The Senate Should Refuse to Ratify UN Treaty on Women's Rights

The United States Senate should refuse to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Although the title of the treaty sounds irreproachable, the actual contents of its pages are disconcerting.

Treaties typically set guidelines regarding how individual nations interact with each other. This treaty, however, constitutes a radical departure from tradition. The CEDAW attempts to set a precedent of international law usurping the United States Constitution and our own system of governance. Women in this nation have nothing to gain from this treaty — but the nation as a whole has much to lose.

This treaty is unnecessary for the advancement of women’s rights in the United States. For instance, our own Constitution guarantees “equality under the law.” Our nation’s own civil laws prohibit employment discrimination based on gender, guarantee equal educational opportunities for men and women, and guarantee equal suffrage.

This treaty “defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.” Is this nation truly prepared to cede the ability of defining rights to an entity which just last year placed Syria on the UN Human Rights Council? Is this nation truly prepared to submit to this organization’s “agenda for national action”?

The CEDAW could potentially interfere with our electoral system as well. Our electoral system guarantees the right to vote and the right to hold office equally for both men and women. This treaty could potentially be interpreted to interfere with the process itself by mandating nations take “temporary special measures” to ensure “equal opportunities in political and public life.” What “special measures” is the treaty referring to?

Ostensibly, nations could be required to issue gender quotas for parliamentary roles and judicial roles. Many opponents of this treaty, such as myself, are thrilled to see the numbers of women holding elected office increasing in the United States. However, this increase should be as a result of candidates competing with each other to run in free elections. Our government should not interfere with our electoral process at the behest of the United Nations.

The CEDAW could also interfere with our military. The treaty prohibits “"any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex ... in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field". Our military is continually working to expand opportunities for females in many aspects of defense. However, some front lines and special-ops roles remain restricted to males. Do we truly want the United Nations, an entity composed of many nations hostile to our interests, deciding whether or not these restrictions are permissible? If these restrictions are not requisite to our security, the barriers can reasonably be opposed! But this is an issue for our country, not the United Nations, to decide.

The CEDAW also declares that “society's obligation extends to offering social services, especially child-care facilities, that allow individuals to combine family responsibilities with work and participation in public life.” To be clear, the introduction to the CEDAW states that this includes child care. While we can debate the virtue of government-provided child care and the manner in which to fund it, should this be a United Nations declared right?

The CEDAW goes far beyond demanding equality under the law, equal business opportunities, equal access to education, or reproductive rights. Once again, here’s a direct quote: "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 of men and women." Most of us would agree that the dramatic increase in female leadership in fields such as politics, education, medicine, religion, and science has been of tremendous benefit to the world. But these advances can continue without ceding to the United Nations the authority to decide what the “role of women in society and in the family” should be. It’s not the prerogative of supranational body of unelected officials to decide.

Article 5(a) specifically demands signatories “to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women.” This would be an egregious precedent of social engineering on behalf of the United Nations. The terminology may sound enticing on its face — but look at the power being granted.

The CEDAW also interferes with our economic system. Article 11 guarantees to both men and women that “the right to work is an inalienable right.” In fact, it changes entitlements into a right as well by stating, “The right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave.” As our nation descends into fiscal insolvency, the last thing we need is a treaty potentially restricting our ability to enact entitlement reforms. Of course, a safety net is vital! But the provisions of this safety net are not “inalienable rights” derived from the United Nations.

The CEDAW also interferes with our business practices by demanding signatories. Consider Section 11(2), which requires of signatories the following:

(b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances;

(c) To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities...

The CEDAW partially cedes the sovereignty of the United States, erodes the stature of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, is unnecessary to advance the cause of women’s rights here at home, and sanctions social engineering at a supranational level. The CEDAW also holds the potential to interfere with our electoral system and military. It unequivocally attempts to change entitlements into a right, expands the entitlement state by guaranteeing government child care, and interferes with our economic system by mandating additional benefits from private businesses.

As a supporter of women's rights, I oppose ratification of the CEDAW for these reasons. This treaty is more focused on supranational governance and on expanding the role of government than on the rights of women.