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The stakes were immediately obvious at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) as the negotiations began Tuesday on the draft document of the Agreed Conclusions on “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality.”

Every annual session has two focuses and the conference produces “agreed conclusions” about each theme – except last year when, for the first time, the delegates reached a stalemate and there were no agreed conclusions in the sex trafficking issue over whether prostitution is inherently harmful to women.

This year the two tracks are (1) the role of men and boys in gender equality and (2) the role of women in disarmament and peacemaking.

On Tuesday, most delegates didn’t even have their sleeves rolled up ready to wrestle over the crux of the issues as the discussion moved forward to Paragraph 3 regarding the role of men and boys in gender equality. The paragraph focused on the importance of parents – especially fathers, since the document is about male roles – in relationship to children’s development and well-being.

Paragraph 3a proposed simply that countries would promote an understanding of the following statement (simplified here): “Both fathers and mothers are important to the well-being of children.”

After a rather boring time when various nations made the changes necessary to accommodate their culture’s unique language requirements, the spokesman for the European Union (EU) stated that using the terms “fathers and mothers” was “too limiting.”

“Fathers and mothers” are terms that are “too limiting”!

And just that quickly, the first shot went across the bow in the culture war of the 2004 CSW.

I held my breath and instinctively went very still.

Suddenly, it wasn’t just marriage that was under attack from the left-wing activists. They had begun the assault on another front. One would think that at least our children would be shielded and protected from the fallout of the ideological battles, but here they were being thrust right into the front lines and put into the line of fire.

The delegate from the EU proposed substituting the words “men and women” for “fathers and mothers.” So the statement would read – “Both men and women are important to the well-being of children.”

So now, parenthood – mothers and fathers, moms and dads – are replaceable? Any man can be a child’s dad and any woman can be a child’s mom. A child having a bad dream will instinctively call for a “woman”? A soldier dying in a foxhole will cry out for a generic “woman”? Instead of looking for her daddy, a little lost girl will search for her “manny”?

The word “parent” is not connected specifically to “father and mother”? The words “father and mother” have no meaning; they’ve lost their relevance? All that is important is that there be a man’s influence and a woman’s influence – any man, any woman?

There is nothing special about “dad” or “father”; nothing unique about “mom” or “mother”?

Apparently, the left wing that is so opposed to “socially constructing” gender thinks that it is OK to socially reconstruct parenthood.

The nations began lining up, predictably, on one side or the other of the cultural divide – for parents or not.

The Peruvian delegate concurred with the EU, “We all know that some fathers don’t do a very good job” [to nods and grimacing smiles from numerous delegates across the room] and “sometimes, the terms ‘father and mother’ don’t have meaning.”

After a full hour, the chairman of the session cut off discussion and ruled that the negotiations would move to the next paragraph and return to Paragraph 3 the following day, after overnight review and private discussions among delegations. Sadly though, those talks will focus on whether any man can be “dad” instead of how fathers can be better dads to their children.

But there will be discussions among the delegates – plenty of them – characterized by arm-twisting and stonewalling by those who are out to destroy the family.

Clearly, the lines are drawn already and it is only Tuesday; it’s a long way to Friday night! It’s unclear who the winners of this particular skirmish will be, but ultimately children will be the losers.

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.

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