Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations (UN) challenged the UN on its notion that women’s equality is dependent upon the negation of their procreative capacities and said women should not have to abandon what is essential to them in order to be treated equally in society.
Archbishop Chullikatt addressed the issue of women’s equality in a statement delivered to the Eighth Session of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN.
“Inequalities exclude human beings from full participation in the life of their community, denying them the full enjoyment of their human rights as well as the basic economic opportunities which their inherent human dignity demands,” he begins.
Citing Pope Francis, who identified inequality as the root of social ills and one that provides a breeding ground for violence, crime and conflict, he goes on to point out that these ills aren’t the only result of inequality. It also causes a progressive destruction of the very fabric of society.
No where is this more clearly seen than in the area of women’s equality where global actors seemed intent on waging a war on women’s reproductive organs as if her capacity to bring forth life in the world is the cause of her ills.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals “must acknowledge and enable women to overcome barriers to equality without forcing them to abandon what is essential to them,” the Archbishop writes.
“Women worldwide do not live in isolation, but exist within the context of relationships which provide meaning, richness, identity, and human love. Their relationships, especially their role within the family – as mothers, wives, caregivers – have profound effects on the choices women make and their own prioritization of the rights which they exercise across their lifespans.”
Because of this, he is calling upon the global community to “sidestep a simplistic assertion that shortfalls in women’s economic and public achievements can be remedied only by the negation of their procreative capacities.”
Instead, a truly rights-based approach to women’s equality must demand that societies and their institutions “remove unjust social and economic barriers that interject a false dichotomy between the relationships that enhance their lives and their participation and gains across other human rights.”
Development for women will be truly sustainable only when it respects and enables women to choose and prioritize their actions according to equal opportunities within the context of real family relationships that frame their lives, not in spite of them, he writes.
For this reason, he says Sustainable Development Goals should provide the opportunity to confront inequality through the promotion of women’s engagement on an equal basis in society without disregarding entirely the family relationships in which women exist.
“Labor policies should go beyond facilitating equal job access and ensure reconciliation of paid work with family responsibilities: through family and maternity policies, and ensuring that equal salaries, unemployment benefits, and pensions are sufficient for a sustainable family life. Access to equal education and vocational training must accompany measures to accommodate family work and care needs.”
Serious efforts are needed to support women in their family choices, he said.
“Civic participation should be designed to accommodate the participation of all women, including those with family responsibilities.”
He concludes by calling for a truly inclusive development agenda “that places the last among us first.”
This is the only way that “the community of nations can ensure that a person’s status at birth (indeed, before birth) shall no longer be permitted to determine the extent to which they can realize the equal and inalienable rights which derive from their inherent human dignity.”
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