Mainstreaming the Gender Perspective in the UN System

Author: Dale O'Leary

MAINSTREAMING THE GENDER PERSPECTIVE IN THE UN SYSTEM The Contact Group on gender said that "the word 'gender' has been commonly used and understood in its ordinary, generally accepted usage in numerous other UN fora and conferences." The following excerpts from a WHO publication show the use of the word "gender" and the "gender perspective" is almost always related to a promotion of an extremist radical gender feminist ideology which views differences between men and women not as natural, but as the result of artificial socially constructed gender roles which should be changed to make men and women the same. The "gender perspective is also always associated

with promotion of sexual relationships outside of marriage, including sexual relationships for adolescents, homosexuals and lesbians, reproductive health with an emphasis on abortion and contraception, and an attack religion. Gender as used by the UN is a word that implies an entire ideological agenda, one which is contrary to the culture, religious beliefs, laws and constitutions of many of the member states. Given this usage there is no way that the word gender can be used in a neutral or non-ideological sense in the Platform. Gender should be replaced with the word sex, or male and female, or women's perspective as appropriate. The delegates should be urged to reject the Contact group report. The Independent Women's Forum in the US is pushing this with the slogan "Sex is better than gender." GENDER, WOMEN, AND HEALTH IN THE AMERICAS Editor: Elsa Gomez Scientific Publication NO. 541 Pan American Health Organization World Health Organization, 1993 (excerpts) INTRODUCTION This collection of works on women and health examines two well-known paradoxes regarding sex differences in the context of health. The first involves the fact that although women can expect to live longer than men, they will also be sick more often during their life time. The second deals with the fact that, although women are represented in the health sector in greater numbers than are males, most positions of highest power, prestige, and remuneration in the section are held by men. Given these contradictions, this publication focuses not of the situation of women per se, but rather, on the position that women occupy vis-a-vis men in specific health contexts and within particular social groups. Consequently, this publication's main analytical emphasis is on detecting and examining the inequalities between the sexes, which, in terms of certain aspects of the health situation and the delivery of health services, translate into discrimination against women or place women at a disadvantage (p.ix).... The Gender Approach Applied to Health Up to about a decade age. the social sciences used the terms sex and gender practically interchangeably. In recent literature, however, the term sex has been applied preferentially to the biologically determined, relatively invariable characteristics of men and women, whereas gender has been used to indicate the socially constructed characteristics that define maleness and femaleness in different cultures. Gender, then, might be understood as the set of personality traits, attitudes, feelings, values, behaviors, and activities that through a process of social formation, distinguish men from women. Health and Sexuality from a Gender Perspective Stella Cerruti Basso ...Human sexuality encompasses the following aspects: Pleasure: sexuality contributes to an individual's well-being, personal enrichment, and the development of ties with others. Emotion: the capacity to love is an imminently human trait and an important aspect of these ties. Communication: sexuality is the deepest form of communication between human beings. Creativity" as a source of comprehensive individual expression, sexuality strengthens the creative capability, in which aesthetic and playful elements work together Ethics: Sexuality is defined by a dialectic on values that is founded on human rights. Procreation: sexuality enables two people, who consciously and freely take on shared responsibility of creating a new being, to fulfill this extraordinary achievement. ...Given all this, the right to enjoy sexuality is an inalienable human right, just like the right to life freedom, to equity and social justice, to health, to education, and to work among others. Thus , it transcends the patriarchal concept that traditionally has discredited human sexuality and permeated the medical sciences. The Process of Developing a Sexual Identify "Sexual identification" - the process whereby a human being becomes male or female and his or her behavior as a sexed being is shaped - must be analyzed in order to define the interrelationships between gender and health. Clearly, this is a complex process through which human beings build a sexual identity, and that involves biological, emotional, and sociocultural factors, among others, operating closely together. Sexual identity is understood to be that portion of a person's identity that allows them to view and accept themselves and act as sexed and sexual beings. Gender identity is a person's intimate and profound conviction that they belong to one or the other sex, in a sense that goes beyond their chromosomal and somatic characteristics. Gender role is an individual's expression of masculinity or femininity, in keeping with the rules established by their society. Sexual orientation is the sexual preference expressed by the person through his or her choice of sexual or erotic ties. As a rule gender roles are shaped through a socialization process tend to be shared by the members of each group and society at any given point in history. The social controls place in steer anyone who strays from the assigned role back into line through rejection, ridicule, or marginalization. Without question, the home, the schools, the mass media, and society as a whole continue to portray fixed stereotypes of what it is "to be male" or "to be female" and these conceptions begin to shape gender roles from the very moment of conception, with implicit criteria that are clearly discriminatory. In order for women to be able to perform health self-care and enjoy their own sexuality they must have control over their own bodies and view them as legitimate. This will not happen until the ideological barriers that discourage women from understanding their own bodies and that present the body as something that is dirty and sinful are broken down. To promote a process whereby individuals can recognize, identify and accept themselves as sexual and sexed beings throughout the course of their lives, without anxiety, fear or guilt. To encourage the development of sex roles within the framework of a value dialectic that is based on human rights which facilitates respectful and equitable relations between persons, overcoming all gender discrimination. To allow people to adopt sexual behavior toward themselves and others that is pleasurable, conscious, responsible and free. (pp. 112-116) International Law and Women's Health Rebecca J. Cook Laws deny, limit, or condition women's access to reproductive health care in a variety of ways that harm their health and their personal dignity. Examples include denial of reproductive health services to adolescent girls and unmarried women. Paternalistic control of women's sexual and reproductive behavior manifest itself in many ways in laws and policies. Removal Of Legal Barriers to Adolescent Access to Services States that are parties to the Women's Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and for example the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have the obligation to remove legal barriers faced by adolescent girls in their access to health care, such as clinic policies that deny services to unmarried women, parental authorization or notification requirements, and prohibitions on sex or reproductive health education... Enable adolescents who are sufficiently mature to give consent of have access to reproductive health services. This can be done by applying the mature minor doctrine, a legal doctrine that enables adolescents who are sufficiently mature to give consent to medical services necessary to protect their health. Evidence of maturity can include the fact that adolescents request reproductive health services, live independently of their parents, or earn their own livelihood. Challenge laws, such as those that prohibit reproductive health education, as being constitutionally invalid and contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, because the effect of these laws is to deny girls the information that they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and protect their reproductive health. The Removal of Female Stereotypes Perhaps the greatest challenge faced in improving women's health is the need to give effect of article 5a, whereby states parties commit themselves to take all appropriate measures, "to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women." Where food is scarce, whether because of agricultural or climatic settings or the family's socioeconomic circumstances, the feeding of males frequently gets priority over the feeding of females so that food goes first to a husband, then to sons, then to the mother, and, last, to any daughters. The incidence of female malnutrition and anemia is directly related to rates of female sickness and morality. The challenge is created where respected national institutions such as religious institution embody concepts of exclusive roles for men and women and the conviction, for instance, that women are incapable of ordination because of their sex. (p.245-250)