UNITED NATIONS, July 19, 2001 (LSN.ca/C-Fam) – In a report presented this Tuesday to a UN committee on sexual equality, the government of Nicaragua claimed that the Catholic Church perpetuates discriminatory attitudes about women, and that these attitudes stifle further progress towards justice within Nicaragua. The report, intended to illustrate Nicaraguan compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), alleges that “The Church publishes messages reinforcing attitudes and values that make women subordinate to men and discriminate against women. Even when abused by her husband, a wife is obliged to live with him ‘until death parts them’. A woman’s sexual life must be based solely on producing children, being a good wife, and looking after the family and the home.”
When asked to clarify this statement, and to confirm that it represents the official Nicaraguan position on the Catholic Church, a senior member of the Nicaraguan delegation said he was unsure who wrote the report, or what it ultimately communicated about the government’s relationship to the Church. He sought to distance the current government from the criticism, claiming that it “must have been written several years ago, by the former coalition government of Violeta Chamorro.” The report, however, is dated “September 9, 1999,” and is intended to show Nicaraguan compliance with CEDAW through 1998. Since the current government took power in 1997, it seems likely that it is responsible for the document.
The Nicaraguan report was welcomed eagerly by the CEDAW Committee, one of whose members asked, “In light of the fact that, according to your report, the Catholic Church perpetuates discrimination against women, are condoms easily available, and can they be obtained free of charge by members of vulnerable groups?”
Many of the questions directed at the Nicaraguan delegation exhibited a fear of the power of the Church, as well as a desire to curtail this power. A committee member said the Catholic Church “is exercising enormous influence on all aspects of your [Nicaraguan] society. I would like to know what kind of relationship you have with Church leaders. What kind of efforts have you made in changing or influencing the attitudes and opinions of Church leaders? Are there any improvements in their attitudes towards abortion, contraception and stereotyping? I am greatly concerned about this.”
This report would reflect a significant shift in Nicaraguan policy since in recent years the government of this largely Catholic country has aligned itself very closely with the Holy See at several UN conferences. It is expected this report will be greeted with alarm by what is a strong Catholic hierarchy in Nicaragua.
The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute produced the preceding report: https://www.c-fam.org/
The Nicaraguan and UN documentation is available at: https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/nic5.pdf (Takes a while to load – 71 pages) https://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2001/wom1296.doc.htm