COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN POISED FOR PRO-LIFE, PRO-FAMILY VICTORY

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

After sustained pressure from the United States delegation, the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is on the verge of removing controversial language relating to reproductive and sexual rights for boys, girls and women from a document now being negotiated at UN headquarters. The compromise, which appears highly likely to succeed at press time, represents a profound victory for the US, the Holy See, Muslim countries and some African countries, and a rebuke for the European Union, which had attempted to establish children's reproductive rights as a centerpiece of the CSW outcome document, which is intended to address "the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality."

The compromise came in a closed door meeting held last night after a day of prolonged and at times contentious debate. The European Union had sought the inclusion of language "to respect the reproductive and sexual rights of women and girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies," which raised serious concerns in many delegations, most importantly the fear that such language might indirectly endorse a right to abortion. Some delegations wondered what "sexual rights" would include, since it is a new phrase without definition in earlier UN documents, and some worried that mentioning any such rights for girls, without reference to parent's rights and authority, would constitute an extremely dangerous precedent.

It now appears likely that the entire line about women and girls will be struck from the document, as will "young men's" access to reproductive and sexual health services.

There also seems to be growing concern over what constitutes "gender stereotyping." Yesterday, the Holy See mentioned that motherhood and fatherhood, themselves, could be considered "gender stereotypes," and therefore condemned by the language in the document. When the head of the US delegation, Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey, elaborated on this point, she was roundly jeered by other delegations, and the Canadian diplomat chairing the meeting responded with exasperation that she did not want to debate the issue. But by late afternoon, other delegations were voicing the same concern as Sauerbrey. When the female delegate from Sudan asked for a definition of gender stereotyping in school books, the chairwoman responded by saying that "we can't portray all boys as soccer players and all girls as playing with dolls." To great laughter, the Sudanese delegate said, "But girls do play with dolls, we can't change that. I'm still playing with my dolls."

Now, it appears likely that "gender stereotyping" will be removed from the document, or at least defined so as not to include motherhood and fatherhood.

Other controversial language has already been struck from the document, including an effort by Canada to have the world community
address the fact that homemakers do not receive salaries, what Canada calls "unremunerated work associated with women, including domestic and
caregiving work."
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