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(co-authored by Tyler Ament)

WASHINGTON, November 25, 2010 (C-FAM) – Last Thursday, a Senate subcommittee humored feminist activists by holding a hearing on possible U.S. ratification of a controversial women’s treaty.

Senator Dick Durbin was the only senator present, save for a brief cameo by one other, which led one observer to remark that the hearing was nothing more than a “dog and pony show.”

Despite longstanding and widespread opposition in the U.S. to the thirty year-old treaty, the hearing was decidedly one-sided, as five of the six speakers spoke in favor of ratification.

The hearing was held to promote the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  The CEDAW treaty was signed by President Jimmy Carter but has never been ratified by the U.S., and has not even been voted on by the full Senate, which would require a two-thirds majority for ratification.

Senator Tom Coburn, the ranking member of the subcommittee, asked the pro-life group C-FAM to submit written testimony for the hearing.  In her testimony, Dr. Susan Yoshihara, C-FAM Vice-President for Research, focused on her vast experience with the compliance committee that oversees CEDAW.  While the committees recommendations were non-binding, Yoshihara pointed out that UN treaty committees have implemented a strategic plan to reinterpret treaties like CEDAW to include new “rights” that countries did not agree to during treaty negotiations. 

For example, the CEDAW committee has pressured at least 83 countries to liberalize their abortion laws, despite the treaty being silent on the issue.  This strategy was successful in Colombia, where the constitutional court overturned the nation’s abortion laws, using CEDAW committee recommendations to support the holding.

Witnesses at the hearing included officials from the U.S. State and Justice Departments, the actress Geena Davis, an activist from Afghanistan, and a representative from a pro-abortion women’s organization.

Wazhma Frogh told the subcommittee that U.S. ratification of CEDAW was necessary to ensure women’s rights in Afghanistan.  Frogh went so far as to suggest that the Taliban would stop throwing acid in women’s faces if the U.S. would take leadership on women’s rights and ratify CEDAW. 

Frogh, like all of the other witnesses that testified in support of CEDAW, made claims that CEDAW was essentially an advocacy tool and wasn’t in conflict with Islamic law in Afghanistan or American domestic law.

However, as Dr. Yoshihara stated in her written testimony, the Obama administration has welcomed the CEDAW committee’s definition of gender equality, as it has claimed that “gender equality does not exist in any country”, and that U.S. ratification of CEDAW would help to remedy this.

Earlier this year at a CEDAW panel, noted activist Janet Benshoof declared that US ratification of CEDAW would bring about a “radical transformation of American law”.  Benshoof and her two co-panelists, both UN officials, stated that the US would need to impose the “temporary special measures” of Article 4 of CEDAW to bring about equal participation of women in all areas of society.

Capitol Police limited the hearing to about 200 observers, nearly all of whom represented the CEDAW 2010 advocacy group and sported pink stickers proclaiming “Ratify CEDAW”.

Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation was the only witness selected that spoke in opposition to the treaty.

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