U.N. Document on Women Source of Discord

National Catholic Reporter, June 30, 1995 | Go to article overview

U.N. Document on Women Source of Discord


VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican said last week that the U.N. conference on women set for September in Beijing, China, should concentrate more on motherhood and less on sexual rights.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Vatican believed the conference should not impose Western feminist values. He called parts of the conference's draft document "ideologically unbalanced."

Additionally, he said Pope John Paul would probably appoint a woman to head the Vatican's 20-member delegation and she would "not be a figurehead or token appointment." At a Vatican press briefing on the conference, Navarro-Valls said women will make up a majority of the Vatican's delegation.

The names of the delegates are expected to be announced in August.

He made it clear that while the Vatican supported women's rights in many areas, it was prepared for a battle with militant feminists, particularly those who want unrestricted abortion rights and regard motherhood and the family as repressive.

He said Islamic countries had approached the Vatican to discuss their concerns about the draft but "substantial differences" over the role of women excluded "an accord on an operative level" with these countries.

The United Nations' draft document for the women's conference makes praiseworthy efforts to promote women's equality and protect their dignity, Navarro-Valls said. However, the document also contains proposals on abortion, family issues and health care, which the Vatican sees as reflecting the agenda of a small group of feminists from industrialized countries, he said.

"The Holy See sees in this document an ideological pressure that seems to want to impose on women around the world a particular social philosophy belonging to certain sectors of the Western countries," he said. The philosophy, Navarro-Valls said, ignores the natural differences between women and men, downplays or even degrades women's roles within the family and advocates universal access to abortion -- even for minors without parental consent.

Navarro-Valls said the Vatican is disappointed that in the draft document every reference to the equal dignity of women with men and their full sharing in the internationally defined set of universal human rights has been placed in brackets, meaning the preparatory committee could not reach a consensus on their inclusion in the document. …

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