May 6th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Shocking truth behind soaring power prices

CANBERRA OBSERVED Malcolm Turnbull on the front foot during U.S. VP's visit

VICTORIA Doctors in Secondary Schools program sidelines parents

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Pro-EU technocrat unlikely to solve France's malaise

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE 'Equality' a false promise to end 'discrimination'

GENDER POLITICS NSW, Tasmania scrap Safe Schools program

NORTH KOREA Will to engage enemy key to Korean Peninsula

NATIONAL CENSUS Typical family: married mum and dad, two kids

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Gay intolerance puts on its pushy corporate face

EUTHANASIA Nitschke award goes to couple of artists

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Rare win for the family at UN women's commission

OBITUARY Servant of the public and God departs in peace

MUSIC Allan Holdsworth: Unparalleled technique

CINEMA The Fate of the Furious: Families, fast cars, fantastic action


BOOK REVIEW Two views of our future redundancy

BOOK REVIEW Mounted Division in the Great War

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Rare win for the family at UN women's commission

by Jane Munro

News Weekly, May 6, 2017

The Agreed Conclusions for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) have been greeted with enthusiasm, delight, and even wonder this year.

The CSW, held annually at the UN in New York, is attended by between 4,000 and 6,000 women from all over the world. This year was the 61st such event.

Each year the CSW, assisted by UN Women writes a draft document (also called the “zero draft”) on the theme for the year, which is circulated before the commission starts its deliberations. The theme for CSW61 was “Women’s Economic Empowerment in a Changing World of Work”. Member states (as the UN calls countries) and non-government organisations (NGOs) have the opportunity for input.

The Catholic Women’s League of Australia (CWLA) has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. We are a non-government organisation, so are able to attend and comment.

This year, the initial seven-page document ballooned to 70-plus pages, with factions and pressure groups, interested parties and governments all adding a sentence, phrase or paragraph. The serious business of negotiating began with this inflated document. Similar thoughts were amalgamated and wordy pieces pruned until the document was more presentable. This revised document, and subsequent ones, was sent to NGOs for comment.

The Egyptian facilitator for the UN negotiations on the outcome document, Fatma Al Zahraa Hassan, was impartial and unbiased in managing the negotiations. This, combined with the United States declaration that “we do not recognise abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance”, led to rejoicing by pro-family and pro-life groups.

UN member states that stood solidly with the family include the African Group, the Arab Group, the Caribbean States, Belarus, Russia, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan. The Holy See delegation’s contribution is always sound, reasoned and articulate.

After each revision was issued, I commented, on behalf of CWLA, to the Australian delegates. I gave positive feedback on the language about the family and expressed concern at the inclusion of a paragraph on “comprehensive sexuality education”.

The role of the family was not acknowledged in the Millennium Development Goals (2000–15). In the Church we speak of the family as “the basic unit of society”. Its role is vital and needs to be encouraged and supported, not ignored. Although the concept of family is not mentioned explicitly in the Sustainable Development Goals (2016–30), it is part of many of them and some of the targets refer directly or indirectly to it.

“Comprehensive sexuality education” has morphed into many programs worldwide, all of which have elicited concern from pro-life and pro-family groups. “Comprehensive sexuality education” has emerged in Victoria as the Safe Schools program, the Respectful Relationships program and more recently the Victorian Government initiative for Respectful Relationships in Early Childhood.

Promoted as anti-bullying programs, they are actually insidious means of promoting the LGBTI lifestyle. The Safe Schools program undermines the role of parents, is vulgar and advocates dangerous or life-changing practices for youth questioning their sexuality.

The final document, or Agreed Conclusions, for CSW61, includes paragraphs that strongly affirm the role of the family:

“The commission recognises that the sharing of family responsibilities creates an enabling family environment for women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, which contributes to development, that women and men make a great contribution to the welfare of their family, and that in particular women’s contribution to the home, including unpaid care and domestic work, which is still not adequately recognised, generates human and social capital essential for social and economic development.

... “Recognise the social significance of maternity, paternity, motherhood, fatherhood and the role of parents in the upbringing of children, and promote paid maternity, paternity or parental leave and adequate social-security benefits for both women and men, take appropriate steps to ensure they are not discriminated against when availing themselves of such benefits, and promote men’s awareness and use of such opportunities to enable women to increase their participation in the labour market.”

All references to “comprehensive sexuality education” were removed from the Agreed Conclusions.

Frequently throughout the Agreed Conclusions are references to the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, developed 20 years ago in China. While there is much in this document of concern, we fully concur with some paragraphs. The Beijing Declaration states in point 12 that it supports:

“The empowerment and advancement of women, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, thus contributing to the moral, ethical, spiritual and intellectual needs of women and men, individually or in community with others, and thereby guaranteeing them the possibility of realising their full potential in society and shaping their lives in accordance with their own aspirations.

Language is vital to United Nations documents. Every word is scrutinised and carefully evaluated. Although the Agreed Conclusions are not binding on member states, they do have an effect within the UN system. Agreed language will be used again and again. This time the language is positive and life giving. Please God it can be built upon in the future.

Jane Munro is National International Secretary of the Catholic Women’s League of Australia.

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