By Sharon Slater
The following is an excerpt from a book Mothers and Fathers Defending Marriage and Family at the United Nations by Susan Roylance for the Yes! for Marriage campaign (to support Amendment 3 that will be on the Utah ballot Nov. 2nd — to define marriage in the Utah Constitution as being between a man and a woman). All of the proceeds of the book will go to the Yes! for Marriage campaign. This excerpt was edited for Meridian readers.
When I first read The Family: A Proclamation to the World released by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1995, my first impression was — so what? The sky is blue, the sun comes up, and the family based on marriage between a man and a woman raising their children is not only the ideal model, but is the “fundamental unit of society.” Everyone knows that. Like a fish that takes for granted the life sustaining water that surrounds it, I took for granted the crucial role the family plays in our society. Little did I know then that I would soon participate in the battle to preserve the family at the international level.
Due to a series of unusual circumstances, in February of 2000, I found myself in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations, surrounded by hundreds of representatives from feminist nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). I was tasked by United Families International with monitoring the negotiations to try to find a way to impact the document under consideration to protect the family. It was an eye-opening experience and I was able to see firsthand the orchestrated international efforts to undermine the traditional family.
The Radical Feminist Wish List
Before the official negotiations began, my colleague Debi Barmonde and I attended the Women’s Caucus meetings where the feminist NGOs were formulating their suggestions for inclusion in the outcome document. Although they were promoting many good things such as eradicating poverty and hunger, and protecting women from violence and trafficking, the way they planned to solve these problems by promoting their women’s rights agenda was very concerning. Their demands were so ridiculous that I didn’t think they would be given any consideration when the official negotiations began.
They were seeking to:
- eliminate all obstacles to women’s empowerment including children (through planned pregnancy programs and population control), pregnancy (by providing abortion on demand), patriarchal religions (which subordinate women), and capitalism (many statistics show that women suffer the most economically in free market economies).
- ensure all governments and businesses achieve “parity”; quotas of 50% women and 50% men in all important decision making and upper level employment positions.
- ensure that women’s rights are considered human rights protected and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, which would have the power to supersede national laws.
- ensure that all women are able to enter the labor market, the only place where they can realize their full economic value and contribution to society and then ensure that governments provide fulltime day care for children.
It later became apparent that these women also embraced the homosexual rights agenda (many are lesbians) and they had a plan that was not openly discussed in their meetings to decriminalize homosexuality throughout the world.
Fortunately, a few months earlier, I had attended a seminar at the World Congress of Families II put on by Susan Roylance who presented UFI’s recently published guide to UN language supportive of the family. She explained that if you can show that language has been included in past UN documents, you are in a strong position to have it accepted in current documents under negotiation. Susan had done amazing work putting together this guide which was indexed for language on family issues and could be used as a tool to promote the family, life, marriage, religion, parental rights, and national sovereignty. She taught us how to use it and showed us that there was a great deal of good language in past UN documents in support of the family.
Religion Under Attack
It was announced that negotiations would occur simultaneously in three different rooms which were located far from each other. This put countries with small delegations at an immediate disadvantage, as they could not participate in the negotiation of all the issues at the same time. Large delegations such as the U.S. and Canada, had a huge advantage as they were able to send a few representatives to each room.
It became immediately apparent that a good command of English was a huge advantage in negotiations. The U.S., Canada, and the fluent English speakers from the EU dominated all the proceedings. Delegates with heavy accents or who were inarticulate barely received attention and definitely not the respect of the chair.
I was assigned to monitor the negotiations entitled “Women in Armed Conflict Situations.” The negotiating room was small and had a rectangular table that seated about twelve people. It seemed that the organizers had deliberately chosen a small room and had informed their allies of the time and the location in advance so that they would have prominent seats at the table.
Ironically, some of the official UN delegates found it difficult to obtain a copy of the very document their country was to consider for changes, amendments, approval, etc. NGO representatives and delegates crowded around the table trying to listen and get close enough to grab documents as they were passed out. It was clear that the organizers knew which delegations they wanted to receive documents and which ones they did not.
Delegates trickled in as they found the room and some of them had to remain standing while several NGO representatives had prominent places at the table. To my surprise, a representative from the Women’s Caucus was sitting at the table and was allowed to have an equal voice with the official delegates and was asked to present their feminist wish list of proposed amendments and changes.
My bag was heavy and there was standing room only, so I set it down in the corner of the room. Feminist rhetoric and demands were flying throughout the room and many of the crazy ideas that I had heard discussed in the Caucus meetings were being presented for inclusion in the document. I wanted to comment and make suggestions and arguments but only official UN delegates and this single designated NGO representative were permitted to speak.
I had been told to pay particular attention to the interactions between the delegates and to note which ones made comments favorable to our positions. My paper remained blank. To my surprise a woman in the opposite corner of the room raised her hand and proposed the insertion of the word “religious” next to the word “cultural” in a phrase stating that in conflict situations when peacekeeping forces enter a country, they must respect the cultural (and religious) diversity of the people in that country.
I wondered who could be opposed to that. Apparently, all of the delegates present including those from the U.S. (under the direction of the Clinton administration) and Canada were against that. I was shocked. It soon became evident that it was this one lone delegate against the rest of the world.
The other delegates laughed at her and condescendingly gave her several arguments as to why it was neither necessary nor appropriate to include respect for religion. I did not know at the time that radical feminists see religion as a barrier to women’s empowerment, especially “patriarchal” religions. The brave delegate was insisting that respect for religion was included in several other UN documents. They asked her to prove it. She fumbled and stuttered as her English skills were not great.
My heart began to race as I realized that in my bag in the far corner of the room I had the very tool that would help her. I had a copy of the United Families UN language guide which listed the exact citations she needed.
If only I could squeeze my way over to the corner where it was, find it, and hand it to her before I was thrown out. While the room was distracted with the tension of the argument, I edged my way back to the corner where my bag was. I found the guide and folded it to the right page. To the annoyance of those around me I squeezed back through the crowd and made my way over to the brave delegate. As soon as attention was diverted from her for a moment, I thrust the booklet into her hands, pointing to the references on religion. She was flustered and didn’t look at it. She did not know what it was or who I was. The argument continued. Finally, she realized I had handed her exactly what she needed and she quickly raised her hand announcing that she had found citations from previously agreed documents to support her position.
The chairman announced, “The Beijing Platform. You must find precedence for your suggestion in the Beijing Platform for Action, as that is the document we are reviewing.” (At no point in the discussions had they asked anyone else to provide documentation for their amendments.) The delegate’s face fell.
In my hurry to get the booklet to her I did not have time to find the citations from the Beijing Platform. How could I help her now? Then I remembered that the night before I had stayed up late studying the Beijing Platform and had underlined and starred the references to religion.
How could I possibly squeeze back through the crowd to my bag again and get it for her? I couldn’t be too obvious. I was already the recipient of many hostile looks. The room was hot and someone had just opened up the windows so I acted like I was hot and made my way through the crowded room to the window. Then slowly I pushed my way around the perimeter of the room until I reached my bag. I found the needed references!
In the meantime, someone had handed the delegate a thick paperback book containing the Beijing Platform and she was frantically trying to find the references to religion. I handed her my booklet where I had the underlined references and told her it was the Beijing Platform. She looked very stressed and nervous. I was nervous myself. I was certain someone would notice what I was doing and throw me out of the conference. She raised her hand and said she had found the Beijing reference and then asked for permission to leave the room to consult. She then pulled me into the hallway and asked, “Who are you?”
I was no one. A mother of four who had never been involved in a cause and had hardly ever even had a babysitter let alone travel across the world to a UN meeting. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right tools for the moment. However, I proudly told her I was a representative for United Families International.
She introduced herself to me as the delegate from the Vatican (the Holy See). She explained that it was difficult for her to follow the arguments and explain herself because of her limited English skills. I pulled open the language guide and the Beijing Platform and we went over possible rebuttals to the arguments being presented. It felt good to finally play an active part rather than just be an observer. However I was later told that I should never approach a delegate during negotiations. I was of use because I didn’t know any better.
Mothers Are Not Best for Their Children?
The hundreds of women NGO representatives and almost all of the delegates were trying to include language in the document that would mandate government sponsored day care and encourage mothers to enter the work force.
I had an interesting conversation with two feminists from the Netherlands who explained their view on women who stay at home with their children. It was their opinion that women who do so are either oppressed by men or leeches to society. Women should contribute to society by earning money. Especially important to them were statistics comparing the percentage of women who were employed as compared to men. The more women in the labor force, the better they can show the importance of women’s contribution to society. Staying home to care for children is counterproductive to their purposes.
When I questioned the women about the welfare of children in day care, they were astonished. They truly believed that children are better off in a government sponsored day care with trained professionals than at home with their mothers.
I told them that I stay home with my children and explained that in a former job I had to visit many day care centers in the United States. I explained that most of the day care workers I saw were foreigners that could not get another kind of job and that the children I saw were not well cared for. I explained that as the mother of my children I love them more than anyone else and am more attentive to their needs. I had seen too many miserable children in day care starving for adult attention and affection. They were very surprised. I don’t think they had ever met someone who believed in taking care of her own children.
I and the few other representatives with me began to work with the only other two delegates we could find who were in favor of supporting family provisions. These “friends” were very brave to stand up for the family. One delegate was from Hungary and the other from Poland.
Language was being considered that mandated government to provide options (like daycare) for parents to help them get back to work after the birth of a child. We worked with these delegates on an amendment that would protect mothers who chose to stay home with their children. I was curious to see what would happen when Hungary proposed our amendment which gave support to stay-at-home moms. Sure enough it met with great opposition. The delegate from the Netherlands said, “I could never support this.” And the Canadian delegate said, “We have a real problem with this.” The chairman suggested that Hungary and Canada get together to negotiate something acceptable to both countries.
They met together and negotiated compromise language that didn’t allow either side to get what they wanted. At that point I realized why UN documents are so convoluted, contradictory and confusing. I also wondered what business the UN had dealing with social policies such as day care.
The Homosexual Agenda
While our small group had been working on the day care provision in one room, the delegate from the Holy See was in the middle of an intense struggle with the European Union, Canada and the U.S. in another room. Someone had introduced a controversial provision that called for the review and repeal of all laws in every country of the world that criminalize homosexuality. It became clear that the entire conference had been building up to this.
When I found the room the air was thick with tension, and the delegate representing the Holy See was worn out. I tried to enter the room so I could catch her eye and give her much needed moral support, but the room was too crowded already. Again, the organizers had chosen a small room which was sandwiched with wall-to-wall standing people. And again, the Holy See delegate did not have a seat. She had been standing through four and a half hours of negotiations and looked extremely tired and stressed. Incredibly, she was being pressured from all the countries represented in the room.
I was told she had been standing firmly against the homosexual provision and had announced that she had been instructed not to back down. The opposition was very skilled. They were cool and articulate, and they appeared to be willing to compromise when in reality, they had no intention of doing so. I finally caught her eye from the doorway and let her know I was there to support her.
The pressure on the delegate from the Vatican to cave in was so intense, and I could see that she was wearing down. Finally, she asked if she could leave the room to make a phone call and they agreed. I smiled at her as she left the room and she had the same worried look on her face that she had had during the “religion” battle. She walked around the corner and called her superior on her cell phone. She then charged back to the room and interrupted the proceedings. With all eyes on her she announced that she was withdrawing her reservation to the homosexual provision. I was aghast.
The room erupted with cheering and clapping and there was an air of jubilation and celebration as they thanked her. They had won! They did not even continue to negotiate the last few paragraphs. They were done because they now had what they really wanted.
I could not comprehend what had just happened. She explained that her superior at the Vatican had decided that it was not worth the struggle because these were just preliminary negotiations and the homosexual provision would be taken up in later negotiations in New York where they would have more support from other delegations to reject it. I did not fully understand but commended her for her efforts and I tried not to show my disappointment. She looked relieved that it was over, hugged us and thanked us for our support. She said it made a big difference when she saw us there. She said that when she could see us it filled her with peace knowing that she was not alone. I truly believe that she held out as long as she did because we were there.
It was unbelievable to me that peer pressure and intimidation could play such a crucial role in UN negotiations that affect the entire world. At that moment the idea was indelibly impressed upon my mind that if more people had been there to give her moral support she would not have caved in.
Wanted: Defenders of the Family
My experience at that conference was an awakening for me. I had been shocked to learn that many people and nations believed the family was an outdated, patriarchal institution perpetuated by men to keep women in subjection; that children are better off in day care with a trained professional than with their own mother; that women should be encouraged to leave their children and work outside of the home to contribute to the GNP of their country; that women should have the right to kill their children in the womb so they will not be handicapped in the workplace or unduly inconvenienced by the responsibilities of motherhood; that religion is an obstacle to the full realization of human rights for women as it promotes motherhood, family, marriage and sexual repression; that homosexuality is natural and is a valid expression of human sexuality that should not only be legalized, but should be protected, promoted and celebrated. I wondered if this had all been a bad dream from which I would soon awake.
I left with a determination to find good people to come to UN conferences so that UN delegates who are willing to stand up for the family can be supported and encouraged to ensure that respect for the family, marriage, life, parental rights and responsibilities and religion are fostered in UN documents.
I went home to establish a chapter of United Families International in Arizona and began raising funds and recruiting volunteers to attend UN conferences. Little did I know at the time, that my Geneva trip was the beginning of a personal lifelong journey to defend the family and was just a sample of what was to come in subsequent UN conferences. Also, little did I understand then as I do now how the documents and policies at the UN affect national, state and local laws across the US — even in the United States. I later became the President of United Families International, a capacity in which I still serve.
United Families International (UFI) is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization dedicated to promoting the family as the fundamental unit of society at the local, national, and international level. UFI promotes respect for marriage, life, religion, parental rights and national sovereignty.