02 Feb Lessons in Courage from the Recent CEDAW Committee Meeting
Lessons in Courage from the Recent CEDAW Committee Meeting
February 2, 2007
“Courage,” declared Aristotle, “is the first of the virtues, because it makes all others possible.” I am deeply impressed by examples of courage manifested in the recent meeting (37th session) in New York of the UN committee designated to oversee compliance with CEDAW, or the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Our representatives, Cecil and Linda Ash, were there to monitor and make a difference, and their reports include descriptions of two inspiring instances of courage.
One was in the remarks of a young woman from the Netherlands who spoke on behalf the Coalition against Trafficking in Women. “Perhaps I have been naïve,” she candidly confessed, “as I have watched the effects of legalized prostitution and the resultant attitudes of our society concerning women and their value in society.”
But her naïveté, she proceeded to explain, had given way to an alarming realization of the horrendous consequences of overly permissive laws in her country. Describing the physiological and emotional horrors of lives irreparably wrecked, this young woman pleaded with the CEDAW Committee to force her country to prohibit prostitution and stop its damaging effects on women and girls. It was the voice of reason and truth, and it was spoken courageously to a committee notorious for pushing a right to prostitution.
Another such voice was that of the representative of Namibia, one among the host of nations that are parties to the CEDAW treaty. Namibia was there to report to the committee and undergo questioning on compliance with the CEDAW treaty and committee mandates. Responding to questions about abortion services in her country, she explained that although abortion in Namibia is illegal, it does occur and does take the lives of many women. Accordingly, Namibia is doing everything possible to educate its people to the dangerous consequences of abortion and to provide support for women who are pregnant.
Predictably, the CEDAW Committee countered by insisting that Namibia change its laws to allow abortion. Namibia’s spokeswoman was not ruffled. With a smile on her face, she firmly announced: “The people of Namibia make the laws of our country, and they chose life.”
I applaud the courage of the Namibian representative and the Dutch woman. In the battle over the family and its future, we, like those two brave women, must speak the truth and stand for right — even when, and especially when, it takes courage to do so.
United Families International does precisely that in its defense of family at the United Nations, and we are entering the busiest season of the year. Our expertise and experience are much needed at upcoming conferences, including next week’s Commission on Social Development, and, shortly thereafter, the Commission on the Status of Women. Please send your contribution today so that we can continue this essential and courageous work. Thank you.