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Redefining gender: an assault on human dignity

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 Contents - Jun 2011AD2000 June 2011 - Buy a copy now
Homily: The Meaning of Jesus' Ascension - Benedict XVI
Why Pope Benedict removed Toowoomba's dissenting bishop - Michael Gilchrist
Australia's Anglican Ordinariate on track - Bishop Peter Elliott
News: The Church Around the World
Redefining gender: an assault on human dignity - Babette Francis
Archbishop Hickey: tribute to an outstanding Church leader - Brian Peachey
Australia's seminary numbers continue to increase - Br Barry Coldrey
Cardinal Pell: 'liberalism has no young Catholic progeny' - Cardinal George Pell
Events: St Thomas More: still A Man for all Seasons - Emma O'Shea
Letters: Catholic religious education: some grassroots views - John Morissey
Moral values and the march of science - Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
Letters: Greens' agenda - Peter Finlayson
Letters: Climate change - R. Blackstock
Letters: North Africa - Andrew Sholl
Letters: Mark Twain - Fr. F.E. Burns
Letters: Challenge - Fr. Bernard McGrath
Books: JESUS OF NAZARETH: Holy Week, by Pope Benedict XVI - Fr Glen Tattersall FSSP (reviewer)
Books: THE STORY OF THE LITURGY IN IRELAND, by Edmond Gerard Cullinan - Michael E Daniel (reviewer)
Books: MARRIAGE: The Rock on Which the Family is Built, by William E. May - Br Barry Coldrey (reviewer)
Books: HEART OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE: Thoughts on Holy Mass, by Pope Benedict XVI - Michael Daniel (reviewer)
Events: Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy 25th Anniversary
Events: Public Lecture - The Catholic Gift to Civilisation - Rev Fr Marcus Holden
Books: Order books from
Reflection: Pentecost, the feast of true hope for humanity - Bishop Arthur Serratelli

Every year in March the UN Commission on the Status of Women holds a conference in New York. This year for the 55th such meeting (CSW55) the theme was "Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women's equal access to full employment and decent work".

It sounds wholesome, but like many UN conferences, whatever the theme, the debates are bedevilled with debates about reproductive rights (code words for abortion on demand) and population control.

This year was no exception: at one morning session the delegate from Greece paid a warm tribute to (Blessed) Mother Teresa of Kolkatta. I had just begun to cheer up when she concluded with the words "and that is why women need to have free access to abortion." As an example of muddled thinking this one would be hard to beat.

As an "Observer", not an official delegate, I was not allowed to speak (the Australian Government does not appoint pro-life delegates to UN meetings), but I would like to have said: "Does the honourable delegate from Greece know that Mother Teresa said there would never be world peace until abortions ceased; and that if mothers are allowed to kill their own children, how can we stop other people from killing each other?"

UN gender debates

Adding to anti-life rhetoric at the UN are debates about gender. The European Union, Scandinavian countries, Canada and the USA (under Democrat Presidents) will not accept that gender means male and female, but push for gender to be defined as a social construct not based on biology. The UN bureaucracy are complicit in this attempt to redefine gender.

In 2009 UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin was asked to report to the UN on "gender-based human rights abuses in counter-terrorism measures", with an intended focus upon hardships encountered by women caught up in the war on terror. Instead, in his report, Scheinin asserted, "Gender is not synonymous with women but rather encompasses the social responsibilities that underlie how women's and men's roles, functions and responsibilities, including in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, are defined and understood."

Labelling gender a "social construct," the non-binding submission claims that "gender is not static," but rather "changeable over time and across contexts. ... [U]nderstanding gender as a social and shifting construct rather than as a biological and fixed category is important because it helps identify the complex and inter-related gender-based human rights violations caused by counterterrorism measures."

We know women (and men and children) suffer as a consequence of terrorism, but as one national delegate who opposes a redefinition of gender commented, "It would not be surprising that Martin Scheinin's document was snuck into a report, ostensibly on counter-terrorism to avoid immediate notice. ... Once implanted, advocates would begin to cite the 'stealth' document as additional authority in support of a homosexual-rights agenda."

Although the General Assembly of the UN has repeatedly defined gender in a traditional way, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women defines gender, similar to Scheinen's report, as a social construct. At CSW meetings, at last count there was a demand from the EU for the recognition of seven "genders", while not to be outdone, the Australian Human Rights Commission proposes anti-discrimination legislation on behalf of 23 "gender identities".

In fact, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, binding upon ratifying nations, states gender "refers to the two sexes, male and female, within the context of society." In addition, two non-binding UN documents, the 1995 Platform for Action and the 1996 Report of the Habitat Conference on Human Settlements (arising from two conferences I attended) consider "gender" to be "understood in its ordinary, generally accepted usage."

Vatican concern

During negotiations at CSW55, Holy See representative, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, expressed concern that "some delegations attempted to advance once again ... a radical definition of 'gender,' which asserts that sexual identity can somehow be adapted indefinitely to suit new and different purposes, not recognised in international law. ...

"In international law, the only binding definition of gender is contained in 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. The term 'gender' does not indicate any meaning different from the aforementioned definition."

The Archbishop praised the many delegations who affirmed the traditional understanding of gender and warned: "The international community should be aware that this agenda to redefine 'gender' calls into question the very foundation of the human rights system."

He then exposed the link between the attempt to redefine gender and the "missing reference to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, in the present text." He warned: "The UDHR, the foundational document of the human rights system, acknowledges the inherent dignity and worth of every human person, male and female. 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."

Babette Francis is the National & Overseas Co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., a pro-life NGO having special consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the UN.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 24 No 5 (June 2011), p. 6

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