Talking about sex in Turkey

While Parliament grapples with the deficit of vision in Budget 2012 at home, I’m in a gathering of hundreds of MPs from all around the world at the fifth International Parliamentarians Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD programme of action in Istanbul, Turkey, representing the NZ Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) along with Labour MP Maryan Street.


That mouthful of a conference title doesn’t tell you much about the conference (and I had fun explaining it to my Air NZ flight crew on the way over when he asked where I was going), but essentially it’s about MPs coming together to discuss sexual and reproductive health and rights, the empowerment of women, and the links between these things and successful development.

I like the way the United Nations Population Fund expresses the mission: to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled, and this from the conference organisers about our mission: “it is our role to ensure that the fight for gender equality does not fall from our attention in this crucial period of global development.”

Over two days we’ll discuss and debate global progress towards implementing the visionary programme of action from the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which set a series of progressive and forward-looking goals to achieve gender equality, maternal health, improve access to information and services and end discrimination around the world by 2014. With that deadline obviously rapidly approaching this conference will take stock of what has been achieved, what has not, and feed into the process for setting a new global agenda for population and development after 2014.

There is a strong emphasis on the role and rights of young people at this conference, so it was exciting for me last night to meet a number of young parliamentarians (under 35) from around the world, many of whom are leading on these issues in their home governments and parliaments.

Other highlights from the first day included hearing from US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who held nothing back when sharing the current challenges to women’s rights in US domestic politics, calling the controversial policies of House Republicans a “war on women”, and sharing the brilliant quote, which I will be repeating “we know that when women aren’t at the table, women are on the menu!”

Danish Development Minister Christian Friis Bach also addressed the conference this morning, and made the important link between sexual and reproductive health rights, and the rights of LGBTI people. Mr Bach concluded: “let’s get equal sexual rights for women and men regardless of whom they love, and what they think.”

The conference will produce a statement of commitment, which we will all sign, pledging MPs to take action domestically and internationally to advance sexual and reproductive health and gender equality. My fellow delegate Maryan Street is on the committee drafting this declaration. I hope it takes a progressive, ambitious, and strong stance on these key issues, and is followed up by real action, not just more talk!

Discussing international population and development issues, including the importance of universal access to contraception, as well as the important right of women to determine the number and spacing of her children, I can’t help but reflect on the NZ Government’s recent policy to link benefit receipt with long-term contraception.

It’s like Paula Bennett has taken a great, important idea (improved access to contraception) and twisted into something that could actually undermine a woman’s right to make decisions about her own family size, by putting her reproductive and sexual health rights in the hands of her WINZ case worker, instead of in her own hands and the hands of skilled health practitioners. While NZ takes a strong stance on these issues internationally we should continually reflect on our own policies at home and the messages these are sending.

Its also important to view the things in their proper context though! Internationally, an estimated 215 million women have an unmet need for contraception, which results in an estimated 53 million unwanted pregnancies, and causes 150,000 tragic, unnecessary maternal deaths each year. I reckon we could do something about that.

12 Comments Posted

  1. Shunda barunda:

    It is true that abortion is materially the same as infanticide. Regardless of whether or not you support it, that is the blunt fact of the matter.

  2. as well as the important right of women to determine the number and spacing of her children,

    And I guess the resultant “right” to execute the ones that fall outside this plan.

    You can call Paula Bennett what you like, but until the rights of the unborn are properly catered for, your little tax payer funded overseas conferences will be nothing but hypocrisy of the highest and most disturbing order.

  3. To ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled, Its all great mission, but again for developing country will facing budget capability, need to boost the budget generator it self..Nice share, Tks

  4. I assume the NZ taxpayer is paying for this tiki-tour. They are definitely paying these twos’ salaries. How convenient. Isn’t all air travel bad for the planet?

    I did wonder when I saw there were so many Green MPs following the election, what they would be doing. Now I know. High-five.

  5. …it’s also curious how they refer to population, yet link it to the idea of “achieving their potential” which in itself can be such an abstract and subjective meaning. Does this ‘achieving their potential’ really just mean getting young woman obsessed with career-orientation, so as to get them out of the home where they tend to otherwise make babies?

    I don’t have a problem with stopping people from breeding (especially for stupid and violent people), but I want to see it happen openly and directly. Because if it is indeed happening, and behind our backs, then the public is likewise isolated from the debate about how our societies should evolve. The result being an “elite” engineers a world in their own (non-negotiable) image…and all because we’ve been taught to believe that eugenics thinking went out the door after WW2. (doubt it!).

  6. “The UN” is not some them, what it is has been formed over time by those nations who are represented by it (based on past policy agreement).

    No, population control based on the availability of contraception (and education and equal status for women) is not eugenics. It is an irony, but the consensus is now to accept transferring jobs to the third world so their living standards improve – this reliably reduces the rate at which women breed.

    Improved health coverage and clean water – reducing child mortality also helps.

  7. Michael Hallager:

    Yeah. And then there is the question of eugenics because you can’t have population control without eugenics, because population control will always mean expanding and contracting the numbers of given groups and/or types of people.

    And I have no doubt that the UN is explicitly aware of this, and no doubt that they have engaged in exhaustive long-range modelling with respect to the cause-to-effects of their policies. And I also doubt that Holly and Maryan are themselves aware of this. They’re probably only fed the layer of propaganda that they need to know, at their level.

  8. It seems odd that when Paula Bennett advocates population control it is evil and worthy of condemnation, however when materially compatible ideologies are discussed and pushed at UN sponsored international conferences – this is progressive and worthy of praise.

  9. Shouldn’t “new global agenda for population and development after 2014” read as “new global agenda for population control and development after 2014”? Like this…


    Quote: “we know that when women aren’t at the table, women are on the menu!”

    This is how lesbians who grew up with abusive fathers think – not how families think. I think woman’s rights issues belong more to (some) third word countries, where woman are indeed often treated in disgusting ways.

  10. For anyone interested on a slight tangent regarding global population growth, there’s an interesting 13 minute talk by Hans Rosling, from a TED conference a year ago, arguing that the global population is on track to peak at 10 billion people and shouldn’t go any higher. (He’s only talking in terms of global growth without looking specifically at individual communities.)

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