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Child, Family, State, and Gender Equality in Religious Stances and Human Rights Instruments: A Preliminary Comparison


Linda C. McClain


Boston University - School of Law

August 1, 2009

WHAT IS RIGHT FOR CHILDREN? THE COMPETING PARADIGMS OF RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS, pp. 19-44, Martha Albertson Fineman and Karen Worthington, eds., Ashgate, August 2009
Boston University School of Law Working Paper No. 10-31

Abstract:     
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recently began its third decade. Why has the United States still not ratified the CRC, celebrated as the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history? Once again, this question is on the table: Congressional resolutions that President Obama should not transmit the CRC to the Senate for advice and consent rapidly followed intimations that the Obama Administration had some qualms about the U.S. keeping company only with Somalia in not ratifying it. Some scholars contend that enlisting the unique resources of religions would help to ground a culture of human rights and address the paradox of impressive human rights declarations coupled with gross violations. If enlisting religion as a resource could close the gap between rhetorical declarations and children’s lives, then this chapter identifies one stumbling block. Prominent conservative religious organizations vehemently oppose the CRC because it threatens, rather than reinforces, religious conceptions of the natural family and of the proper ordering of child, family, and state - and of gender. The CRC and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, they hold, threaten parental, cultural, religious, and national sovereignty and deny sex difference. This chapter focuses on how the normative vision of the natural family held by several conservative Christian organizations in the United States - Concerned Women for America, the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, the Howard Center, and the World Congress of Families - shapes this opposition, even as they praise earlier human rights declarations for recognizing the protection that society and state owe the family. Strikingly, this vision also clashes with contemporary political and constitutional values of sex equality. As one step in a larger comparative project, I compare the stance articulated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which converges with these groups in some respects but diverges notably in others.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 34

Keywords: Convention on the Rights of the Child, Human Rights, Children, Gender Equality, Conservatism, Religion, United Nations, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Catholicism, Marriage, Family

JEL Classification: J71, J78, J79, K39

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Date posted: September 28, 2010  

Suggested Citation

McClain, Linda C., Child, Family, State, and Gender Equality in Religious Stances and Human Rights Instruments: A Preliminary Comparison (August 1, 2009). WHAT IS RIGHT FOR CHILDREN? THE COMPETING PARADIGMS OF RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS, pp. 19-44, Martha Albertson Fineman and Karen Worthington, eds., Ashgate, August 2009; Boston University School of Law Working Paper No. 10-31. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1684052

Contact Information

Linda C. McClain (Contact Author)
Boston University - School of Law ( email )
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
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