UNITED NATIONS: by Babette FrancisNews Weekly
Feminist frolics at the UN
, March 29, 2008
Feminist activists converged on the UN's recent 2008 session on the Commission on the Status of Women to push for abortion on demand, same-sex marriage and, just for good measure, "gender perspectives on climate change". Babette Francis, who flew to New York to attend the session, provides this exclusive report for News Weekly.The New York headquarters of the United Nations becomes an annual feminist Mecca during the last week of February and the first week of March. This is when the sisterhood from all over the world gather for the ruminations of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
This year was the 52nd such talk-fest. A document of "Agreed conclusions" is produced at the end of the two-week session.
The themes for 2008 were "Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women", and "the emerging issue of gender perspectives on climate change". (If you are wondering what climate change has to do with gender perspectives, I am mystified too).
Translated, these themes mean that developed countries have to provide financial assistance to developing countries according to specified targets. The latest ambit claim by feminist NGOs is a gender-equality architecture reform (GEAR UP) campaign requiring a US$1billion to create another UN entity pushing women's rights, headed by a UN under-secretary general.
International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world's largest abortion-provider, sponsors this campaign. The UN already has entities, such as INSTRAW, DAW, UNIFEM, and OSAGI, working to empower women; but feminists apparently believe that developed countries have an endless supply of money to fund their wish-list.
There would be little objection to helping women in developing countries if the money was spent on the education of girls and women and on increased opportunities for their employment through micro-credit schemes like the Grameen Bank, and indeed many of the speeches by leaders of national delegations at the plenary session did focus on education and employment.
However, the real debate on the "Agreed conclusions" takes place in smaller negotiating groups which invariably get bogged down in terminology about "sexual and reproductive rights" and the meaning of "gender". Translated, this means lesbian rights and free access to abortion on demand, contraception and sterilisation.
There are five official languages at the UN for which simultaneous translations are provided through ear-pieces, but one needs mental translation even for documents in English - it is like being in a foreign country.
Because of the focus on abortion rights, the CSW meeting has become an annual lobbying challenge for pro-life, pro-family NGOs which have achieved observer status through accreditation with the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
We try to focus attention on the real health requirements of women: maternal and infant care, access to clean water, immunisation, anti-malarial drugs, treatment for tuberculosis - the needs are great. Instead, we hear there are shipments of tonnes of condoms and contraceptives to African countries, but a paucity of antibiotics.
This year our task was made more difficult as representatives of pro-abortion UN agencies, such as the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), were allowed in the negotiating rooms, but pro-life NGOs were excluded and we could only speak to official delegates as they went in and out.
In his opening statement UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the serious issue of selective abortion of girl babies: "Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others are denied the right even to exist. No country, no culture, no woman young or old is immune to this scourge..."
By distributing flyers and speaking to delegates, Campaign Life Coalition publicised the financial and social impacts of this sort of practice. However, it is difficult to see how the UN could stop sex-selective abortions without imposing restrictions on abortion itself, and any restrictions would be totally unacceptable to the UNFPA and its cohort of pro-abortion NGOs.
A non-EU member, Norway, probably acting as a stalking horse for pro-abortion EU countries, proposed inclusion of the term "sexual and reproductive health and rights" in the draft of the "Agreed conclusions".Splits on policy
Norway's move caused dissent among pro-life EU members. This year, pro-life NGOs were delighted when delegations from Malta, Poland and Eire opposed the mainstream European Union position supporting abortion as a "reproductive health right", because the EU hardly ever splits on questions of social policy at the UN.
Maltese ambassador Saviour F. Borg declared: "Malta firmly continues to maintain that any position taken or recommendations made regarding women's empowerment and gender equality should not in any way create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health rights, services or commodities."
This dissent from the EU's position was significant because it demonstrates to developing countries, some of which are under pressure to liberalise policies on artificial birth control and abortion in order to receive funding, that they do not have to compromise on issues related to life and the family. During negotiations, the United States stated that the term "reproductive health" was extremely problematic for many delegations and that insistence on its inclusion might prevent a consensus.
Kiribati called for deletion of the term and proposed "access to basic maternal and newborn health care as necessary to promote a healthy outcome for mother and child".
Negotiations for the final CSW document concluded in the small hours of March 8.
Pro-life efforts helped keep the controversial term "sexual and reproductive health and rights" out of the main document, and this term was also kept out of the other negotiated documents on female genital mutilation and on HIV/AIDs.
Several delegations thanked the lobbyists for remaining at the UN throughout the night, one delegation admitting that delegates needed to be held accountable and know that their actions were being watched.
One member of a pro-life NGO said it was important for national delegations to see that there is a pro-life presence at such forums: "As long as they are working on documents that could affect unborn lives, we will be here to bear witness."
It is important to keep UN documents untainted by references to abortion as a human right, as feminists then bully national legislatures claiming this has become "customary international law".
Though "sexual and reproductive health and rights" did not make it into any of the CSW documents, a problematic reference to the international guidelines on HIV/AIDS and human rights was included in a resolution on "Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS".
The guidelines call for abortion-on-demand, the legal recognition of same-sex unions and criminal penalties for any "vilification of people who engage in same-sex relationships". Though the government of Uganda was assured by the facilitator of the meeting that the reference to the document would be struck out, the resolution was adopted by the CSW with the reference still included.
Alongside the official CSW, there was also a calendar of "parallel NGO events". Australia's Endeavour Forum ran a workshop on abortion/breast cancer with speakers Dr Angela Lanfranchi, Professor Joel Brind and Mrs Eve Silver. Denise Mountenay, founder of Canada Silent No More, organised a subsequent workshop on post-abortion grief. Sue Fryer, also of Canada, held several workshops on the Billings natural family-planning method.- Babette Francis is national coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO accredited to the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). She is grateful for information provided by Samantha Singson in her article in LifeSiteNews.com, February 28, 2008.