Monday, May 15, 2000

Suggestions that the United Nations, through its bureaucratic actions, is trying to abolish Mother’s Day, which we observed yesterday, would strike most Americans as paranoid right-wing blather. If you said such things in a bar, the likely first reactions would be: “No way.” Or “get off it.”

But look a bit closer at how the world body tries to get member nations to fall in line with the goals of two of its treaties, “The Convention on the Rights of the Child” and “The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,” and you get the feeling it is really the U.N. that is paranoid about motherhood.

The 165 nations that have ratified the treaties are supposed to report to the United Nations on how they are conforming with the treaties’ goals. U.N. officials then tell them how to improve.

For example, the U.N. told Indonesia it has “great concern about existing social, religious and cultural norms that recognize men as the head of the family and breadwinner and confine women to the roles of mother and wife.” I have great concern about societies that don’t recognize the role of men in their families and deny as the United Nations apparently would do the role of women as mothers and wives.

The United Nations similarly told Kyrgyzstan it “is concerned about the prevalence of patriarchal culture and the continuing emphasis on the traditional roles of women exclusively as mothers and wives.” Well, maybe Kyrgyzstan needs to loosen up a bit, but there is still nothing wrong with the traditional role of women in the home, if that’s what they choose.

The United Nations advice to New Zealand was to “recognize maternity as a social function which must not constitute a structural disadvantage for women with regard to their employment. And the United Nations told Belarus it “is concerned by the continuing prevalence of sex-role stereotypes, as also exemplified by such symbols as a Mothers’ Day and a Mothers’ Award, which it sees as encouraging women’s traditional roles.”

Most of us, of course, don’t much care what the United Nations tells Belarus, Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan. But when the world body starts instructing Ireland on motherhood, that’s a bit much. After all, this is the land of saints and scholars, of warm families, of poets and musicians with the gift of living life as it is meant to be lived. We Irish have great mothers.

But the United Nations apparently does not think so. Its treaty enforcers want Section 41.2 of the Irish Constitution removed. That offending section reads: “The state, therefore, guarantees to protect the family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the nation and the state. In particular, the state recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The state shall, therefore, endeavor to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labor to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

Real nice stuff, but the United Nations objects to this rare bit of sanity and “expresses its concern about the continuing existence, in article 41.2 of the Irish Constitution, of concepts that reflect a stereotypical view of the role of women in the home and as mothers.”

So where is the United Nations heading with this lunacy? Keep China in mind: There it is illegal to be a mother for a second time. Let a Chinese mother do that and the state will require her to terminate her pregnancy. That is OK with the United Nations.

No wonder many sensible Americans scratch their heads and question why the United States continues to have anything to do with the United Nations. The world body has become an international busybody, telling governments and individuals worldwide how to live their lives. If Indonesia wants to do what the United Nations says, that’s Indonesia’s business.

This proud Irishman wants nothing to do with such nonsense. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

Patrick F. Fagan is the William H.G. FitzGerald senior fellow in family and cultural issues at the Heritage Foundation.

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