Perspectives on Diplomacy at the CSW
by Anna Fischer
After reading WYA’s White Paper on reproductive health which articulates the already agreed upon definition of the term, it is hard to understand why so many delegates and representatives at the UN Commission on the Status of Women use the term “reproductive health” in contexts which don’t correspond to the agreed definition. In the French-hosted side event, “Women and Control of their Bodies”, the term was almost always used in the context as including the ‘right’ to abortion. The Tunisian representative, Mme. Badi, stated that her country was by no means “going backwards” concerning abortion (in an answer to a question about the status of abortion in her country and its legality). This statement, and many others, caused the meeting to become foggy with misconceptions, most notably that forward and progressive motion integrally means legalized abortion. This sort of mob mentality is the danger with gathering many, particularly like-minded people in a relatively small discussion.
During the same event, a delegate from South Africa stated that abortion should not be considered a contraceptive (which was a fairly unpopular view in that room), but she also stated that contraceptives (among other similar material goods) are a human right. Her statement that abortion was not a human right was the only statement of that kind that I heard. Regardless, it seems that none of what’s being said will really carry any weight unless the Commission heeds the words of a representative from Botswana:
“I’m a tired woman. Tired from jet-lag yes, but more importantly tired of talking. Talking and talking and talking and talking. No ACTION […] the same things I was discussing ten years ago, we are still discussing here. It’s time for IMPLEMENTATION.”
(I really like hearing the representatives from Africa speak. I feel like they have no problem saying what everyone else skirts around)
This woman basically summed up what my past two days have culminated to: most of what’s said is simply talking and repetition. I look forward to new ideas or at least passionately raised voices to add some drama to the meeting.
And in the interest of full disclosure, as I was writing this, a representative from China also offered a similar call to action. It’s not solely the Africans.