Exclusive: US officials have pushed for rewriting of collective statements to remove language inclusive of transgender people
Julian Borger in New York
Thu 25 Oct 2018
US officials at the United Nations are seeking to eliminate the word “gender” from UN human rights documents, most often replacing it with “woman”, apparently as part of the Trump administration’s campaign to define transgender people out of existence.
At recent meetings of the UN’s Third Committee, which is concerned with “social, humanitarian and cultural” rights, US officials have been pushing for the rewriting of general assembly policy statements to remove what the administration argues is vague and politically correct language, reflecting what it sees as an “ideology” of treating gender as an individual choice rather than an unchangeable biological fact.
For example, in a draft paper on trafficking in women and girls introduced by Germany and the Philippines earlier this month, the US wants to remove phrases such as “gender-based violence” and replace them with “violence against women”.
The US officials involved in the changes are understood to have been sent from Washington, and were not full-time diplomats in the US mission.
“We are seeing this more and more coming up on the Third Committee, and this is going to be a battle in the coming weeks,” said a UN diplomat. The diplomat noted that US policy on the word is not entirely consistent.
While on a number of recent occasions, US officials have called for the removal of the word “gender”, at least once the same word has been added into a text on US insistence.
The diplomat, a European, speculated that the inconsistency might reflect a tussle between different members of the US mission.
To succeed in its campaign, the US will have to forge unusual alliances, with Russia and conservative Islamic states, against its western European partners.
“If you only say violence against women, it doesn’t really tell the whole story,” a senior diplomat at the UN said. “We shouldn’t be going along with encouraging their society to be regressive. And if that means a blazing row in the Third Committee, I would have a blazing row in committee because I think some things are worth cherishing and worth hanging on to.”
A spokesperson for the US state department said: “In no way is the United States attempting to exclude the protection of transgendered persons, or protection of any person, in any UN resolution.”