- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday accused the Bush administration of softening its support for a 23-year-old U.N. treaty designed to support "women's rights."
Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, said the administration after approving the long-dormant treaty's revival in February has demonstrated a lack of "good faith" by "abruptly" starting a new review.
"I think this is delay for delay's sake," said Mr. Biden, who is seeking a Senate floor vote on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) before the August recess. It requires support of two-thirds of the Senate for ratification.
A spokesman for the White House yesterday could not verify the administration's position on the treaty opponents say promotes abortion, legalized prostitution and weakens U.S. sovereignty. CEDAW remains on a State Department list of acceptable treaties, but is not flagged "urgent" as under the Clinton administration.
Signed by President Carter on July 17, 1980, CEDAW states that any "distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex" that impairs women's equality with men in economic, political, social and cultural arenas is "discrimination against women."
"I think that reasonable people reading this [treaty], with any agenda, will come to the conclusion that it is in fact a large step forward for the women of the world," said committee member Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat.
It is supported by a coalition of 167 special interest groups including the National Organization for Women and Americans for Democratic Action.
"Is there anything good in this treaty?" asked Cecilia Royals, president of the National Institute of Womanhood. "Yes, but nothing new. What is good is already guaranteed in the Human Rights Declaration of 1948 among others.
"What is novel to CEDAW, gender engineering, is harmful to women," said Mrs. Royals, whose group was one of seven family and women's rights organizations who called on President Bush to oppose the treaty.
The 23-member CEDAW committee, set up by the United Nations to oversee the treaty, has pushed quotas, abortion on demand and legalized prostitution in many of the 170 countries that have signed it, opponents say. It criticized Mexico in a May 1998 report for "a lack of access to easy and swift abortion."
In 1999, it advised China "to decriminalize" prostitution and recommended that the Chinese government "take care of the prostitutes' sexual health."
This year the CEDAW committee criticized Belgium for failing to achieve recommended political quotas for that country. In response, Belgian officials announced a new law reserving 50 percent of all candidate slots for women.
Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and the Senate committee's ranking Republican, opposes the treaty. He formally requested that Mr. Biden delay the final vote on CEDAW, originally scheduled for yesterday, until he has recovered from surgery in September.
But Mr. Biden rescheduled the vote for Tuesday saying he will not honor Mr. Helms' request fully.
"If we wait until September, based on my reading of the Senate's schedule, there's no possibility of being able to consider this on the floor," said Mr. Biden.
Originally reported out of the committee in 1994 on a 13-5 vote amid active support from the Clinton administration, CEDAW was anonymously held by the Senate. It was sent back with a memo stating the United States would not be subject to articles that supercede its sovereignty.
Although the Senate has requested the committee to affirm that U.S. law supercedes the treaty, opponents say CEDAW should not be salvaged.
"It has already been referred to 'as an authority' in a domestic lawsuit in Brazil," said Lori Waters, executive director of the conservative Eagle Forum. "It seeks to set precedents in courtroom and legislative debates all over the world."
George Archibald contributed to this report.

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