Some Say CEDAW is Bad Idea

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Christina Hoff Sommers, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, writes here in the Policy Review on Feminism by Treaty: Why CEDAW is Still a Bad Idea.  Here is an excerpt:

The question the Senate has to consider is not, as Chairman Durbin suggested at the November hearing, “Should the United States stand with oppressed women of the world?” Of course we should, and we do. No nation on earth gives more to foreign aid or has more philanthropies and religious groups dedicated to women’s causes. Voters across the political divide welcome innovative programs to help women struggling with repressive governments and barbaric traditions such as child marriage, dowry burnings, genital cutting, and honor killings. What the senators have to answer are two more basic questions. One, is CEDAW a necessary and worthy addition to an already vibrant national effort to help the world’s women? Two, for better or worse, how will ratification affect American life? * * *

Is the treaty likely to improve the circumstances of women in places like Yemen (and for that matter Cuba)? Would U.S. ratification make it more effective? Are there better ways for America to advance women’s rights than through a UN treaty? There is lots of room for argument on these points, and there are many disagreements among feminists and human-rights advocates. As for its effects on American life, however, there is no doubt: They would be momentous.

If the United states ratifies CEDAW there will be a three-ring circus each time we come up for review. American laws, customs, and private behavior will be evaluated by 23 UN gender ministers to see whether they comply with a feminist ideal that is 30 years out of date. The Committee will pounce on all facets of American life that fail to achieve full gender integration. That many American mothers stay home with children or work part-time will be at the top of their list of “discriminatory practices.”

Read the full piece here.

Criticism of CEDAW comes from outside and within the feminist movement.  Consider, for example, the objections raised by my friend and colleague Darren Rosenblum in his article Unsex CEDAW: What’s Wrong with Women’s Rights, forthcoming in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law:

This Article argues that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (“CEDAW” or the “Convention”) has failed to create gender equality because its scope remains limited to women. CEDAW’s focus on women enshrines an understanding of sex as a binary of men/women with a perpetrator/victim relationship. Instead of focusing on “women” as part of a binary, CEDAW should seek to minimize the categories themselves. CEDAW’s very title is its mistaken diagnosis. Its focus on the category “women” reifies rather than undermines gender disparities. This Article argues that CEDAW should instead focus on the category of discrimination women face — sex (or gender) discrimination — rather than establishing women as its sole beneficiaries. By moving toward a focus on the broad category of discrimination, CEDAW would reflect the complexity of sex discrimination in which perpetrators and victims are not reduced to male and female. This binary distorts the reality of sex identity and portrays an inaccurate picture of sex discrimination. Men and other sexes should be central, along with women, to any rectification of sex discrimination. Using a category of discrimination, rather than the identitarian category of “women,” is imperative for the future of this crucial international treaty.

The full article is available here.

Food for thought, no doubt.

-Bridget Crawford

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One Response to Some Say CEDAW is Bad Idea

  1. thebewilderness says:

    Half the population of the planet is discriminated against based on their sex being female. So what we should do is focus on the men who are discriminated against based on their gender presentation. Because half the population of the planet is just so limiting.
    The female sex has no right to refuse to reproduce. That is sex discrimination, not gender discrimination.
    Heaven forefend anyone notice that sex discrimination is being codified into law in the US. Again.

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