February 5, 2001

February 5, 2001 | News Releases on Family and Marriage

UN Committees Take Aim At Family Structure and Morality, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2001-The United Nations has long affirmed that nations have a right to determine their own cultural norms and practices, claiming no authority to "intervene in matters … essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state." Yet it regularly attacks those that uphold traditional views on sexual morality and the family, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

Indeed, the world body makes numerous demands of governments that have signed and ratified the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It wants them to legalize prostitution, make abortion a "demand right" protected by international and national law, de-emphasize the role of mothers, diminish parental authority, and challenge religious rules and customs that impede efforts to create "a new countercultural agenda," writes Patrick Fagan, Heritage's William H.G. FitzGerald fellow in family and cultural issues.

The demands, according to Fagan, come from implementing committees that evaluate compliance by nations that have ratified the treaties. President Clinton signed the CRC but not the CEDAW, and the Senate has ratified neither, so the United States doesn't receive reports from the implementing committees. But some frustrated nations, such as Australia, now formally refuse to implement the U.N. recommendations, Fagan says.

One committee report chided Germany, which has legalized prostitution, because "although they are legally obliged to pay taxes, prostitutes still do not enjoy the protection of labor and social law."

Other reports have lambasted Ireland because abortions are not widely available there. (As Fagan notes, Irish voters have twice turned down referenda to legalize abortion.) And Italy and Croatia are excoriated because abortions prove hard to come by in some areas-areas where most doctors are Catholic and refuse to perform them for reasons of conscience.

Another report criticized the former Soviet republic of Georgia for "the prevalence of stereotyped roles of women in government policies, in the family, in public life based on patterns of behavior and attitudes that overemphasize the role of women as mothers." One report even criticized the observance of Mother's Day as "disturbing."

One U.N. committee told Indonesia of its "great concern about existing social, religious and cultural norms that recognize men as the head of the family and breadwinner and confine women to the roles of mother and wife." Another urged Libya to "reinterpret the country's religious laws and scripture," in the hopes that it would encourage other Islamic governments to do the same.

All this from an organization that, in its "Universal Declaration on Human Rights," calls the family "the natural and fundamental group unit of society," one that is "entitled to protection by society and the state," Fagan says.

There's more. In advancing what Fagan calls an international feminist agenda, the committees deride "stay-at-home" moms and dismiss the two-parent family as outmoded. This, Fagan says, despite mounting social science evidence that the best way to raise healthy, well-adjusted children is in married, two-parent families who worship regularly. "Children in such families do much better, particularly when mothers stay home while their children are young," Fagan says. "They enjoy better incomes and greater health, and experience far less crime, addiction and abuse."

Thanks to CEDAW and CRC, the United Nations has reversed itself on other basic principles as well, Fagan says. Its Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." Yet it urges states to give minor children a "right to privacy," even in the household; a right to professional counseling without parental consent or guidance; a right to abortion and contraceptives, regardless of their parents' desires; a right to full freedom of expression at home and at school; and the legal mechanisms to challenge parental authority in court.

And in its zeal to advance the interests of career women, the United Nations constantly pushes states to boost government-managed daycare, despite overwhelming polling data that women prefer to either stay home or have family members care for their children, and social science research showing children in daycare fare worse intellectually, emotionally and socially compared with stay-at-home peers, Fagan says.

To this end, the United Nations has: criticized Slovenia for having only 30 percent of children three years old or younger in formal daycare, warned Germany that measures aimed at reconciling family and work only entrench stereotypical expectations for women and men, and told Colombia that it must set up child-care centers and training programs to "improve the status of working women."

The U.N. recommendations on prostitution illustrate its goal of "decoupling the reproductive act from marriage," Fagan says. The CEDAW committees regularly recommend that prostitution be legalized, regulated and elevated to a profession, with full protection of labor law and social benefits. They say that countries anxious about the social effects of prostitution should focus on eliminating the "feminization of poverty," indicating that-in their view-monetary worries trump concerns about the exploitation of women.

President Bush and Congress can take several steps to counter the anti-family agenda, Fagan says. For one, they can make it clear that the United States will neither ratify the CRC nor sign the CEDAW. They can introduce legislation to ensure U.S. parents have the highest legal protection for their own authority. They can urge other nations to refuse to cooperate with U.N. directives that would undermine their sovereignty. And, Fagan says, they can determine annually whether U.N. agencies deserve the funding they get from the United States.

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