Days 1 & 2 of the UN’s CSW66
The 66th session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) has been under way since Monday.
Campaign Life Coalition has been fortunate enough to enjoy NGO status with the UN, a designation which enables us to send a delegation to the Commission on an annual basis. We’ve also hosted events alongside other NGOs and UN member states. That is, until this year, when we were denied that right on the basis that our event "does not align with NGO CSW/NY's values." This NGO is responsible for overseeing all the CSW parallel events on behalf of the UN. We weren’t the only NGO denied. Other pro-life groups were also rejected.
Despite this obstacle, our delegation has been participating as actively as possible given the virtual nature of this Commission. This year’s theme is gender equality in the context of climate change and natural disasters. As is typical of the annual women’s conference, we’re already seeing an abundance of disturbing statements and themes relating to family and life issues. Like last year, many of our delegates’ questions are going unanswered and ignored.
In an event hosted by Sweden, UN Women, and a number of NGOs on how to address climate change in a “gender-just” manner, discussions ranged from the marginalization of women’s economies to the role they play in rehabilitation and healing after disasters. They did not fail, however, to touch on the importance of “reproductive rights” when responding to climate change and natural disasters; as if equating the need for access to food, shelter, and health care with that of abortion is in any way sane in the wake of a natural disaster.
The push for “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR), a term promoted by many at the UN to refer to abortion, contraception, “comprehensive sex education,” etc., did not stop there.
In another event on the Commission’s inaugural day, Amina Doherty, program director for the Equality Fund, which “strives to uphold feminist values,” was quick to laud Canada’s commitment of $300 million to the consortium as a "good example of partnership with bilateral women's funds.” Texas’s recent efforts to restrict abortions after 6 weeks’ gestation, however, drew condemnation, with Lina Abirafeh, the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University, proclaiming “a humanitarian crisis” in the state. Recently expanded access to abortion in Colombia was also praised.
A Tuesday event titled, “SRHR & Climate Justice: Advancing a Human Rights Based Approach,” hosted by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, focused on how climate change and catastrophes affect access to necessary maternal health care, specifically in the global south. An honourable topic of discussion, indeed. Access to reliable, life-saving maternal healthcare can often be scarce in developing regions.
Unfortunately, the focus quickly shifted to the “need” for wider access to abortions. Heather McMullen of the Centre for Global Public Health in the Institute of Population Health Sciences, at Queen Mary University of London, claimed to consider abortion "fundamental to Brazilians." A Polish medical student expressed concern that certain cultural practices might present an obstacle to abortion, implying that the distribution of chemical abortion drugs one can take at home might be the solution.
Interestingly and somewhat unexpectedly, Biplabi Shrestha of the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) rebuffed the common idea that “reducing population growth reduces greenhouse emissions,” calling it a “false narrative.” She pinned the problem on human consumption driven by the “world elites.” Less developed nations may have higher birth rates, but they still produce fewer emissions overall.
A survey of 1.2 million women was brought up during the event. The results of the survey confirmed that what women want and need most is access to qualified doctors, good education, and a place to live that is not polluted or neglected. Despite this fact, influential players at the United Nations continue their decades-old push for greater resource allocation to abortion and population control campaigns.
We’re only two days into the Commission but it’s as evident as ever that some UN bodies and NGOs remain intent on advancing a narrow ideology in a blatantly colonial and undemocratic manner. Women all over the world, especially those in the poorest of nations, don’t need more death. They need to be listened to and heard. They need resources to access life-affirming health care for themselves and for their families. Anti-life policies of foreign origins will never achieve greater gender equality.