The CEDAW bill

About three years ago, OASIS (our now hibernating news journal) called attention to a surreptitious attack on Muslim culture and beliefs under the guise of preserving women and children's rights. At that time, some activists were proposing the enactment into Nigerian law of a treaty called CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) which ostensibly gave women more "control" over their social life and health, and enforces equality of the sexes.

A lot has happened since then. The treaty has since come into force in several more countries and is now under consideration by the Nigerian legislature (since it can only operate in Nigeria when enacted into domestic law). Some of the concerns we raised in OASIS have been reiterated by other commentators and dismissed as alarmist and chauvinistic by proponents of the CEDAW bill. It is time though, to attempt an evaluation of the implementation of the treaty. To do this, we shall take the liberty to reproduce a piece written by Dr. N. Asogwa (a medical doctor) and published by The Guardian of July 4 2007 entitled"The CEDAW bill: A Trojan Horse". Our own comments will be presented in subsequent editions,

Insha Allaah. Enjoy:

TROY an ancient city was brought to its ruin by a wooden innocuous looking horse left by the Greeks. Thus the so called Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) bill is a programme that appears desirable but actually contains something harmful like the Trojan horse.

Oby Nwankwo. writer of the article in The Guardian Newspaper of June 26. 2007. page 68 titled "CEDAW: A compelling convention on Yar'Adua" does seem to be carried away by some apparently desirable aspects of the CEDAW bill. No doubt it has its merit but if the whole truth be known and nothing but the truth this United

Nations treaty poses a threat to the national sovereignty and nascent democracy of Nigeria. It is no wonder that even in the United States of America this treaty has not been ratified talk more of being domesticated.

There are many wholesome and welcome contributions that the domestication and implementation of this treaty would bring to the women of Nigeria. However, in article 12 of this document reference is made to the upholding of women's "reproductive rights", Reproductive rights walk hand in hand with "sexual rights". Only a few weeks ago. The European Union Parliament resolved to sanction Poland for its stand against homosexuality; a sexual right calling it homophobia.

Groups in the UN with an agenda to make abortion an internationally recognised human right have consistently misinterpreted this term to include a right to abortion. Thus. since the I990s. this pro-abortion agenda has hijacked the focus of this treaty. Since then. family planning services have been re-defined to include reproductive health services which might include abortion.

The Convention stipulates that UN member states that have ratified it must show compliance by giving progress reports on its implementation to a Committee every four years. Over the years this Committee has unfortunately become notorious in its relentless focus on widening the availability of abortion. It is on record that 37 countries have been pressured during the Committee sessions to liberalise their abortion laws. .

Moreover several African countries have come under attack of the Committee for not legalizing abortion e.g. Zimbabwe. Burundi. Morocco. Namibia. Cameroun. Etc More importantly. at the end of each session the Committee makes a report which the Convention specifies are mere "suggestions and recommendations" that are not binding upon states. In practice however this pro-abortion stance of the Committee which is reflected in its reports have been used as legal arguments to pressure countries to liberalise their laws on abortion.

A look at the record of CEDAW as an abortion instrument will convince even a novice: CEDAW has already cited Ireland for dragging its feet over legalisation of abortion. Furthermore, CEDAW committee criticised Ireland for permitting the Catholic Church to influence public debate. CEDAW has already been used to reprimand nations for: failure to provide abortions when doctors are allowed to decline the procedure as a matter of conscience (Croatia), for failure to legalise prostitution (China), and for instituting Mothers Day, because it is a stereotype of women's roles (Belarus).

In 1999, the Committee told Colombia that its "legal provisions on abortion constitute a violation of the rights of women to health and life and of article 12"of the CEDAW. Six ,years later, on April 14,2005, Monica Roa, a director of Women's Link Worldwide (WLW) , a radical feminist organisation that promotes the legalisation of abortion around the world, challenged Colombia's total ban on abortion, claiming that international treaties establish abortion as a constitutional right in at least some cases, citing CEDAW article 12. This challenge was successful and, despite the public out cry against the amendment, Columbia's Constitutional Court amended the nation's abortion laws, also citing the CEDAW Committee's report. In 2004, the Committee questioned the Nigerian government stance on Sharia law and abortion and criticised it for not yet having made abortion legal.

When these interest groups work through the UN and their partner NGOs, stealth and deception are their tools. Through these seemingly innocuous documents, national courts become the vehicle for the sweeping aside of the wishes, aspirations, and cultures of entire nations. By going through the courts, these groups ignore the sanctity of the independence of national legislatures to act according to the wishes of the people. Democracy is raped.

Nigeria is currently embroiled in a political crisis, which is the usual time for such international anti-democratic efforts to be pushed through national legislature. This is why such a sensitive document went through public hearing without contribution from many stakeholders. As the Senate examines this document, we ask for prudence and proper representation of the will of our people in this crucial matter.

CEDAW fails to define what constitutes "discrimination". There are legitimate distinctions intrinsic to each sex based on physiological and psychological elements. Recognising such distinctions does not constitute discrimination or prejudice, except in radical feminist ideology. CEDAW deliberately uses vague language and undefined terms in order to permit interpretations that are destructive of the social order and harmful to individuals, e.g., defining same sex unions as "families" entitled to all legal rights accorded to families, including the right to adopt children. In the name of "rights" for women, CEDAW is destructive of rights basic to every human being and the rights of cultural self-determination of nations. Its implications on constitutional and statutory law, as well as the manner in which the CEDAW Committee has been interpreting the treaty calls for caution on the part of Nigerians especially our law makers before domesticating it.

The provisions of CEDAW seek to overcome injustices towards women by mandating sweeping social changes which embody the narrow ideological opinions and social analysis of militant feminism on a spectrum of issues concerning fundamental rights of women and of all human beings, social institutions, nations, cultures and, indeed, human nature and human history.

CEDAW is fundamentally flawed in its radical social analysis and totalitarian in its methods. For instance it says: "The elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging co-education and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods". This is a veiled statement in support of homosexuality, lesbianism and note that education here includes a value free education (immoral sex education) For CEDAW most constitutional and religious laws are antiquated and originate from patriarchal mindsets and therefore do little to change the status of women e.g. the advocates of CEDAW insist on the need to amend Moslem laws. Special Rapporteur to the UN, Yakin Erturk who covers Violence Against Women calls for States Parties to the CEDAW to remove any reservation based on religion. Ertuk said any such reservation can only be viewed as "incompatible" with the Convention and contrary to the rights of women.

The dignity and value of women as persons and in their role as mothers and caregivers must be respected. A document which fails to do this is not worthy of being domesticated for Nigerians. Caveat emptor!!! Nigerians beware. Not all that glitter is gold. No woman is an island. She needs her family around her. Any document which destroys the family will also destroy the woman in the long run.


This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited