– A collection of materials published by Trump and his supporters – A range of analyses and responses by women’s rights advocates
Donald Trump’s attempts over the past two years to redefine human rights in his own image have been an embarrassment for the United States and on the world stage. Some of it was so outrageous that many hoped it would never get very far and would just go away. Some have been fighting it quietly, behind the scenes. Some hoped that if he lost the election, it would disappear with him. Meanwhile, its growing list of repetitive documents have seeped into public view. Although he lost the election, the campaign he initiated has appealed to (ageing male) leaders of right-wing governments in countries that do not want to see women gain or keep any independence, restrict women’s rights and have that limited and limiting vision of “woman” only as “mother”.
This newsletter shares some of the published material produced by the Trump camp and its supporters, as well as published statements against these materials and analyses by Campaign members and other women’s rights advocates of the politics involved.
“The governments of the Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Uganda and the United States cosponsored a virtual October 22, 2020 gathering in Washington, D.C. for a multinational ceremonial signing of [this document…. This Declaration further strengthens the coalition to achieve these four pillars: (1) better health for women, (2) the preservation of human life, (3) strengthening of family as the foundational unit of society, and (4) protecting every nation’s national sovereignty in global politics. For example, it is the sovereign right of every nation to make their own laws in regard to abortion, absent external pressure.”
“The following 33 countries signed the Declaration on October 22, 2020, representing over 1.6 billion people and every region of the world…: Bahrain, Belarus, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DR Congo, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, eswatini, The Gambia, Georgia, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Nauru, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, USA, Zambia.
In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created a highly controversial “Commission on Unalienable Rights” to re-examine the basis of US human rights policy. In August 2020, the Commission published its formal report, which argued for a selective approach to human rights. The US State Department planned to promote this report at the UN General Assembly in September 2020.
– A letter condemning the Commission’s report: signed by US human rights advocates
On 30 July 2020, a letter signed by 111 organisations and 119 individuals submitted a letter to the Commission and the Secretary of State as a joint, official comment on the draft report. The signatories included non-governmental organisations, former senior government officials, scholars and educators, advocates, faith leaders and others.
The letter opens: “On July 23, 2019, hundreds of human rights, civil liberties, social justice, and faith-based organizations and leaders, including many signatories of this letter, wrote to Secretary of State Pompeo to object to the Commission on Unalienable Rights’ (“Commission”) mandate, rationale, and composition. Having reviewed the Commission’s draft “Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights” of July 16 (“report”) and Secretary Pompeo’s speech at its unveiling, we write again to object strenuously to the work product that has emerged from this fundamentally flawed and unnecessary undertaking.”
It says they believe the Commission’s work undermines decades of human rights progress. That “Secretary Pompeo’s assertion that ‘foremost among [human] rights are property rights and religious liberty’ makes clear his intention to use the report to create a hierarchy of rights— despite [his] assertions to the contrary—based on his personal political and religious beliefs, as opposed to decades of domestic and international human rights law.” It then outlines five main reasons why the Commission’s Report is seriously flawed
4. Attempt to destroy multilateralism: creating a financial crisis at Pan American Health Organization
“On May 21, 2020, at a special session of the Executive Committee of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO Regional Office for the Americas, Carissa Etienne, Regional Director, declared that due to non-payment of Member States’ contributions, PAHO stands on the brink of insolvency. As of April 30, 2020, most of the non-payment is attributable to the USA (67%); however, late payments are outstanding from Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and others, to a total of US$164·6 million. This includes an unprecedented $63·8 million (57%) of 2019 assessed contributions.
“This financial crisis could not have occurred at a worse time. The Americas have recorded the greatest COVID-19 morbidity and mortality of any region…. Health security in the western hemisphere would be severely threatened without a functioning PAHO. Reserve funds will be exhausted by September 2020. PAHO faces dire actions, including executing borrowing options and possible implementation of key staff furlough measures. PAHO was established in 1902 to promote public health action against infectious disease threats. A core value was Pan-Americanism, expressed in the countries’ commitment to work together to improve the health of populations living in the poorest countries.2 With PAHO’s leadership, countries of the Americas eliminated polio in 1991, measles in 2002, rubella in 2002, congenital rubella syndrome in 2009, and neonatal tetanus in 2017. PAHO has played crucial roles in responding to numerous other infectious disease threats, controlling the rising tide of non-communicable disease and strengthening health systems….
“This is a call to action to countries of the Americas to pay their outstanding contributions and avoid a financial crisis with known and unknown consequences. It is a call for all countries to work together to overcome the challenge of COVID-19 in the spirit of solidarity and protecting the health of all.”
SOURCE: The Lancet, by Arlene King, Jon Kim Andrus, J Peter Figueroa, 11 July 2020
“…in most regions of the world today, fertility is below population replacement rates. As a result, family planning should focus both on the voluntary achievement of pregnancy as well as the prevention of unwanted pregnancy.”
“We wish to emphasize that the agreement reached at Cairo remains a solid foundation for addressing new challenges within a consensus-driven process that gives each government equal opportunity to negotiate a broadly accepted document within the UN…” [thus rejecting that an internationally agreed document should be negotiated]
“We do not support references in international documents to ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which do not enjoy international consensus, nor the same reservations or caveats which are applied to similar terms. In addition, the use of the term SRHR has been used to aggressively promote practices, like abortion. There is no international right to abortion.” (…) Further, the term SRHR is used to promote a brand of sex education that fails to appreciate the protective role of the family and often condones unhealthy sexual risks (…)”
In 2019, the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy (PLGHP) initiative said the US negotiates health policy at multilateral settings. “President Trump defend[ed] human life and warn[ed] the UN to stay within its mandate during the 2019 UN General Assembly Speech September 24, 2019, stating: “Americans will never tire of defending innocent life. We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God.”
“My Administration is… building an international coalition to dispel the concept of abortion as a fundamental human right. So far, 24 nations representing more than a billion people have joined this important cause. We oppose any projects that attempt to assert a global right to taxpayer funded abortion on demand, up to the moment of delivery. And we will never tire of defending innocent life — at home or abroad.”
Political analysis from the Campaign against Unsafe Abortion (CLACAI), Peru
1. Eugenio Villar: ‘The United States has tried to defund, and even destroy, if it could, the United Nations’, La Mala Fe (Bad Faith), August 2020. Published by CLACAI, Peru.
This report describes how countries both contribute to and obstruct WHO, including by withholding their required payment of annual dues and money for projects (not required), depending on whether they agree with or are opposed to its policies, guidelines, public health work, projects, etc. It focuses on recent pandemics, US behaviour, the growing influence of China (which the US is furiously opposed to) and the need for WHO to look for funding from entities like the Gates Foundation because country contributions do not cover their work.
2. The US threatens to withdraw from the WHO and requests that it stop addressing abortion and sexual and reproductive health during the coronavirus pandemic” La Mala Fe (Bad Faith), July 2020. Published by CLACAI, Peru.
This reports on a letter addressed to António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in which USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa asked him “to remove references to sexual and reproductive health and its derivatives from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan and to eliminate the provision of abortion as an essential component of the UN’s priorities to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. This request was repudiated publicly by the Center for Gender and Health Equality (CHANGE) in the US, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, Ipas, the InterAgency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises, and IPPF.
3. Costa Rica: Fabricio Alvarado proposes conscientious objection law against equal marriage, La Mala Fe, undated 2020, following the approval of equal marriage in the country.
*En español – These three articles are in Spanish but right click when you open them, then click on Translate into English, and you will get a good translation.
Advocates call on their governments to withdraw their signatures from the Geneva Consensus Declaration
Kenya: Charities urge government to quit US-led anti-abortion pact
On 3 November 2020, an alliance of Kenyan charities urged the government to withdraw from the Trump-led Geneva Consensus Declaration that aims to limit abortion access for millions of women and girls around the world and represents a deliberate attempt to weaken international efforts to safeguard sexual and reproductive rights and human rights more broadly.
“The document totally undermines the mandate and ability of the United Nations to develop harmonized policies that advance desirable human rights documents,” said Linda Kroeger, programme officer at the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network (KELIN). KELIN is one of more than 20 charities that have written to Kenya’s Foreign Ministry demanding Nairobi withdraw from the so-called Geneva Consensus Declaration, saying it could push more women and girls to undergo unsafe abortions.
A Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman declined to comment immediately on the charities’ letter.
Kenya’s 2010 constitution broadened access to abortion, permitting it when a woman’s life is at risk or in case of an emergency, and guaranteeing the right to life and reproductive health services. “Our youth are suffering and dying from preventable deaths. The Minister of Foreign Affairs must withdraw from this declaration,” said Jedidah Maina, executive director of the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH).
Hungary: Patent Association condemns lying and using the guise of women’s human rights
The Patent Association write that the signatories to the Trump Declaration are largely oppressive and maintain an authoritarian regime. Citing the famous image of the so-called “Demographic Summit” held in Hungary, in which many of the speakers urging an increase in the birth rate were male politicians – the leaders, presidents, prime ministers, kings, princes and sheikhs of the States that signed the Declaration. The document is campaigning against safe and accessible abortion in a lying way in the guise of women’s human rights and the right to health.
Trying to force women to carry an unwanted pregnancy is an inhuman, degrading and hateful practice – it is clear that the signatories of the Declaration have no interest in the health and well-being of women. The human rights language used in the text of the declaration and the empty references to improving women’s rights and situation are nothing more than… an attempt to deceive the public…. It is the same lie to call the statement “a consensus” as if broad aspirations surrounded it.
Let us have no illusions: if these men take the right to safe abortion away from women, there will not be fewer abortions, at most they will be invisible in statistics, and millions of women will risk their lives in dangerous, secret abortions…. And if the goal is to increase the global birth rate – yes, if we could overpopulate the Earth faster, why not try to do so? That is the unpleasant truth….
We would like to express our solidarity with our fellow Polish women and encourage everyone to make their voices heard, speak up and protest in every way available to them against these vile measures that disregard women’s lives, health, well-being and rights – as long as they can.
Indonesia: coalition of women’s rights groups lambast the government for signing
A coalition of Indonesian women’s rights groups have lambasted the government for signing an anti-abortion convention rolled out by the United States, saying the government co-sponsored it without proper public consultation.
The coalition deemed the signing of the convention unconstitutional and harmful to the sexual and reproductive health of Indonesian women because it might lead to more unsafe abortion practices and subsequently, more maternal deaths.
Indonesia signed the Declaration during the virtual meeting on 22 October 2020. Their decision to sign came days before US Secretary of State Pompeo visited Indonesia, amid the country’s long-standing debate between conservative groups that campaign for “family resilience” and women’s rights groups that campaign for gender equality.
A coalition of 31 organisations and 25 individuals issued a statement on Samsara News, urging the Foreign Ministry to revoke Indonesia’s signature, saying the declaration would be counter-productive to Indonesia’s decades of efforts in improving women’s access to health care by clearly excluding women’s sexual and reproductive health services and rights.
“The declaration is not only unconstitutional based on prevailing laws in Indonesia, but is also not in line with the Indonesian government’s aim to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The declaration is especially dangerous for Indonesian women and families’ sexual and reproductive health,” the coalition said. The coalition argued that the anti-abortion stance of the document went against the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that Indonesia ratified in 1984, which suggested legalisation of abortion at least in cases of rape, incest, threat to the women’s life, health-threatening conditions or severe anomalies.
Indonesia’s 2009 Health Law bans abortions, but it provides safe abortion services for pregnancies that pose medical risks that threaten the woman’s or the baby’s life, or can cause severe genetic illnesses or congenital defects that will make it hard for the baby to survive. It also allows abortion in the case of pregnancies caused by rape within 40 days, counted from the first day of the victims’ last period, according to a 2014 government regulation on reproductive health. Experts and activists, including some of those participating in the coalition, have pushed for a change in the maximum time period, citing women’s difficulties to detect their pregnancies among other reasons, especially as rape victims may fear reporting their case to authorities.
“There’s an urgent need to shift and reorganize practical approaches used by the country in managing safe abortions, not only to reduce maternal deaths but also to ensure that victims of sexual violence are protected and receive the assistance they need,” the coalition said. Beyond abortion, the coalition said the declaration’s emphasis on families was a systemic and structural effort to ignore gender equality by limiting women’s space and roles in the name of families’ well-being.
The coalition also expressed its regrets that the government did not involve and consult with civil society organisations before deciding to sign the declaration.
The Health Ministry did not immediately respond to the Jakarta Post’s request for comments but Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto, in his address during the signing expressed the government’s full support for the declaration.
“More significant attention needs [to be] given to women because they are susceptible to morbidity and mortality related to pregnancy and delivery,” he was quoted as saying on the Ministry’s website. The Foreign Ministry’s multilateral cooperation director general, Febrian A Ruddyard, said Indonesia’s involvement in co-sponsoring the declaration was based on the consideration that the principles in the document were “general in nature and in line with national policies and laws and regulations in Indonesia”.
In this case, he said, the document was in line with the 2009 Health Law, its derivative 2014 government regulation on reproductive health as well as a 2009 law on population growth and family development.
“The declaration is not legally binding, so the implementation of it is of course adjusted to the priorities, provisions and domestic policies that have been in effect so far,” he said, adding that the document referred to existing international agreements at the United Nations and other international forums.
Postscript from an activist: The Indonesian government responded that they found it “impossible to withdraw support because they are a co-sponsor”. They promised to check whether there could be a reservation on several statements.
SOURCE: Jakarta Post, by Ardila Syakriah, Dian Septiari, 31 October 2020
Brazilian rights groups have also asked for a hearing with their Foreign Ministry. [More on this soon…]
Media reports and other publications
Hungary, Poland to set up rule-of-law institute to counter EU
Both states have come under pressure for putting courts, media, NGOs and rights group under direct government control
Hungary and Poland will set up a joint institute to assess the state of rule of law across European Union member states so they are “not taken for fools” over allegations of rule of law breaches, Hungary’s foreign minister said on Monday.
After meeting Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Zbigniew Rau in Budapest, Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian foreign minister, said an EU report on the rule of law, which will soon be discussed in Brussels, was expected to be a political statement rather than any well-founded assessment.
“The aim of this institute of comparative law would be that we should not be taken for fools,” Szijjarto said, adding he had “had enough of some western European politicians using us as a punch bag”. The institute would examine how the rule of law was upheld across the EU to avoid “double standards” being applied to Hungary and Poland, he said.
The Law and Justice party (PiS) government in Poland – as well as its nationalist ally, the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban – have long been at loggerheads with the EU over accusations that they undercut democratic standards.
While both post-communist states benefit from generous EU handouts, their rulers have come under pressure for putting courts and judges, media and academics, non-government organisations and rights groups under direct government control.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency on Friday, Orban denied undermining democracy.
An EU summit in July agreed the bloc’s next joint budget for 2021-2027, worth a trillion euros ($1.2 trillion), and access to a linked economic recovery fund worth a further 750 billion euros ($867bn) to help repair damage done by the coronavirus pandemic, should both include conditions that member states adhere to the rule of law.
However, the exact details have not yet been set down, with the European Parliament pushing for tougher conditions than those agreed at the summit, and Warsaw and Budapest threatening to veto anything that would threaten their benefits.
Rau said the new institute would promote debate and transparency within the EU. “A legal debate cannot be replaced by a political debate,” he said.
Hungarian government proposes constitutional amendment mandating Christian gender roles
Hungary’s government proposed a constitutional amendment on 10 November 2020 requiring children to be raised with a Christian interpretation of gender roles, as Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling nationalists turn to anti-LGBT rhetoric to shore up support…. “The basis for family relations is marriage,” it says. “The mother is a woman, the father is a man.”.… It also says Hungary “protects children’s right to the gender identity they were born with,” using language consistent with a government campaign to outlaw transgender identities.
Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen said last week that Hungary should enshrine in its constitution a ban on “gender propaganda” to protect children. He also said gays should not be allowed to adopt children and start families.
Women in Kenya are using knitting needles to end their pregnancies. Blame Donald Trump.The president has given fringe anti-abortion groups unprecedented influence
Over the past three years, President Trump has decimated funding to family planning groups across sub-Saharan Africa, leaving many fighting to survive. More quietly, he has also planted far-right ideologues as the heads of federal agencies crafting international policy on the rights of women and bolstered the work of non-governmental organizations seeking to make abortion illegal worldwide. Kenya has long had restrictive abortion laws—the procedure is illegal except in a handful of circumstances. But Trump’s agenda has turbocharged Kenya’s nascent anti-abortion movement, which is working to add more limitations to the country’s already stringent laws….
CitizenGO, an ultraconservative group headquartered in Spain but partially financed by US donations… claims 9 million members worldwide, began as a petition mill but has increasingly mounted IRL events to promote its brand of “family friendly” policies… The African face of CitizenGO is Ann Kioko, a 32-year-old Kenyan with round cheeks, a petite stature, and a deep commitment to religious conservatism. Kioko recently attended workshops conducted by the American Leadership Institute, a conservative training organization that counts Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Karl Rove among its alumni. “CitizenGO works very closely with the Leadership Institute,” says Kioko, who is on the board of Kenya’s Conference of Catholic Bishops in addition to being CitizenGO Africa’s campaigns director. “We are receiving training from them every other year on how to do campaigns, especially political campaigns. Because the future of the pro-life movement, and this is the goal of CitizenGO right now, is to make sure we elect pro-family people.”…
How Trump is speeding up the religious war on women’s bodies globally
“Given the Trump Administration’s appalling record on women’s rights, coupled with eagerness to partner with authoritarian leaders, there is ample reason to distrust any global effort from the White House involving women and girls… The Consensus does not protect women’s health. It is in fact, an international anti-abortion manifesto…. A possible Trump defeat has put intense stress on the Administration, and its conservative religious allies, to leave a lasting impact on the UN. The Administration is using the Consensus to pressure the global community to join them in promoting discriminatory standards and ending access to safe abortion.
This is a hard sell. In four years, the Trump Administration has been incapable of bringing together a majority of nations to endorse their reactionary agendas. Since the summer, the US has aggressively lobbied countries to join the agreement, but they have failed to find many signatories…
– Geneva Consensus Declaration tramples on every person’s right to choose. Tarah Demant, Director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Identity program at Amnesty International USA said: “Today’s news marks another giant step backwards for the United States as it joins a list of countries willingly endangering people’s health and lives. Amnesty International USA press release, 22 October 2020
– An investigation into the global spending of US Christian Right groups contains total figures of their European spending (2007-2018) and how they are attempting to influence SRHR, including in Europe. The European spending has been led mainly by two groups who focus their fights on the courts: the European Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom. The article details the amounts of money but was unable to give much information on how it was spent. Open Democracy. 27 October 2020
– Poland, Saudi Arabia and 29 others join US-led anti-abortion declaration on women’s rights. Notes from Poland, 23 October 2020
– Poland has begun diplomatic efforts in neighbouring countries to rally support for a “family rights convention” – initiated by ultra-conservatives and designed as a regional challenge to the Istanbul Convention and EU attempts to further LGBT and women’s rights. Balkan Insight, 6 October 2020.
– Exporting bad policy: an introduction to the special issue on the Global Gag Rule’s impact.
by Terry McGovern, Anand Tamang. Sexual & Reproductive Health Matters Editorial, 2020(21 October);28(3).