Gender Equality, Woman’s Issues, and Health Services as addressed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization dedicated to promoting policies that will “improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world”1 by creating a forum in which governments can discuss and solve national problems. The OECD is a partner of the UN and reflects their opinions on many issues, including but not limited to population control, reducing violence towards women, lowering female fertility rates, and promoting accessibility to abortive and contraceptive services (especially in third-world countries).
As a matter of social policy, the OECD supports unrestricted access to abortion and contraception as a way to achieve gender equality. In their article “Unfinished Business – Women and girls front and center beyond 2015”2, the OECD declares a need to address the “unmet need for contraceptives”2 in order to prevent “54 million unintended pregnancies and 26 million abortions”2. They say that ensuring the availability of abortion and contraception to all – especially those in impoverished areas – is necessary for three main reasons: the increased rates of child marriage, the fact that pregnancy and childbirth are biggest causes of death in adolescent girls, and the high number of girls infected with HIV on a daily basis2.
However, there is a lack of congruency between their professed value of female dignity and the solutions they offer to women in trouble. Protecting girls and women from violence, sexual assault, and illness is necessary for the development of nations – especially now, when violence towards women has become an epidemic in many cultures. But the OECD does not address in this report any need to prevent rape and sexual assault that could lead to pregnancy and the spread of HIV, or how to go about ending child marriage in the first place. There is no discussion of the need to promote a definition of manhood that does not abuse, subjugate, and violate women. The OECD operates, on this issue, as though damage control is the only answer by suggesting abortive and contraceptive services as the solution to these problems, therefore placing the pressure on women to use these services for the sake of self-protection; in order to do nothing but endure.
In the same article, the OECD states that lower fertility rates reduce poverty, and that educated girls will make the decision to have fewer – and therefore healthier – children. Again, while ensuring quality education for girls worldwide is important, its value does not rest in it as a means to reduce fertility. Advocating for female education in third-world countries because of the hope that educated women will have fewer children is insulting to feminine dignity because it places their biological capacity for reproduction before their person, which just as deadly as not educating them at all. Educating girls should be a priority because every girl has an inherent right to choose to receive an education – much like how educated women have every right to freely choose to not have or have a large family.
Providing education for girls will pull countries out of cultural and economic poverty because it will give them the tools necessary to give back to their communities. If “gender equality” is truly important, then it is necessary to teach both men and women to respect women as persons without forgetting that they are women. Gender equality, rightly, understood should never be synonymous with gender neutrality. Erasing female identity is just as damaging to young girls as marginalization and sexism.
Kathryn Carnell is a sophomore political science and communication arts double major with a concentration in journalism from Vero Beach, Florida.
She wrote this paper as a summary of the OECD’s position on relevant social issues for a group of faculty-led students contributing research to the Holy See at the UN. In March 2014 she will accompany other Franciscan University students on a spring break trip to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of women (CSW), located in New York.
2. Unfinished Business: Women and Girls Front and Center Beyond 2015. Issue brief. OECD, n.d. Web. <http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender- development/unfinishedbusiness womenandgirlsfrontandcentrebeyond2015.htm#familyplanning>.