Redefining Men and Women


Washington. -- The arrest of Harry Wu, the advocate for human rights in China, is only one reason the United States should not be represented at the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women in September.

The other reason is that the U.S. delegation has been taken over by its own brand of human-rights violators seeking to impose on the world's women a radical-feminist ideology that will be harmful to women, men and children.

At issue is nothing less than the fundamental definition of male and female, relationships between the sexes and the rights of children and parents.

For months leading up to the Beijing conference, members of the U.S. delegation, including the former New York congresswoman Bella Abzug, have been attempting to redefine such words as "gender" and "motherhood." When a minority of pro-life and pro-family delegates from developing nations and within the U.S. delegation have tried to uphold a definition approved by numerous U.N. conferences dating back to 1948, they have been rebuffed by the majority.

That traditional definition has been that gender refers to "two sexes of the human being." The nondefined word "gender" appears more than 200 times in the draft 149-page document, so it is a word that is meant to carry considerable weight.

The "gender feminists" are attempting to use the U.N. conference to redefine masculinity, femininity, fatherhood and motherhood, manhood and womanhood, heterosexuality, marriage and family. They believe such labels are culturally created fictions, conceived by men to oppress women.

They want to force other nations to accept the notion that there should be no "discrimination" against those who choose a different sexual orientation; that parents have no business imposing their morals and values on their own children; that children have the right to confidentiality, particularly with regard to birth control and abortion. Abortion would be made a human right like freedom of speech.

There is no question that women are abused in many parts of the world, but the proposed U.N. document would exacerbate social conditions in developing countries that contribute to higher divorce rates, more abortions, venereal diseases and child rebellion. These are the rotten fruits created by the same failed philosophy in the United States.

The State Department's Timothy Wirth, co-chairman of the U.S. delegation, met last month with the president of the World Bank. He committed the World Bank to provide the financial backing to implement the Beijing Platform for Action -- the draft document ,, slated for approval in September.

It is doubly outrageous that this meeting is scheduled to take place in China, which subjects women to forced abortions, sterilization and "family planning."

Even worse, the United Nations has given China a special award and praised the communist nation as having the most "effective" population-control program in the world. The clear message, says a Guatemala delegate, Mercedes Wilson, is that "countries will be rewarded with loans and assistance, or most-favored-nation status, if they implement similar coercive population-control programs."

The "gender perspective," as promoted by the radicals within the U.S. delegation, also includes proposals for political restructuring. It calls for 50-50 male-female quotas for all elected and appointed offices and offers no protection to women who choose to be full-time mothers and homemakers. It also targets "fundamentalist" religions as a barrier to women's rights and demands that religions be "reinterpreted."

Developed countries that have already adopted similar philosophies have witnessed tragic consequences. Scandinavian governments, for example, provide values-free sex education for their children as early as kindergarten and financial security to their citizens from birth to death. Yet they have the highest divorce rates in the world. Do women in those countries (or in our own where sexually transmitted diseases now infect one in five Americans) feel more "liberated"?

President Clinton should cancel our involvement in the Beijing conference and seriously rethink its purpose and America's role. His advisers are trying to reposition him more favorably in time for the next election. Not participating in the Beijing conference would be of some help in that effort.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

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