The United States submitted positive language on fatherhood this week to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) document on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, raising an outcry from some nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Concurrently, delegates at the conference appear unified in calling for an overhaul of the committee’s approach, to focus on implementing past documents rather than creating new ones.
British delegates confided to radical feminist NGOs that they don’t want to open the door to new initiatives, such as celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Women’s Conference, until they see “what happens in American politics.” The outcome of this year’s presidential elections dramatically impacts U.S. positions at the United Nations.
The CSW bureau produced for this year’s conference a draft of the document Agreed Conclusions, which contained no reference to fathers. This surely deliberate oversight appears despite numerous studies, U.N. presentations, and thousands of years of experience that identify fatherhood, along with motherhood, as the most influential relationship impacting girls’ and women’s lives.
The United States seeks to correct this omission by adding passages such as:
- “Promote understanding of the importance of both fathers and mothers to the well-being of women and girls, and of the need to develop policies that maximize the positive involvement of both parents in achieving good outcomes for women, children, and communities”;
- “Promote textbooks that portray fathers, mothers, and legal guardians as active and equally responsible participants in children’s lives, and encourage the sharing of work and child-rearing responsibilities”;
- “Include new fathers, as well as mothers, in programs that teach infant and child care and development”;
- “Review the effects of government social and economic policies and programs to ensure that they have a positive impact on the involvement of both fathers and mothers with their children”;
- “Encourage an increased understanding among men of how violence, including commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking, injures women, men and children, undermining gender equality and weakening families and societies”;
- “Supporting women’s political involvement and economic independence, and support measures to ensure that women enjoy an equal right to own and inherit property, establish credit, and access income-producing opportunities.”
- “Promote programs that encourage job training and job creation in order to stimulate a growing economy that raises incomes and increases the opportunity for women in both the home and the workplace to achieve true equality.”
The United States also responded to the CSW bureau draft’s use of the phrase “reproductive and sexual health services,” which includes abortion. The U.S. advised that “services” should be changed to “programs,” thereby excluding the use of this phrase to force abortion on demand.
A coalition of European NGOs, calling itself the European Women’s Lobby, is demanding that the CSW document add, “Put in place campaigns and laws breaking with patriarchal ideologies to ensure that men fully recognize and respect women’s rights to decide if and when to have children, and that women have access to the contraception of their choice, and access to safe and legal abortion.”
NGO representatives reacted harshly to a positive portrayal of fatherhood. At a U.S. briefing to NGOs, one exclaimed to Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey that if the document mentions fathers, it should address fathers who abuse children, because “it’s fathers who are raping girls.” This met with applause from others NGOs. Ambassador Sauerbrey responded that “responsibility” goes with everything, including fatherhood.
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse and Wendy Wright are non-government organization (NGO) representatives to the United Nations from Concerned Women for America. Dr. Crouse is Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute. Miss Wright is Senior Policy Director responsible for international and life issues. They are in New York attending the 2004 sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women.