Pro-family delegates effectively block contentious language rendering Beijing conference virtually impotent.
At the conclusion of the New York Preparatory Committee meeting held March 15- April 7 in preparation for the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, the Draft Platform for Action is heavily bracketed. Square brackets around words in the text mean that there is no agreement of consensus; the bracketed sections will be negotiated further at the conference in Beijing Sept.4-15.
The fact that there are many brackets reflects two realities: first, that the original document is inherently flawed, and the brackets were necessary to oppose the false assumptions, errors, and evil ideas underlying the document; and second, that positive wording introduced to improve the text was bracketed by the delegations opposed to pro-life and pro-family amendments.
The Beijing Conference is supposed to deal with improving the lives of women throughout the world, but too much of the document deals with women as completely isolated from nature-the family, motherhood, and a complimentary relationship with her husband within a stable marriage.
The original draft reflects many objectionable themes. Allan Carlson of the Rockford Institute summarizes some of them as follows:
1. A conscious campaign against nature.
Para 9 states that “nothing short of a radical transformation of the relationships between men and women will enable the world to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
2. The deliberate elimination of the private
Para 32 states:
“At every stage and in all aspects of life, the principle of equality of women and men must be integral to the socialization process. The home is where girls and boys first learn of their rights and their responsibilities to each other and society. When men and women are not equal partners in private life, it is all the more difficult to effect change in public life.”
The document demands a restructuring of every small household. Para 81b calls on governments to “reinforce laws…that…compel men and boys…to share equally in child care and household maintenance.” Para 131 states, “Inequality in the public arena often starts with discriminatory attitudes and practices within the household where power relations between men and women are first defined.”
3. Dismissal of marriage and disdain for men.
The word “marriage” appears only twice, in negative references. “Husband” and “wife” do not appear at all. “Family” is mentioned only pejoratively. The word “mother” is also very rare in the text. The document talks of “lack of access” and lack of rights” in describing why many women are in poverty, but ignores the central cause, lack of marriage.
4. Emphasis on “reproductive rights”
Support for abortion is everywhere. There is a defense of sexual liberty, including programs for adolescents. Paragraph 82(i) call for “programs for pre-adolescent boys and teenagers and men of all ages, aimed at encouraging responsible sexual and reproductive behavior, including condom use.”
The original text of the draft document was already bad enough but some countries, mainly developed western countries, made amendments that, if approved, would make the final text even worse.
As in the earlier World Summit for Social Development meeting in Copenhagen, Canada was at the forefront of radical ideas at the Beijing Prep-Com, to the point that some delegates remarked privately that they were disgusted at Canada’s proposals.
A group called the Lesbian Caucus announced on one of the first days that Canada would introduce amendments relating to sexual orientation. In the document’s Mission Statement Canada called for a new paragraph including the following:
“It (the Platform) also respects and values the full diversity of women and recognizes that many women face particular barriers because of such factors as their race, age, language, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation…”
Is the reason for Canada’s introducing the term “sexual-orientation” into a UN document a way of gaining acceptance for the concept through international channels? If the term is accepted internationally, will Justice Minister Allan Rock point to this precedent for justifying a change in Canadian law and the Human Rights Act to include “sexual orientation?”
Canada published many terrible proposals, especially in the health section. Here are a few examples. Text in bold are Canada’s proposed additions to the draft document and text in square brackets are Canada’s proposed deletions. (These amendments were consolidated amendments also supported by Australia, New Zealand, Norway, USA, and Japan).
80.c. Make [more] accessible, available [and] affordable and safe primary, and reproductive and sexual health [care services and facilities including reproductive health with family planning] information, [and] services and facilities, [and health care] for women of all ages including women with disabilities, with respect for confidentiality, free of discrimination, coercion, and violence, as specified in the ICPD Program of Action.
81.b. Reinforce laws and institutions and cultural norms and practices [that reduce] in order to eliminate discrimination against women and girls; [and] compel men [and boys] of all ages to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behavior and to share equally in child care, family and household maintenance; and ensure conditions necessary for all women to exercise their reproductive rights and eliminate coercive laws and practices.
82. e bis Full attention should be given to meeting the educational and service needs of adolescents to enable them to deal in a positive and responsible way with their sexuality. (ICPD 7.43) Programs for adolescents have proven most effective when they secure the full involvement of adolescents in identifying their reproductive and sexual health needs and in designing programs that respond to those needs. (ICPD 7.43) . . . Countries must ensure that the programs and attitudes of health-care providers do not restrict the access of adolescents to appropriate services and the information they need, including on sexually transmitted diseases and sexual abuse. In doing so, and in order to, inter alia, address sexual abuse, these services must safeguard the rights of adolescents to privacy, confidentiality, respect and informed consent, respecting cultural values and religious beliefs. In this context, countries should, where appropriate, remove legal, regulatory and social barriers to reproductive health information and care for adolescents. (ICPD 7.45)
85.f. Provide financial and institutional support for research on safe, effective and affordable drugs and technologies for reproductive and sexual health of women and men, including more safe and effective methods of regulation of fertility, barrier methods to protect against STD’s/HIV, and simple and inexpensive STD diagnostics, among others. This research needs to be guided at all stages by gender perspectives,
The Gender Problem
The hottest debate at the Prep-Com occurred on the last two days over the word “gender” which appears hundreds of times in the draft document.
The Platform for Action calls on governments to design programs from a “gender perspective,” but does this mean commitment to women’s rights or opposition to discrimination on the basis of sex? Some think it means seeing everything as a power struggle between men and women. The “gender perspective” sees all men as guilty and benefiting from the “power” inequalities. Statistical difference between men and women is seen as proof of a male plot against women. A good example of the anti-male (and anti-family) philosophy behind the gender perspective is seen in the original Para 89:
89. “Acts or threat of violence instill fear and insecurity in women’s lives, rendering their aspirations for equality futile. Violence against women throughout the life cycle derives essentially from lower status accorded to women in the family and in society. Physical, psychological or sexual violence, whether occurring in the home or in society, is linked to male power privileges and control. Most of the violence against women and girls occurs in the family, where violence is often tolerated and encouraged.”
“Male power privilege and control” are blamed for violence. There is an implication that all women suffer or are controlled by the violence against some women. The family is blamed as the source of violence.”
There is no good translation of the English word gender into French or Spanish and it doesn’t even exist in Arabic. Traditionally “gender” has meant the difference between male and female and essentially a synonym got “sex” as in “the two sexes.” But there are suspicions that “gender” means much more in the Beijing document; that the word expresses a role, a social construction or a choice, not necessarily based in the difference between the male sex and the female sex. It was pointed out to delegates that there is such a thing as “gender feminism,” often homosexual, which promotes the idea that gender is something fluid, changing, not related naturally to being a man or being a woman.
A book on the subject Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, which is used in major U.S. universities as a text, makes it clear that “gender” is not absolutely tied to sex. According to the author Judith Butler:
When the constructed status of gender is theorized as radically independent of sex, gender itself becomes a free-floating artifice, with the conscience that man and masculine might just as easily signify a female body as a male one, a woman and feminine a male body as easily as a female one.
In the same paragraph Ms. Butler writes:
“Originally intended to dispute the biology-is-density formulation, the distinction between sex and gender serves the argument that whatever biological intractability sex appears to have, gender is culturally constructed: hence gender is neither the casual result of sex nor seemingly fixed as sex.”
According to such feminist/homosexual ideology there are at least five genders! (A course given at a New York University is called Re-imagining gender). Among possible consequences of introducing the term in the Beijing document without precise definition is that one could justify changes in national legislation concerning for example the “marriage” between persons of the same sex. Some of these questions have already been raised at the Parliament for Europe and in the Council for Europe, but without reference to the concept of gender.
Even UN documents corroborate that gender means more than it appears to. The following is a statement from “Gender Perspective in Family Planning Programs,” prepared by the Division for the Advancement of Women for the Expert Group Meeting on Family Planning, Health and Family Well-being, held at Bangalore, India, 26-30 October 1992, and organized by the Population Division of the Department of Economics and Social Development in consolation with the United Nations Population fund (UNFPA):
“In order to be effective in the long run, family planning programs should not only focus on attempting to reduce fertility within existing gender roles in order to reduce fertility…”
Many delegates became suspicious of the word gender used alone or in combination with other words to form expressions such as gender aspects, gender balance, gender-based violence gender dimension, gender impact, gender relations, gender sensitive, gender perspective, gender skills, gender studies and research, gender disregarded statistics.
There is no need for ambiguity. Gender could easily be replaced with “women,” “male and female” or “sex” about which there is no confusion.
Honduras finally asked for gender to be bracketed wherever it appears in the document pending a suitable definition. It is automatic at this stage of the negotiations for any word to be bracketed if any country objects to it.
The secretariat at this point did offer a definition of gender which certainly was not reassuring:
“Gender refers to the relationships between women and men based on socially-defined roles that are assigned to one sex or the other.”
When the revised text was given to the delegates the word gender was not bracketed as requested. There followed a long acrimonious debate during which many countries supported Honduras, stating that, besides the ambiguity of the word gender, a principal was involved- the right to bracket.
Some countries insisted the word was not negotiable and that it could not be bracketed.
The feisty Honduran delegate pointed out that the word “human” had been bracketed in the term “human being” and that this was a scandal. “Why can’t I bracket the word gender,” she asked, “which is a word that is changing in meaning and which does not refer to the fundamental concept of man and woman?”
The Australian ambassador asserted that there is “no sovereign right to bracket” and that the UN would be a laughing stock if it bracketed the word gender. The Guatemalan delegate countered that the Australian ambassador should be more concerned about explaining why Australia bracketed the word “mother.”
Benin’s ambassador took exception to the intimidating tactics and ridicule being heaped upon Honduras. “When you can put human being in brackets,” he said, “you can put anything in brackets.”
The Holy See pointed out that it was patronizing that any country didn’t like the word gender could make a reservation at the end of the conference in Beijing (as had been suggested by one delegate).
In the end, in a precedent-setting decision the chairwoman from Austria ruled “Brackets around gender would not move us forward procedurally we will not place the world in brackets.”
The Benin ambassador warned that he still considered it an open question, that the chairwoman had ignored the position of many delegations and insisted that a contact group be formed to negotiate further.
The contact group was established and met but was not allowed to announce the agreement it had arrived at. A formal contact group was then set up and thanks to the Benin Ambassador this group must report the Beijing Conference itself. He warned that the “gender” problem is a cultural and political question and dismissing it lightly could cause the failure of the whole conference.
Except for the word gender, anything of any importance, whether positive or negative, is now in brackets, thanks in large part to the effective lobbying by pro-family NGO’s. Representatives from around the world formed a very effective team to inform and educate delegates about the real agenda in the document.
They produced and distributed a great number of flyers on key issues such as the need for basic health care, the absence of fathers as the real cause of poverty, and what lies behind terms such as reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe abortion, sexual rights, sexual orientation and gender perspective.
Flyers were important but not a substitute for speaking to delegate. The one-on-one lobbying was very effective and rewarding. Many delegates sincerely and warmly thanked and congratulated the pro-life and pro-family NGO’s for all the information and insights they provided.
There were many obstacles to overcome to do effective lobbying. For one whole week, all the meetings were closed to NGO’s so it was difficult to follow the course of negotiations and speak to delegates. There were many room changes for the meetings and these were announced at the last second so that even delegates were confused about who was meeting where. Photocopy facilities inside the building became increasingly scarce as the days advanced. There was some harassment by security personnel and even attempts at intimidation of pro-lifers by unfriendly delegations. One pro-lifer was told by an NGO representative that she had been assigned to watch him because “too much of your bad wording is getting into the document.”
In spite of these hurdles the work was successful. The radical NGOs announced at one point that the conference was a disaster. Opposition to the word gender prompted a speech by Women’s Caucus and WEDO (Women’s environment and Development Organization) defending gender; at the end of which her supporters in the gallery stood up and revealed a pink paper with the word “gender” written on it. They then turned the paper around to show their French translation “Gendre.” When someone pointed out the “gendre” means son-in-law, they failed to see the humor.
The Prep-Com was supposed to end on April 4 but after assurances the week before that there would be no extension, the chairwoman announced on April 3 that there would be an extension of two days. In the end it was extended by three days at the insistence of the European Union who claimed they needed more time to study their position.
This seems to be a pattern at UN Conferences: a slow start, then longer sessions going into the small hours of the morning, the most important items left until the end, and then moving quickly the last two or three days. One must wonder whether this is not designed to eliminate as much opposition as possible through exhaustion, frustration and in some cases the impossibility of staying longer than originally expected for travel and financial considerations.
The New York Prep-Com was a victory from many points of view for the pro-life side, but everything could be lost if the bad parts of the document are approved in Beijing. It is absolutely essential that as many pro-family people as possible go to the Beijing conference to continue fighting for life and the family.