NEW YORK, MARCH 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- An agenda to redefine the word gender is undermining the whole system of human rights, according to the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt sounded this warning Monday when he addressed the 55th session of UNESCO’s Commission on the Status of Women, to explain the Holy See’s position on the outcome of the session.
The commission adopted “agreed conclusions” (document E/CN.6/2011/L.6), but only after extending the session for 10 days for “protracted negotiations” on the conclusions, according to a statement from the U.N. press office.
Archbishop Chullikatt noted how the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights call for equality between women and men, a recognition that “is essential to the future of the human race and all its members.”
The declaration on rights also acknowledges the equal rights of a man and a woman to marry and found a family, the prelate noted. He called this a recognition that “is essential to the future of the human race and all its members.”
He went on to cite documents from 1966 and 1979 that also prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.
The Holy See representative then noted how the commission’s conclusions from this session refer to the term “gender.”
This term, he said, since the early 1990s has been introduced into non-binding documents and has been “commonly used to refer to the two sexes, male and female.”
He added that the only definition of gender in treaty law that is binding on state parties is one from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which states that “the term ‘gender’ refers to the two sexes, male and female, within the context of society.”
A “different and radical understanding of gender” was circulated in 1995 at the 4th World Conference on Women, the prelate recalled, but this understanding was rejected.
He added: “Moreover, the president of the 4th World Conference on Women, on the recommendation of a large body of member states, explicitly stated at that conference that ‘the word ‘gender’ had been commonly used and understood in its ordinary, generally accepted usage.’ That is, gender refers to ‘male’ and ‘female’ — the generally and historically accepted usage.”
Archbishop Chullikatt reported that “[u]nfortunately during the negotiations of the present text, some delegations attempted to advance once again, through the vehicle of ‘gender studies,’ a radical definition of ‘gender,’ which asserts that sexual identity can somehow be adapted indefinitely to suit new and different purposes, not recognized in international law.”
He noted that in response to this, a new preambular paragraph was adopted in the present text “with a view to eliminating doubts about the promotion of a new definition of ‘gender.'”
“Such an agenda has no place in any document sponsored by the United Nations, let alone one concerning women and girls,” the prelate stated.
Archbishop Chullikatt also exposed the link between the attempt to redefine gender and the “missing reference to the UDHR [Universal Declaration on Human Rights], in the present text.”
“The UDHR, the foundational document of the human rights system, acknowledges the inherent dignity and worth of every human person, male and female,” the prelate explained. “Yet some of those promoting a redefinition of gender opposed reference to the UDHR in the face of overwhelming support for its inclusion, and equally opposed reference to ‘the inherent dignity and worth of women and men,’ a bedrock principle of the human rights system.”
“In light of these trends,” the archbishop said, “the international community should be aware that this agenda to redefine ‘gender,’ in turn, calls into question the very foundation of the human rights system.”
No parental rights
Another reference is missing from the document, the Holy See representative asserted: that of the rights of parents, “in particular, their right to choose the education for their children, including education about authentic human love, marriage, and the family.”
Despite references to the rights of parents in various international documents, he reported that “several attempts to include parental rights’ language to stand alongside the term parental responsibilities were rebuffed.”
“This is a grave matter,” the prelate warned, “when one considers that parental rights and duties are firmly rooted in international law, and that parental rights are correlative with duties, the former being necessary to carry out the latter.”
Rights, dignity and responsibilities
Finally, the Holy See delegation reaffirmed its reservations on the meaning attributed to “sexual and reproductive health.”
This should not include abortion or abortion services, the prelate affirmed, and “the Holy See in no way endorses contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or as part of HIV/AIDS prevention programs or classes/programs of education in sexuality.”
The true advancement of women, the archbishop concluded, “is strongly linked to the recognition and the effective implementation of their rights, dignity and responsibilities. Women and men are both called to welcome, protect and foster these, for a renewed commitment towards humanity.”
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