Last week, from Dec. 2 to Dec. 4, I headed the Belgian delegation to the Interparliamentary Union’s annual conference in Geneva dealing with “gender equality.” The IPU represents the world’s 143 national parliaments and acts as a kind of United Nations Parliamentary assembly. This year, the conference’s topic was “A Parliamentary Response to Violence against Women.”
The time when international conferences of female politicians were gatherings of feminist ideologues is over. One still meets the ardent feminists, in delegations from countries such as Canada, but they have become a tiny minority from the affluent West where some women still think that they have not reached the political top because they are being discriminated against. When you mention Margaret Thatcher they snigger as if Lady Thatcher was not a member of their own sex (or “gender” as they prefer to call it).
The IPU conference went on for three days. International meetings of parliamentarians can be very boring, even more so than national sessions of parliament. This year’s conference was quite interesting, however. Violence against women remains a major issue on the international human rights agenda. It was very disturbing to hear the delegations from Africa and other third world countries.
Violence against women is a global problem. Political correctness is so, too. Especially in international organizations such as the IPU. Hence, we all sat silently when told that “gender-based violence” affects all countries, including nations where one would not expect it, such as those on the Arabian Peninsula where a Prophet once preached a religion of peace which installed the ideal society for women to live in.
The (veiled) representative from the United Arab Emirates pointed out that, though the Muslim indigenous population in her country is not acquainted with the problem of violence against women, even her country today has shelters were abused women can find safety. These women, she explained, are from the expat population living in the Emirates. Since the expat population is booming in the UAE – it currently stands at 3.6 million as compared to only 860,000 locals – the problem of violence against women is growing, too.
I have been to a few of these international women’s conferences so far. When one observes the delegations from traditional Islamic countries, one is always struck by the fact that they consist of veiled women, invariably accompanied by male assistants. The women act as mouthpieces and read carefully prepared texts, which deny that their societies have any problems, unless imported by foreigners.
The political representatives of the world’s female population do not raise their voices against the charade staged in front of them. Violence against women will continue unabated as long as even the international forums established to combat it remain blind to women being humiliated before their very eyes.
Hon. Alexandra Colen, Ph D, is a Vlaams Belang member of the Belgian Federal Chamber of Representatives. She is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Belgian Parliament and the chairperson of the Advisory Committee for Social Emancipation of the Parliament.