Pro-lifers speak up at UN’s Beijing+5 PrepCom
Delegates to follow-up women’s conference fail to agree on
abortion and homosexuality
By Tim Bloedow
Last month, from March 3-16, feminists from Western countries took another stab at advancing their pro-abortion and homosexual agenda at the United Nations during the so-called Beijing+5 PrepCom. Once again, however, they were beaten back by aggressive pro-family forces and resisted by developing countries, organized at the UN as the G-77.
The UN is reviewing the compliance of signatory nations to the Beijing Platform for Action agreed upon five years ago at the UN Conference on Women in Beijing. (The UN’s General Assembly told the Beijing participants that they were not to try to change the original document, but this went unheeded, turning the PrepCom into much more than just a review). The March PrepCom was supposed to result in a final document to be endorsed at a special session of the UN General Assembly on women in June.
The conference failed to accomplish this goal because Western nations, including Canada, were pushing for the introduction of terminology in the document that would advance abortion rights, homosexuality and affirmative action, as well as language that would undermine national sovereignty. In fact, the G-77 introduced stronger language regarding national autonomy, but Western powers have so far rejected it.
Increasingly effective pro-family lobbyists, however, fought against these initiatives, with a message that centered on the promotion of motherhood. Walking around the UN’s New York City headquarters wearing bright red buttons that simply said, “Motherhood,” they sought to draw the attention of delegates to the lack of reference to motherhood in the Beijing Platform for Action and the follow-up draft document being examined during the Beijing+5 PrepCom.
Pro-family representatives maintain that this situation is intentional and represents a feminist agenda to restrict the freedom of women by pushing them out of the home and into the work force. For example, affirmative action proposals are being promoted, including advocacy of a 35 per cent quota for women in the military and quotas for politicians. Affirmation of motherhood also undermines the population control agenda that is being pushed in Beijing deliberations by Western nations.
Pro-family forces, of course, would not be successful if they were unable to convince official national delegates to fight the wealthy nations’ agenda. The G-77, however, appears to be increasingly willing to challenge the West and its allies, especially as its understanding has grown concerning euphemisms such as “reproductive rights” and “sexual orientation.” Additional terms such as “diversity of women” and “sexual rights” appeared during the PrepCom and were rejected by the G-77 because they were undefined and were seen as simply new tools in the rhetorical arsenal of those who want to advance abortion and homosexual rights.
Negotiations ground to a halt and even stalled within the first few days of the PrepCom due to the introduction of such controversial language. Canada also drew attention to itself by introducing over 200 amendments to the draft document in what some critics saw as a deliberate strategy to wear down other delegates, particularly those unfriendly to the feminist agenda.
Canada often takes the lead at promoting abortion and homosexuality at UN conferences, and the Beijing+5 PrepCom was no different. Canada worked in a coalition that has been given the acronym JUSCANZ – representing Japan, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The European Union and the Mexican delegation also advocated radical positions.
The Canadian delegation could not have been more biased if it had been designed with such a goal in mind. It was headed by Florence Levers of Status of Women Canada (SWC). The deputy head as well as six of the eleven advisors were also from SWC. Four of the other advisors were from the “women’s” or “gender” divisions of other government departments.
Among pro-family lobbyists the greatest success – if the response of their opponents is any indication – was experienced by young people who organized themselves within the past few months as the World Youth Alliance (WYA). They came together in response to the formation of a Beijing Youth Caucus at the 43rd Session on the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March last year.
Pro-life youth cause furor
After only three days into negotiations, feminists were publicly decrying the WYA. The European Women’s Lobby distributed an “alert” on March 7 about the presence of these “right-wing, pro-life‚ participants.” At one meeting, one feminist complained that “the Youth Caucus is paralysed because of the World Youth Alliance. They are dominating. We can’t work for awhile.”
In fact, according to WYA members speaking to the on-site pro-family newsletter, Vivant!, the feminists would adjourn meetings when pro-family spokesmen tried to introduce their views into discussions. Whether as a result of paranoia on the part of the feminists or highly efficient operations among the WYA, the feminists were under the impression that the pro-family group had 250-300 members at the conference. The WYA kept their numbers secret during the conference, but the feminists’ estimates were certainly exaggerated. Pro-family forces were also amused at the suggestion that the WYA was being funded by the Vatican and wealthy unnamed backers.
Pro-family youth caused a real furor in the middle of the second week of negotiations, when feminists spoke openly about their frustration over pro-family participants at a WEDO (Women’s Environmental and Development Organization) meeting. The intensity of emotion generated at the meeting led to conflicting accounts of what transpired. Until matters were clarified – with the help of media coverage by Vivant! – some youth were under the impression that WEDO had unilaterally dissolved the Youth Caucus.
One feminist broke down crying at the meeting, distraught at what she saw as the unravelling of the Beijing agenda at the hands of social conservative participants. This exemplifies the kind of attitude that pro-family spokesmen say exists among the UN’s feminists – the idea that international politics is their domain and, therefore, that they should not be placed in a position where they are expected to have to justify their extreme views, let alone defend them in a rational and coherent manner. Instead, they break down in tears, abruptly terminate meetings, and interrupt pro-family speakers with shouting and jeers.
Fight over Holy See status
Also notable at the Beijing+5 PrepCom was the controversy stirred up by “Catholics For a Free Choice” (CFFC) over the Holy See’s status at the UN. CFFC, a pro-abortion lobby group headed by Frances Kissling, is enraged by the Holy See’s success at defending life and family against a population control agenda that includes abortion and homosexual rights, so it has launched a lobbying effort to pull the Vatican’s Permanent Observer status. The focus of their argument is that the Holy See does not meet the criteria of a state, which is the requirement for holding such credentials at the UN.
In response to CFFC, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam) launched its own initiative to rally support behind the Holy See. They held a press conference towards the end of the Beijing+5 PrepCom to announce that over the past two months they had garnered the support of 1,015 organizations from over 50 countries for the preservation of the Holy See’s UN status. Over 170 of those organizations were brought on board by Canada’s own Campaign Life Coalition. Supporters included many inter-denominational and non-Catholic organizations, including Focus on the Family, Concerned Women of America and the Family Research Council.