Ireland is set to sign a new convention which defines gender as “a social construct”. When a module called ‘Exploring Masculinities’ was introduced to Irish schools a number of years ago which defined gender in the same way, it caused widespread controversy.
The notion that gender is a social construct is backed by feminists and says that the differences between the sexes, apart from the physical ones, are the result of our upbringing rather than nature.
The convention is entitled “Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence”.
A range of pro-family groups in addition to the Polish hierarchy, have attacked the relevant provision of the convention saying it is exploiting concern about domestic violence to advance a radical ideological agenda.
Article 3 (c) of the treaty reads: “'gender’ shall mean the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men".
In a statement, the Polish Episcopal Conference expressed “great concern” at the plan of the Polish government to sign the Convention.
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.
In contrast to the new convention, 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.”
“The Polish Episcopal Conference supports the protection of women against violence, but does not agree with the ideological assumptions of the Council of Europe Convention,” the Polish bishops declared.
“It should be emphasised that the convention, although it is devoted to the major issue of violence against women, is built on ideological and false assumptions that are in no way acceptable.
“It suggests that violence against women is systemic, and its source is religion, tradition and culture,” the bishops wrote, noting that Article 12 of the convention obliges signatories to “dismiss the achievements of civilization,” which are considered “as a threat and a source of violence.”
“A particular concern,” the bishops continued, “is the imposition of the signatories’ obligation to education (in Article 14) and promotion of “non-stereotypical gender roles,” meaning, therefore, homosexuality and transsexualism.
“Linking the legitimate principle of preventing violence with a dangerous attempt to interfere with the educational system, and the moral values professed by millions of parents in Poland, is a very worrying sign.”
The bishops also point out that Polish legislation already has sufficient tools to deal with violence, including violence against women, and that the government should focus on initiatives to “strengthen the role of families, improve health care for women and girls, support the professional education of women, to pursue educational programs, based on mutual respect and cooperation of both sexes, including the preparation for life in the family.”
In April 2011, the convention was adopted by the Council's Committee of Ministers, which comprises the Foreign Affairs Ministers of all the member states, including Ireland, or their permanent diplomatic representatives (known as Ministers’ Deputies) in Strasbourg.
The document was adopted by the Deputies, acting on behalf of the Ministers. Ireland's representative was Ms Margaret Hennessy, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.