Mostly the Same, But UNFPA Discovers Fatherlessness

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
PRI Weekly Briefing
21 October 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 41
Reproduced with Permission

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) this month released its State of World Population 2005 report, titled The Promise of Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals, and regular readers of this space will not be surprised to learn that we think it mostly misses the point, yet again.

UNFPA focuses on its own two pet points: First and foremost, the extensive social re-engineering project that is literally and obviously destroying most of the world's non-Muslim societies, and second, condoms. Reading the report, one gets the impression that absolute universal gender equality (by which they mean sameness) and absolute universal condom usage will inaugurate a blissful utopia, free of most social ills about which it is currently fashionable to complain among international bureaucrats. This utopia would be free of HIV infection in particular.

In introducing its report, UNFPA implicitly acknowledges the self-image of United Nations petite grandees as expense account-bearing philosopher-kings, and the language they use is worthy of those philosopher-kin of theirs sitting on our own Supreme Court. UNFPA poses a series of questions about improving the lives of poor people and then claims, "For perhaps the first time in history, questions such as these are not simply rhetorical. They have answers: Answers that go to the very heart of what it means to be a woman or a man, wealthy or poor."

Yes, one of UNFPA's regularly released reports is here to tell you, amidst statistics on adolescent marriage and sexually transmitted disease rates, about the fundamental questions of manhood and womanhood, and what it means to be one or the other (or both or neither, I suppose, in this age of liberation). And it certainly does, tediously promoting the complete removal of any differences whatsoever between men and women as the solution to everything from war to the AIDS epidemic to poor sanitation to the excessive, in their eyes, tendency of the Third World masses to have children.

UNFPA and other agencies continue to struggle and fail, as they have for two decades, to contain the spread of HIV, especially where it has exploded the most ruinously, sub-Saharan Africa. The more they struggle and fail, the more funding they receive, and the more funding they receive, the more they promote the same failed approaches.

UNFPA makes a big deal of human rights, especially the rights of women, yet continues to subsidize Communist China's coercive one-child policy -- which, according to Time in its September 19 issue, continues to generate the physically forced abortion and sterilization of women by the thousands, and uses other coervice methods to keep millions of other would-be mothers of large families from realizing their dreams. UNFPA's past rhetorical support and current financial support for this policy makes a mockery of statements like these: "Reproductive rights are central to human rights, especially the human rights of women. They derive from the recognition of the basic right of all individuals and couples to make decisions about reproduction free of discrimination, coercion or violence. They include the right to the highest standard of health and the right to determine the number, timing and spacing of children." In China, it's official government policy that Chinese women may have only one or two children in their lifetimes.

However, UNFPA is right about the importance of maternal health as a global issue. Just as with child mortality, there are a few simple, inexpensive measures that would dramatically decrease maternal deaths and injuries related to childbearing. Such deaths have been virtually eliminated in the First World.

"Virtually all - 99% - of maternal deaths occur in developing countries," says UNFPA. "The lives of most of these women - and those of their newborns - could be saved through emergency care readily available to wealthier women. Every minute a woman dies from the complications of childbirth or pregnancy, and another 20 are seriously injured or disabled. And when a mother dies giving birth, her infant's chances of survival plummet. Motherless newborns are three to 10 times more likely to die than others."

But what does UNFPA emphasize to prevent maternal death? Preventing maternity. "Preventing unintended pregnancies through access to family planning could avert 20 to 35% of maternal deaths, saving the lives of more than 100,000 mothers each year." In a world of rapidly imploding birthrates and aging populations, even in most Third World countries, due in large part to the gender-equal goal of liberating women from child-rearing, UNFPA is still very intent on population control. In its baloney passages exaggerating the effectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV, it likes to mention the negation of children as a side benefit of condom use.

The report even complains about societies in which "women are expected to have children." UNFPA should investigate the longetivity of societies in which women are not expected to have children and issue a report.

The report never condemns immoral or unnatural behavior as the primary cause of the spread of HIV even among women, who now make up the majority of new cases. But its own statistics show that most women may be getting the disease from their own immoral behavior or from that of their husbands. Consider:

"In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 60 to 80% of HIV-positive women have been infected by their husbands - their sole partner." "In Cambodia, 42% of all new HIV infections occur from transmission by husbands to their wives. One third of new infections are to the babies of these women." "Studies of pregnant teens in countries of sub-Saharan Africa revealed that 73% of the girls interviewed had sexual partners who were over age 30. In Haiti, one study found that one third of adolescent girls reported entering sexual relationships out of economic necessity. Of these, 95% had children by several fathers, placing both the women and their infants at higher risk of HIV."

How is UNFPA's mania for forcing traditional cultures to adopt Western notions of gender equality going to end this behavior? Only the adoption of traditional morality can do it. As for equality for women, when men view women as equals, they exploit them as they would other men. It's liberated, after all. It is the old-fashioned Christian or Christian-derived protective attitude, an essentially unequal one, that has to be fostered in men so they will not expose their wives and other women to a fatal disease.

Speaking of the return to tradition, the renewed interest among social scientists in the possibility that fathers might be significant has apparently spread as far as UNFPA. Says this amusing passage, "Supportive fathers can play a large role in the love, care and nurturance of their children. Often they are the primary providers for their families. Researchers have begun analyzing the links between paternal absence and poverty. Children's psychological, social and cognitive development can suffer from paternal abandonment and lack of affective and material support."

So UN-recognized scientists have finally gotten around to studying the connection between fatherlessness and poverty? We're glad. Next, they should look into why AIDS keeps spreading rapidly in the poor, sexually degenerate societies to which UNFPA ships mountains of condoms.