As the US Catholic Bishops became more aggressive and open in their politicking against women’s rights and equality here in the United States, those efforts overshadowed similar campaigns against women and equality abroad. Those efforts include standing with the likes of Iran to resist tougher global standards to prevent violence against women and children.
I see a pattern emerging.
At the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women, and in front of more than 6000 non-governmental groups committed to ending violence against women and children, the Holy See, Iran and Russia are pushing efforts to cut from a final commitment language that says religion, custom or tradition must not be used as an excuse to avoid a government’s obligation to eliminate violence. They have also opposed any efforts to recognize spousal and partner rape.
Norway’s Gender Equality Minister Inga Marte Thorkildsen pulled no punches in describing the efforts underway. “The Vatican, conservative religious forces within the United States and Europe, Catholic and Muslim countries are joining forces to stop women from gaining sexual rights,”¯ the minister said, predicting tough negotiations during the two week conference. It has to do with power and equality and the lack of will to see women as valuable as men,” Thorkildsen added.
But playing politics over women’s lives is something the Holy See has gotten very good at, at the expense of women and its own faithful. And it’s fitting that it’s allies in this fight are ultra-religious regimes that depend on oppressing its own people.
What’s at stake here? For starters, there’s the fact that globally more women aged 15-44 are killed violently than die of malaria, HIV, cancer, accidents and war combined. There’s a word to describe that statistical reality: femicide. Women are being killed off in catastrophic numbers and this is a statistical reality the Vatican is working very hard to protect.
On the one hand, it puts in perspective the fight with the Bishops here in the states. Violence against women and children is already at epidemic levels and attacks on family planning and reproductive health care only put more women at risk. It’s bad, but not quite as bad as it is globally.
On the other hand, it speaks pretty clearly to just how depraved the Holy See has become that it is willing, almost gleefully, to stand in the way of the most vulnerable women and children having their fundamental humanity protected across the board. I think we should remind Congress of that fact the next time they ask the Bishops to testify on something like whether businesses should be granted permission to deny women health care benefits just because they are women.
Photo from kurdistan photo via flickr.
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