Issue 9, May 2009
|CEDAW—The U.S. Controversy|
CEDAW requires signatories to commit to improving the status of women and end discrimination against women worldwide. It would establish legal functions that would hold countries accountable to the United Nations. UN committees would report on each nation’s progress through comprehensive reports done every four years.
The controversy over CEDAW in the U.S. is largely centered on the issues of abortion, prostitution, sexual preference, women in the military, maternity benefits, and the federal government’s role in enforcing rights.
In 2002, U.S. legislators proposed a series of amendments to CEDAW that would only apply to the United States’ version. These changes, called RUDs – for Reservations, Understandings, and Declarations – stipulated that the treaty could not compel the government to allow paid maternity leave or force women to serve in military combat.
Furthermore, the RUDs stipulated that the government would not provide federal funding for abortions as a reproductive right, saying that CEDAW, if ratified, should not “create any right to abortion and in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”
Although the Obama Administration has said that it will support the ratification of CEDAW with the 2002 RUDs in place, the Department of Justice is currently conducting a review to determine whether CEDAW should be submitted to the Senate with or without the RUDs.
Liberal advocates would like a “clean” CEDAW ratified – without any RUDs attached. Conservative opponents would prefer to keep the RUDs in place or resist ratification altogether.
CEDAW’s opponents argue that its language is too vague and comprehensive. They believe the U.S. Constitution provides sufficient human rights protections and object to the idea of international law superseding U.S. laws. They also fear CEDAW would provide for the decriminalization of prostitution and open the door to legalized marriage for lesbians, which could translate into legalized marriage for all homosexuals.
Moreover, CEDAW might pave the way for mandated maternity leave benefits, which many business interests consider too expensive to implement. Military leaders argue CEDAW would make women serving in combat compulsory.