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Posted on Oct 10, 2002 Print this Article


During the congressional debate about Iraq and Saddam Hussein, sovereignty became a major issue. Some members suggested that America should defer to the United Nations in matters involving our military. Others said that strong alliances are important, but decisions regarding our armed forces must be made by accountable American officials. Global organizations, unaccountable bureaucrats, foreign commanders, and international courts should not be making policy for America’s military. The paramount issue of national sovereignty is central to the debate about an obscure treaty called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. CEDAW was first proposed by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1980, and 170 nations have already approved it. The Convention languished in the Senate for 22 years for the same reasons that the controversial Equal Rights Amendment failed to achieve approval by the required three-fourths of the states. Among other things, ERA would have prohibited any law or regulation that exempts women from Selective Service and combat obligations on the same basis as men. CEDAW is even worse than the rejected ERA. The state legislatures have no voice in its ratification, and it would ban all distinctions based on sex in private actions as well as government laws and regulations. Its disturbingly vague language would affect: "Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality with men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field." There are many reasons to oppose CEDAW, but its predictable effects on the military alone provide more than enough reason to send it back to the United Nations without any amendments or approval whatsoever. CEDAW’s Mandate for a Feminist "Ungendered Military" According to a Minority Views Senate Report recently filed by Committee Ranking Member Jesse Helms and Republican Senators Richard Lugar (IN), Chuck Hagel (NE), Bill Frist (TN), George Allen (VA), Sam Brownback (KS), and Michael Enzi (WY), CEDAW is "[T]he most ambitious multilateral convention on women ever undertaken by the international community." 1 If ratified and enforced as written, CEDAW would fulfill the fondest dreams of Clinton-Era Pentagon feminists, who advocated an "Ungendered Military" to advance women’s careers. CEDAW would invalidate all Defense Department regulations that treat women differently, including women’s exemptions from direct combat on land, sea, and in the air. That would include the infantry, armor, Special Operations Forces and helicopters, multiple launch field artillery, submarines, and the Army’s new, yet-to-be-deployed Interim/Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT)s. Once female soldiers are assigned to land combat, legal challenges at the national or international level would eventually invalidate young women’s exemptions from Selective Service registration and combat obligations on an equal basis with men. Since the treaty would eliminate all legal and social distinctions related to sex and marital status, it would also affect laws and disciplinary rules concerning sexual activity by same-sex partners in the military as well as in the civilian world. Regardless of public opinion, the mandate of CEDAW would supercede the 1993 law that excludes open homosexuals from America’s armed forces. This result has already been presaged by the 23-member CEDAW Compliance Committee, which ordered Kyrgyzstan to "reconceptualize" lesbianism as a sexual orientation rather than a sexual offense under that Central Asian country’s Penal Code. Even if the United States ratified CEDAW and joined the Compliance Committee, its single vote among 23 would not prevent results such as this. At risk are countless laws, rules, and private practices that distinguish between the sexes or benefit women as a class. Military regulations governing personal misconduct such as adultery also would be subject to challenge by CEDAW bureaucrats. Feminist Fantasy: A Global Gender-Free Society Even though the treaty has no direct enforcement mechanism, the United States Constitution recognizes treaties as the supreme law of the land. Sen. Bill Frist warned in his Additional Views statement, "Under the Supremacy Clause and the doctrine of preemption, if a conflict arises between state law or previously enacted federal statute and a treaty provision, the treaty will prevail." (Report, p. 11) CEDAW signatories are compelled to file reports with the UN enforcement committee every four years, and America would have to bring its laws and practices into compliance with "interpretations" issued by the unelected CEDAW Compliance Committee. None of this will have any effect on CEDAW signatories that are known for their abuse of women, such as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Communist China, Nigeria, Peru, Pakistan, Libya, North Korea, and Iraq. According to Thomas L. Jipping, J.D., and Wendy Wright, Senior Legal Studies and Policy Director Fellows at Concerned Women for America (CWA), feminist attorneys allied with the liberal American Bar Association (ABA) are already gearing up for massive litigation should the CEDAW be ratified. 2 To avoid a massive surrender of power to international social engineers who are obsessed with gender-free visions, the Senate must reject CEDAW. Reservations Not Reliable Sen. Frist has noted that the language of CEDAW heightens concerns about sovereignty. Article 28, Section 2 of the Convention states that "a reservation incompatible with the object and purpose of the present Convention shall not be permitted." (Report, p. 12, emphasis added). The Department of State nevertheless has been trying to craft reservations, understandings, or declarations (RUDs) to add to the treaty language, which would supposedly preclude negative effects on our military and other areas of American life. The experience of NATO ally Germany, however, indicates that unilateral reservations would not be enough to protect the sovereign right of American officials to set policy for our military. In 1996 the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which is affiliated with the European Union, heard the complaint of a young woman who had been denied a weapons systems job in the German Army. Four years later, the high court ruled that a provision in Germany’s Constitution restricting women to military band and medical positions violated the EU’s "supranational law." 3 The Court further ruled that Germany’s policy was "contrary to the European Union’s principle of equal treatment for men and women." Some members of the German Parliament denounced the Court’s ruling as a flagrant violation of national law, but the government nevertheless began preparations for the training of female soldiers in all units in the military, including the combat arms. (AP International, Jan. 2, 2001) The European Court’s decision overruling the Constitution of a sovereign nation is very relevant to the CEDAW debate. It was handed down despite reservations in the EU’s 1954 founding Treaty of Rome, which specified that individual governments would retain control of matters concerning security and defense policies. British Experiences with Egalitarian Courts In 2001, the United Kingdom conducted a "Combat Effectiveness Gender Study" of male and female soldiers. Even with watered down requirements to accommodate physical differences, the tests found that fewer than 2% of female solders were as physically capable as the average male trainee. Male discharge rates due to stress fractures and injuries remained below 1.5 %, but they rose to 11.1% among the women, who had to work 25% harder to meet similar goals. (Electronic Telegraph, Mar. 26, 2001, and London Times, Jan. 3) Much to the surprise of observers, British Defence Minister Geoffrey Hoon decided not to open the combat arms as a "career opportunity" for women. (BBC News, Mar. 30) Such a decision would not survive challenge under the terms of CEDAW, regardless of the impact on British combat units that are now participating in the international War on Terrorism. Another example of international judicial overreach occurred in 1999, when Britain was ordered by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, to accept homosexuals in the military. Despite protests from Tory officials who saw the ruling as an obvious encroachment on Britain’s sovereignty, Labor Party Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered compliance. (BBC News, Jan. 13, 2000) Within months, the London Sunday Times reported that the boyfriend of the first openly gay officer in the Royal Navy was accepted as the equivalent of a naval wife, entitled to benefits previously reserved for heterosexual companions of naval personnel. (Oct. 28, 2000) Will the Senate Accept the CEDAW Trojan Horse? Given the superior status of American women and efforts by the Bush Administration to improve women’s plight in repressive countries such as Afghanistan, there was no reason to revive CEDAW. Leaders of the Democrat-controlled Senate nevertheless rushed a committee vote on July 30, despite a requested delay due to the temporary absence of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) for reasons of health. Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Daniel J. Bryant also sent letters to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requesting sufficient time to update a 1994 senatorial study of CEDAW. That analysis deterred action on the treaty for the past eight years. But Chairman Joseph Biden (D-DE) ignored the Administration’s cautionary letters, and successfully pushed for a resolution reporting CEDAW to the full Senate on a 12-7 vote.4 If two-thirds of the Senate approves, CEDAW would go into effect with the force of international law. The United States Senate should disavow the CEDAW Treaty, either by keeping it off the calendar, or by rejecting it with an overwhelming vote. Endnotes: 1. Senate Executive Report 107-9, September 6, 2002. The senators noted that international gender activists have already invoked CEDAW language to successfully challenge Mothers Day (which celebrates women in "stereotypical" roles) in Belarus, and to recognize women’s right to engage in prostitution in China. CEDAW enforcers criticized Mexico and Ireland for having restrictions on abortion, and successfully pressured Belgium to reserve 50 percent of all candidate slots for women. Slovenia was chastised for having only 30% of its under-three children in child care centers. (Report, p. 9, and Washington Times, July 31) Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D. of CWA also warns that the treaty’s mandate to change the stereotypical definition of the family could affect family child care arrangements, single sex schools, gender education programs, and comparable worth wage-fixing schemes. (See "Exposing CEDAW," 2. Federalist Society Backgrounder, "CEDAW Treaty Would Undermine American Sovereignty," Aug. 27, 2002. 3. In reaction to brutal abuses of women who were captured on the Eastern Front, the post-World War II German Constitution prohibited women from bearing arms in the military. (Report of the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, p. C-29) It is likely that legislators would have amended that provision, but the European Court superceded legislative options and ordered a remedy far more radical than current policies governing America’s military. 4. The vote split on partisan lines, with the exception of Republican Senators Gordon Smith (OR) and Lincoln Chafee (RI), who voted with the Democrat majority.
Posted on Oct 10, 2002 Print this Article