Samantha Singson

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New European convention defines “gender” as social construct

Samantha Singson

STRASBOURG, April 7 (C-FAM) The 47 Member States of the Council of Europe are close to finalizing a new convention that defines “gender” as a social construct, rather than as a distinction grounded in biology.

According to the new Council of Europe convention on eliminating violence against women, gender “shall mean the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.”

Even though “gender” has appeared in other documents, no binding definition of the word has ever been accepted by Council of Europe members. This draft Convention would be the first international treaty to add a sociological component of gender to the universally understood biological context.

Luca Volontè, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told the Friday Fax, “The ideological thrust of many movements and lobbies linked to the ideology of ‘gender’ has ruined the text of a convention that could be very important. Defending women and combating discrimination is a necessity, but this text makes the situation worse and creates new barriers and discriminations.”  Volontè said that it was now the responsibility of the Committee of Ministers to change the gender definition or “permanently give up the text.”

This new “social construct” definition is at odds with the definition in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – which this new convention cites.  The Rome Statute states that: “For the purposes of this Statute, it is understood that the term “gender” refers to the two sexes, male and female, within the context of society. The term ‘gender’ does not indicate any meaning different from the above.”

Patrick Fagan, family scholar at the US-based Family Research Council, said that the use of a social construct definition of gender is “evidence of thought so divorced from reality as to be a form of mental illness, possible only to those who have spent years being miseducated in the upper levels of the modern university.” Fagan warned that the implications are “massive” as “it puts all forms of sexuality, including deviance, on the same level.”

At a UN meeting last month, many delegations were baffled by the staunch resistance of the EU to reference the ICC definition of gender despite wide support for the proposal.  The EU tried to quell any fears by reassuring that the ICC definition was unnecessary because everyone was clear on the definition of gender.  As negotiations dragged on, one delegate rebuffed the EU explanation retorting, “If it’s really not a problem, then why can’t we plainly state what it means?”

Further to the redefinition of gender, the new convention adds controversial new non-discrimination categories based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.  According to a backgrounder on the convention these terms include “categories of individuals such as transgender or transsexual persons, cross-dressers, transvestites and other groups of persons that do not correspond to what society has established as belonging to ‘male’ or ‘female’ categories.”

The committee of ministers will take action on the draft convention in the coming days.

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