Autor: Douglas A. Sylva Fuente: C-FAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute)

Efforts by the United States to introduce a resolution at the United Nation to promote the political participation of women have met with almost universal criticism from women’s rights organizations here because the proposed resolution does not entirely correspond to the radical feminist agenda accepted as a benchmark throughout much of the UN system. This criticism has raised concerns that the Bush administration’s desire to be a constructive player in the multinational arena is bound to be opposed by its ideological foes, especially by international abortion rights advocates.

The resolution, which was adopted last week by the UN General Assembly’s Social Committee, is intended to boost the number of women in national governments and legislatures. According to Ellen Sauerbrey, US Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, “The reason for the resolution is the belief that this concept, very near and dear to us in America, is of concern in many parts of the world, and by introducing this resolution in the UN we are hopefully making a statement about how the international community feels about women’s political participation.”

A group of 19 women’s rights non governmental organizations, however, sent a letter to US Ambassador John Negroponte voicing its displeasure with the resolution, mainly based upon the fact that it did not call upon all nations, including the US, to ratify and implement the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Until that happens, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) said that the US proposal would be mere “rhetoric,” paying only “lip service” to concerns over women’s rights.

Some of the groups signing the letter, including the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), the Center for Health and Gender Equity, and the Feminist Majority, are leaders in the struggle for an international right to abortion-on-demand for adolescents and women, and they have been pleased that the CEDAW Committee, the committee that oversees nations’ compliance with the Convention, has repeatedly told nations to legalize abortion. According to IWHC, CEDAW is essential because “the CEDAW [Committee] clearly refers to abortion when it says that ‘other barriers to women’s access to appropriate health care include laws that criminalize medical procedures only needed by women…’ Further, CEDAW states that ‘it is discriminatory for a country to refuse to legally provide for the performance of certain reproductive health services for women.’”

On its website, IWHC says that “our goal is to improve the availability and quality of safe abortion services…particularly given Bush administration policies and the increasingly conservative movements on this issue worldwide.”

The signers of the letter also support CEDAW since it has the standing of international law. They argue that “CEDAW offers not only words, but an enforcement mechanism for implementing steps towards equality,” including “numerical and timebound” quotas.
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