Excerpts from Mary Suarez Hamm’s Oct. 21 presentation to the United Nations:
BY Jim Cosgrove
December 14-20, 1997 Issue | Posted 12/14/97 at 1:00 AM
“As the Beijing document points out, the role of women in the family and especially in the lives of their children makes an indispensable contribution to the good and stability of society. In addition, for most women, the role of wife and mother is central to their identity, happiness and life. Therefore, inherent to motherhood are natural rights which must be recognized and supported.
Obviously, a basic right related to motherhood is the freedom to have children. This freedom may not be denied, especially through either forced sterilization or abortion. That means that parents must be able to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children. Therefore, any policy which seeks to regulate the number of children, either by coercive measures or by other forms of pressure, must be a violation of the rights of women and of parents, and an invasion of the family which is the basic unit of society. And this is especially true for women in situations of exceptional difficulty and vulnerability such as those living in refugee camps.
As a consequence of the vital contribution which it receives from maternity, society must assume various obligations in order to support the women who are mothers. In particular, to fulfill their duty of forming their children, mothers have a right to society's support and protection for the institution of the family itself, based as it is in the marriage of a man and a woman. This support provides assistance in forming the stable union which protects and assists mothers in their work for the family. Further, parents must be helped to exercise their rights, duties and responsibilities in choosing the form and the content of the education of their children, most especially with regard to their religious and moral values as well as to the positive elements which motherhood contributes to women and to society. Indeed, as experience shows when children are given affection and sound role models in their earliest and formative years, they become more confident about themselves and their future, and more able to defend their rights.…
In addition, women who choose to work outside the home should be able to pursue a career without being discriminated against because they are mothers. As Pope John Paul has stated, “the true advancement of women requires that labor should be structured in such a way that women do not have to pay for their advancement by abandoning what it specific to them and at the expense of the family, in which women as mothers have an irreplaceable role” (Laborem Exercens, 19). Simply stated, the right to support from society means that the conditions of the work place itself should be structured so that women are able to advance and compete without suffering negative consequences for their roles as mothers. Indeed it must be accepted that many women will be child-bearing during the years when they establish themselves professionally. Necessary accommodations, including social protection for maternity, parental leave, flexible working arrangements, and forms of part-time employment, must be made for women's multiple roles and responsibilities and duties in domestic life, in child rearing, and in education.
Mr. Chairman it is clear that advancement of this aspect of the lives of women as called for in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and at the Beijing Conference is still far from complete.… In short, the strengthening of families and defending the rights of the millions of women who are mothers is one of the surest and most practical ways of bettering the status of women all over the world.”
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