Female Heads of State Discuss How 'Climate Change'--But Not Sex-Selective Abortions--Hurt Women

January 11, 2012 - 5:32 PM

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Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – At a gathering of female heads of states, including the president of Finland and the former president of Ireland, the discussion focused on women’s rights, the importance of supporting “emerging” women leaders and how climate change hurts women, especially poor women. But they did not discuss the issue of sex-selective abortions that have killed millions of baby girls.

When CNSNews.com asked whether the Council on Women World Leaders takes a position on the millions of females who have died from sex-selective abortions and gendercide in China and India, the answer was no.

“I think the council is unlikely to take that kind of a stand,” Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, responded.” It’s not that kind of a body.”

‘Women who have joined the council because they qualify as a former president, prime minister, or the ministerial level that Margot (Wallstrom, special representative to the United Nations Secretary General on sexual violence) chairs to empower, to support, to make visible and to listen to the voices of women.”

“And so that issue [abortion of female babies] would be more appropriate to some other kind of activist group,” Robinson said.

Robinson also said “the nearest I can come to it” is her work to combat child marriage, including the fact that “religion and tradition are often distorted to subjugate women.”

tarja halonen

Tarja Halonen, pesident of Finland. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

According to an Oct. 4, 2011 report by CQ Global Researcher, an estimated 160 million female babies have been killed by abortion or were killed or left to die after they were born in India, China and other Asian countries in the past 30 years. The article cites the work of demographers such as Christophe Guilmoto, who is with the Paris-based Research Institute for Development.

Communist China’s one-child policy has led to millions of women being forced to undergo abortions and countless others have undergone sex-selective abortions to ensure their one child is a male.

In India and other countries, preference for male children has also led to millions of babies being aborted, killed, or left to die.

At the council event, held Wednesday at its new headquarters at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., the leaders did take stands on other issues.

Robinson talked about women leaders taking part in the United Nations’ international conferences on climate change and how gender played a role.

“In other words,” Robinson said in explaining the dynamics of women in leadership roles at the conferences, “there’s a sort of opportunity for speaking much more strongly about gender issues at an international conference than otherwise would happen, because women are restrained.”

tina brown

Tina Brown. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Moderator Tina Brown, editor-in-chief at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, praised Robinson’s climate change “crusade,” saying it “tremendously brings alive” the impact of climate change on women and children.

In remarks opening the discussion, Tarja Halonen, president of Finland, also brought up the issue of gender.

“You can’t choose you gender, but you can choose to be a feminist,” Halonen said.

The discussion ended with another reference to the importance of the “well-being” of girls and women. Laura Liswood, secretary general of the council and senior advisor at Goldman Sachs, said she believes the council has done good work, including having “stimulated others in their own pursuit of women and girls’ well being.”

A transcript of CNSNews.com's question and Mary Robinson's answer follows below:

CNSNews.com:  "I know you’ve talked about part of the work for the council is encouraging and bringing up the future leaders, and you’ve also talked about things like climate change that affect women disproportionately. I wonder if the council takes a stand or is involved at all on sex-selection abortion? This is an issue in China where they say millions of females have been aborted with the one-child policy and now this practice [of sex selective abortion] is taking place in India and other places. And I wondered if the council is taking a stand or getting involved in that as far as gender issues?"

Mary Robinson: "I think the council is unlikely to take that kind of a stand. It’s not that kind of a body. Women who have joined the council because they qualify as a former president, prime minister, or the ministerial level that Margot chairs to empower, to support, to make visible and to listen to the voices of women. And so that issue would be more appropriate to some other kind of activist group."