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J. Michael Smith, Esq.

Michael P. Farris, Esq.

CEDAW and the International Threat to Homeschool Freedom

November 22, 2010

Michael P. Farris, J.D.


If you are only going to read one paper this year about a political effort that will invade and damage your family, this is the one you should read.

Before World War II, international law was essentially limited to interaction between nations—the most notable exception being the law of the high seas which deals with issues like piracy. The world’s response to the atrocities of Nazi Germany led to a new branch of international law—international human rights law—which purports to govern how nations treat their own citizens and residents.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights—a non-binding resolution of the UN General Assembly in 1948—was followed by the adoption of two global treaties which attempted to ensure that every nation would guarantee the human rights of every person. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were both adopted in 1966. The United States is a party only to the ICCPR. The ICESCR essentially imposes a regime of socialistic guarantees.

Even if we strongly dissent from many of the goals and most of the methodology, one has to admire the boldness of the plan. Yet, the results are far less grandiose. Any fair assessment would conclude that although nations pay a great deal of lip service to the observance of human rights, the actual implementation is disappointing at best. Those who dreamed of an egalitarian utopia must be sorely disappointed.

CEDAW: Tool of International Law

Boldness has now turned to brazenness of the most extreme stripe. Feminist internationalists intend to use international law to coerce the restructuring of the institution of the family and the role of every man and every woman on the planet. Their vehicle is the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW aims at reinventing the family and society at large.

And it is no secret. The Preamble of the CEDAW treaty boldly proclaims: “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 between men and women.”

That is not the only megalomaniacal goal of this treaty. Its Preamble also calls for a “new international economic order” and “general and complete disarmament,” both of which are deemed necessary to “contribute to the attainment of full equality between men and women.”

It is a “modest” agenda. Restructuring the family. A worldwide socialist economy. Total disarmament. All neatly packaged in a handy little treaty on women’s rights.

The first specific obligation of CEDAW is that every ratifying nation is required by Article 2 to establish a constitutional provision that bans all forms of sex discrimination. This was attempted in the United States and rightly refused. In the late 1970s, the Equal Rights Amendment was rejected by the United States because the 14th Amendment already protects all legitimate claims to equality. The ERA went much further, aiming at the elimination of all sexual distinctions. As a nation, we concluded that this was bad public policy.

While we could analyze many of CEDAW’s socialistic mandates and other objectionable features, let’s focus a bit more on the goal of CEDAW to change the traditional role of men and women in the family.

In order to restructure the family, one of CEDAW’s key requirements is the duty of the government to undertake a massive program of re-education of society. This is nothing more than mandated massive feminist propaganda. “This state duty refers to bringing about changes in public consciousness or perception or understanding about a given problem or issue, with the purpose of alleviating the problem”—James Nickel, How Human Rights Generate Duties to Protect and Provide.1

My human rights textbook from the University of London declares that “[o]ne of the principal objectives of CEDAW is to change perceptions and traditional (usually negative) images of women in many cultures and traditions.” Furthermore, states have to undertake “all appropriate measures” to seek to accomplish this.

Article 2(e) requires each ratifying nation “to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise.” If your church refuses to hire women pastors, the United States would be under a legal duty to outlaw your church’s practice. If a couple has a religious belief that the father, as the head of the family, has the final say on some topic, Article 2(e) requires the United States to step in; the government must outlaw sexual discrimination by any person.

Even if a husband and wife agree that she should be a mother at home, this is sex discrimination in the minds of the CEDAW committee. How do we know this? This UN Committee formally chastised Ireland for its non-mandatory constitutional provision that suggested that women should be mothers at home.

Article 16 requires ratifying states to enact all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations.

On an additional front, if this treaty were ratified Roe v. Wade would become permanently enshrined in American law under the provisions of Article 12, which protects full “reproductive rights.”


No one really knows or can know the full extent of the legal obligations that will arise from the ratification of CEDAW. The CEDAW Committee issues authoritative interpretations of the treaty called “General Comments.” In General Comment No. 25 the Committee proclaimed:

The convention is a dynamic instrument. [The Committee] has contributed through progressive thinking to the clarification and understanding of the substantive content of the Convention...

A “dynamic instrument” is one which changes over time to meet the challenges of the new day. It is much like the theory of the “living Constitution.” Thus, the Committee of experts on the CEDAW committee claims the power to “clarify” the broad obligations of the treaty with an increasing degree of specificity as the years progress in their march toward a new world order with no armed nations, worldwide socialism, and, most importantly, international control over the family.

If you want international law that mandates this feminist, socialist utopia, then call your senators and urge them to move this treaty.

But if you believe that the government has no business meddling with the structure and philosophy of any family, then call your senators today and urge them to defeat CEDAW.


1. Available at