mothers
CEDAW discourages policies that protect motherhood and encourages full time government-sponsored day care for children in their formative years in order to liberate women from the role of mother. January 23, 1997, the CEDAW Committee criticized Slovenia because less than 30 per cent of children under three years of age and slightly more than half of all children between three and six were in formal day care, and that the remaining children, while cared for by family members and other private individuals might miss out on educational and social opportunities offered in formal day-care institutions.10
In its report on the Czech Republic, the Committee observed: “Having emerged from the restrictions of a totalitarian state, where full employment of women and institutional care-taking of children has been emphasized, the Czech Republic’s current policies directed at women and family overemphasize motherhood and family roles for women . . . The Committee also notes with concern the increase in over-protective measures for pregnancy and motherhood . . . It also notes that the cultural glorification of women’s family roles could exacerbate the negative impact of economic rationalization policies on women.” 11
And in its report on Belarus, the Committee again revealed its agenda for motherhood: “The Committee expresses its concern that the country’s legislation, in particular with regard to women’s role in the labour market, appears to be overly protective of women as mothers and thus creates further obstacles to women’s participation in the labour market. The Committee is concerned by the continuing prevalence of sex-role stereotypes, as also exemplified by the reintroduction of such symbols as a Mothers’ Day and a Mothers’ Award, which it sees as encouraging women’s traditional roles. It is also concerned whether the introduction of human rights and gender education aimed at countering such stereotyping is being effectively implemented.”12
If the U.S. Senate ratified CEDAW, it is very likely that organizations such as American Mothers Inc., the official sponsor of Mother’s Day and grantor of Mother of the Year Awards, would be targeted for elimination.
CEDAW’s Assault on Unborn Children
While the CEDAW document itself does not specifically mention abortion, in its 1999 interpretation of Article 12 of the treaty, the Committee held that “legislation criminalizing abortions should be amended, in order to withdraw punitive measures imposed on women who undergo abortion.” 13 The Committee urged the government of Ireland “to facilitate a national dialogue on women’s reproductive rights, including on the restrictive abortion laws.”14 and expressed its concern that abortion was still illegal in Ireland.
CEDAW’s Assault on Religion
The CEDAW Committee has taken the position that one of the “most significant factors inhibiting women’s ability to participate in public life [has] been the cultural framework of values and religious beliefs.” 15
In Norway, the Committee “was especially concerned with provisions in the Norwegian legislation to exempt certain religious communities from compliance with the equal rights law,” and therefore “asked the Norwegian Government to amend the Norwegian Equal Status Act to eliminate exceptions based on religion.” 16
The Committee’s report on Libya actually called on that nation to reinterpret the Qur’an, its most sacred religious text, “in the light of the provisions of the Convention and in the light of the current social environment.” 17 It also urged them to “proceed to an interpretation of the Shariah [the body of laws and rules regulating Muslim life] that was permissible and did not block the advancement of women.” 18
The following key tenets of LDS doctrine as expressed in the Proclamation on the Family are in direct opposition to CEDAW committee expectations.
- Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identify and purpose.
- The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
- We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.
- Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.
- Children . . . are entitled to be reared by a father and a mother.
- Fathers are to preside over their families . . . and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.
- Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.
Contrary to the claims of CEDAW proponents, this treaty originating from the U.N. has done little to stop the gross abuse of women by rogue regimes such as the Taliban, prevent the stoning of women in Nigeria, or help women in developing countries get much needed food and medicine. Instead, the CEDAW treaty has been used by “social engineers” to advance their radical agenda of abortion, androgyny, sexual promiscuity and redefinition of the family.
American citizens must understand that CEDAW ratification is dangerous and not necessary, as U.S. laws fully protect women’s rights. We should not allow political opportunists, looking for an election year issue, to jeopardize our country’s laws and the future of the family, the noble role of mother, and the life of unborn children. Women and children deserve better.
You can make a difference and let your voice be heard by contacting your Senators and expressing your views on CEDAW. Even a simple call saying “please vote against CEDAW ratification” by enough people can influence Senators who want to represent the views of their constituency. Please say “NO to CEDAW” by contacting your Senators and the Senators listed below who are still “undecided”. To find your Senators contact information go to http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index.cfm (alphabetical) or
This article was submitted by United Families International, a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to promoting the family as the fundamental unit of society. Although the core leadership of United Families is LDS, we have membership from many faiths and in many countries throughout the world. As a non-governmental organization with official ECOSOC status at the United Nations, UFI works closely with UN Ambassadors and delegates from UN member states to promote pro-family policies in UN documents. For more information or to become a member of United Families International and receive our quarterly newsletter, please go to our website at www.unitedfamilies.org or call our office in Arizona at (480) 507-2664.
The following Senators have yet to announce their position on CEDAW
Thad Cochran (R-MS) (202) 224-5054
Ted Stevens (R-AK) (202) 224-3004
John McCain (R-AZ) (202) 224-2235
Ben Nelson (D-NE) (202) 224-6551
Zell Miller (D-GA) (202) 224-3643
Strom Thurmond (R-SC) (202) 224-5972
John Warner (R-VA) (202) 224-2023
Pete Domenici (R-NM) 202) 224-6621
Wayne Allard (R-CO) (202) 224-5941
Additional information on CEDAW:
Concerned Women for America,
Focus on the Family,
The Heritage Foundation,
1 CEDAW, G.A. res. 34/180, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (no. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc. A/34/46, Art. I
2 Id. Article 5A
3 Id. Aritcle 10C
4 Id. Article 2 para. f
5 Id. Article 2 para. g
6 A/54/38, paras. 288-289 (China)
7 A/54/38, paras. 127-28 (Kyrgyzstan)
9 CEDAW/C/2000/I/CRP.3/Add.7/Rev.1, paras. 27-28, (Germany)
10 A/52/38/Rev.1, paras.104, 114 (Slovenia)
11 A/5W38, Pam. 1, paras. 185, 196, (Czech Republic.)
12 CEDAWIC/2000/l/CRP3/Add.5/Rev. t. Paras. 25, 27, (Belarus)
13 CEDAW/C/1999/L.2/Add.2, paras. 26-27).
14 CEDAW/C/1999/L.2/ Add.4, paras. 20, 25-26.
15 General Recommendation 23, 16th Session, Article 7, A/52/38/Rev.1
16 A/50/38 para. 460, (Norway)
17 A/49/38 para. 130
18 A/49/38 para. 132.