Categorized | Beijing+15

Should “Motherhood” Mean No Family Planning?

Posted on 09 March 2010 by admin

Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS TerraViva

By Armin Rosen

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 8 (IPS/TerraViva) On Monday, the Commission on the Status of Women took a two-hour break from the Secretariat Building’s main conference room while the Iranian, Syrian, Nigerian, Qatari and Saint Lucian delegations used the cavernous meeting hall for a parallel event on “Recognising the Critical Role of Mothers in Society” – an event that has turned out to be one of the more controversial meetings related to the two-week-long Commission.

The conference room was packed with Commission participants who had come to hear speeches from activists and government officials on the importance of motherhood and “traditional” family structures in social and economic development.

The event was put together with the coordination of Family Watch International, an NGO that aims to “preserve and promote the family, traditional marriage, life, parental rights and religious freedom.”

The event was organised when Family Watch International began contacting various U.N. delegations about cosponsoring a parallel event during CSW on the social and economic importance of traditional family structures in general and motherhood in particular.

According to FWI president Sharon Slater, the Syrians and Iranians were receptive to her group’s message. “They thought it was time for the issue of motherhood to be put on the U.N.’s agenda,” she said.

Slater added that her group was not concerned about co-sponsoring an event with the Iranian government. “We’re a non-denominational, nonpolitical group,” she said. “We’ll partner with anyone who believes in the value of family.”

Saint Lucia’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. had a similar attitude towards collaborating with the Iranian government on a CSW side-event. Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, a former health minister and member of Parliament in Saint Lucia, and a member of the island nation’s U.N. delegation, even wondered why anyone would be interested in whether Saint Lucia had any reservations about co-sponsoring an event with Iran.

“I’m not sure why you’re asking that question,” she said. “I would have thought that the subject matter would have been most important. We never agree on everything,” she said of the U.N.’s member states, “but where there is an opportunity to collaborate we wish to do that. This is the U.N. This is where nations do that.”

At the panel, Beaubrun spoke about the importance of family in a Caribbean context, and said that family values could help reign in the region’s seemingly out-of-control murder rates.

But a few activists believe that the event is fraught with irony – both because of Iran’s co-sponsorship and because of Family Watch International’s conservative stance on social issues, which some perceive as being detrimental to women’s interests.

For instance, during the panel, Slater was unsparing in her group’s views on family planning and reproductive rights, two things that most mainstream women’s organisations support. She criticised family planning programmes in the developing world for failing to reduce maternal mortality rates.

“Why do we keep calling on the world to implement more family planning programmes,” she asked, “if the maternal morality programmes in these countries has not been reduced?”

Meanwhile, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has characterised FWI as an “anti-gay organisation.” FWI is also a “signatory organisation” with Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality, a “non-profit coalition of organisations that help people with unwanted same-sex attractions.”

The Iranian government is notoriously hostile towards sexual minorities: homosexuality is still punishable by death in the Islamic Republic, while international rights watchdogs routinely issue statements critical of the government’s treatment of homosexuals.

For instance, this past November, Human Rights Watch issued an appeal on behalf of three Iranian men sentenced to death for homosexual acts they committed while they were teenagers.

The Islamic Republic has a similar record on gender issues. “It is profoundly ironic that a regime that practices gender apartheid on a regular basis and that allows marriage at the age of nine would sponsor an event ostensibly about women’s rights,” says Kenneth Timmerman of the Maryland-based Foundation for Democracy in Iran.

Human Rights Watch also issued a Mar. 6 statement urging Iran to “stop undermining women’s rights”, reporting that the Islamic Republic was on the verge of legalising polygamy – a practice likely out of keeping with FWI’s endorsement of traditional, monogamous family structures.

Despite the Iranian government’s attempts to use CSW to bolster its reputation on women’s issues, Iranian women have succeeded in making themselves heard this week.

Last Thursday and Friday, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran held side events with Iranian women who are not a part of any official Iranian government delegation. According to a Campaign representative, they shared their experiences as women living in the Islamic Republic during the protests and crackdowns of this past year.

Representatives from more left-wing women’s groups simply avoided Iran and FWI’s hour in the CSW’s main venue.

Nathalie Margi of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership did not attend the event, but said it was actually a disturbing reminder of what many of the NGOs at CSW are up against.

“There’s a backlash against the women’s movement and the LGBT movement,” she said when asked about FWI’s presence at the Commission.

“These groups come to these spaces as women’s NGOs,” she said of the conference’s more traditionally minded NGO participants. “We’re celebrating 15 years since the Beijing Conference, but they want to scale back on reproductive rights victories and LGBT victories.”

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Colleen Says:

    I was able to attend the event. The panel made some great noteworthy obvious points. I especially was impressed with the insight the Nigerian Panel member shared. In addition,
    According to the “World Health Organization”:
    In the developed world, the decline in maternal mortality rates coincided “with the development of obstetric techniques and imporovement in the general health status of women” (from 1935 to the 1950’s).
    From my own experiences in Africa: Better medical care, not abortion, is the solution to the problem of maternal deaths in the developing world.

  2. anthony Says:

    Having heard the speech by the St. Lucian delegate Sarah Flood Beaubrun I was impressed with her answers which are definately so relavent to our Caribbean islands.

    Our women and children have been hurt since Independence by the liberal approach to the family and as the research shows contributes immensely to the mayhem in our society and deterioration in the quality of life as we abandon our men and glorify single parent families.
    The attempt to glorify alternative lifestyles to the detrement of our children is also a puzzling thing that I do not quite understand.

  3. Amy Says:

    It is a sad commentary on the status of women at the UN that only these few countries were willing to stand up for the value that mothers add to society. They train the next generation to value themselves as individuals and the culture and traditions of their nation. Does the rest of the world think your only value comes from your financial compensation level?

  4. Amy Says:

    It is a sad commentary on the state of the world at the UN that only these few countries were willing to publicly suport the value of motherhood. Do we only value people for their financial compensation levels? What about the values that mothers communicate to their children? What about their value as individuals and the passing on the culture and traditions of their nations? Really, where would the world be without mothers?

  5. Sharon Slater Says:

    At no time in my speech did I say family planning was incompatible with motherhood. What I did say was that in some cases the family planning agenda has gone too far. Many nations are struggling to replace their populations and heading toward economic ruin. If picking on Iran for cosponsoring this event on motherhood is the best you can do then I suggest you pick on every UN related document or event that Iran participates in as well.

    Are you saying that Iran should not be at the UN? It is at the UN that countries come together to work on issues we all agree on. Iran is one of the strongest nations in standing up for family values at the UN in harmony with Article16 of the UDHR which says the family is the fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection from society and state.

    Are you saying that there is something wrong with nations working together to strengthen this fundamental group unit?

    Who would have thought that there would come a day when “Recognizing the Critical Role of Mothers” would be considered a negative thing. Most women in the world are mothers and this all important role is underreccognized.

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    [...] the original post here: Should “Motherhood” Mean No Family Planning? | TERRAVIVA Beijing +15 Share and [...]

  2. Iran invites Finklestein to speak at UN « The Word Warrior Says:

    [...] again, the very legitimacy of the UN is a big issue at the UN. About a month ago, I reported on a side-event at the UN’s annual Commission on the Status of Women that was co-sponsored by the [...]

  3. Richelle Monclova Says:

    Sala de leos… Home Projetos Idéias…

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