WASHINGTON—At a refugee camp on the edge of a national forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, women venture into the trees to gather food and firewood. But sexual predators lurk alongside those resources. On an average day, 10 women suffer rape inside the forest. “These women have no choice,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “If they want to cook food, if they want to stay warm at night, they need to go into that forest.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., joined Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and other Democratic lawmakers this week to encourage federal action against the violent, global oppression of women. Boxer called the Foreign Relations committee hearing to build momentum for a bill she introduced last month, the International Violence Against Women Act. She also rallied with panelists behind a 1979 United Nations treaty for women’s equality that the United States has yet to ratify. Speakers at the event displayed some biblical wisdom by fighting for the poor and vulnerable, but parts of their agenda—in particular, the UN treaty—may be hard for Christian voters to swallow.
During the hearing, Paul drew attention to the punishment of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman on death row for her faith in Jesus Christ. He told the story of her assault: An angry mob beat her and dragged her through the streets to the local imam, who ordered she convert to Islam or die. State police saved Bibi from the crowd, only to arrest her on charges of blasphemy. “Meanwhile, the U.S. taxpayer has forked over billions of dollars to the Pakistani government, which officially condones the persecution of Christians,” Paul said. He demanded Congress restrict foreign aid responsibly to spare women and Christians from violence.
A slew of grisly stories like Bibi’s inspired Boxer’s legislation, which would make ending violence against women and girls a top priority of U.S. foreign policy and grant permanent status to the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Boxer took examples from recent headlines: a 25-year-old woman stoned publicly in Pakistan for marrying against her family’s wishes; nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorists in Nigeria; two teenage Indian girls gang-raped, killed, and hanged from a mango tree.
The UN’s Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women has gained signatures from 187 member nations. The United States sits on a short list of non-signees, along with Sudan, Somalia, and Iran. “I think it’s important that this country not stand with the most regressive forces in the world,” Boxer said.
But senators and panelists at the hearing failed to mention the standard pressures put on ratifying nations by UN monitors—pressures to legalize prostitution, broaden abortion access, and discourage stay-at-home motherhood. Patrick Fagan documented these pressures in 2001 for the Family Research Council (FRC).
“If ratified, this treaty could result in international pressure to reduce abortion restrictions in our country, as evidenced by the fact that the [UN convention] compliance committee pressured 76 countries to liberalize their abortion laws between 1995 and 2007,” Emily Minick, FRC’s senior legislative assistant, said on Wednesday.
Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority, said after the hearing she doesn’t think these issues should be politicized: “As far as the message of Jesus Christ, I mean, it was for the least of us, and it was for the poor, and those who can’t speak.”
Jesus certainly called his followers to compassion for the vulnerable, but a treaty for women at the expense of the unborn may harm the very least among us.