WHRC responds to NGO CSW's 'Affirmation of Feminist Principles'

July 2021

The aim of this letter:

The Women’s Human Rights Campaign was concerned to receive ‘An Affirmation of Feminist Principles’ from NGO CSW. This lengthy and confused document appears to be an attempt to pressure states, the UN and NGOs into adopting the postmodern tenets of gender ideology and disregarding the material reality of women’s sex-based oppression.

The Women’s Human Rights Campaign, founded in 2019, is an international organisation which promotes the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights which was created to lobby nations to maintain language protecting women and girls on the basis of sex rather than "gender" or "gender identity". As of 3 July 2021, the Declaration has 18,659 individual signatories and 137 signatory organisations.

The 'Affirmation'

A small group of organisations has launched a document called 'An Affirmation of Feminist Principles'. They are not ‘feminist’ principles but anti-feminist principles. The document consists of a naked attempt to steal the mantle of feminism to cover and promote the desires of groups of men with specialised interests, such as men who claim female ‘gender identities’ and men with an interest in children’s ‘sexual rights’.

Sex-based oppression

The document lies about feminism saying: ‘Feminists have established that gender, sex and sexuality are constructed categories of identity’. Feminists have never been anti-science and have always recognised that sex is biological and immutable. The argument that sex is a social construction comes from gender identity ideology which uses this terminology to support the idea that people can change their ‘sex’.

Women are oppressed on the basis of their biological sex. CEDAW, the women’s convention (1979) states this unequivocally. It is on the basis of sex that women are trafficked into marriage and prostitution. It is on the basis of sex that women are denied equal rights.

If sex was socially constructed and a part of identity (i.e. just in the head) then the women and girls who are sexually harassed and raped, forced into marriage and childbearing would be able to identify out of these situations.

In place of biological sex as an axis of oppression, the document uses the term ‘sex characteristics’. This term is deployed in an ideology which declares sex to be ‘constructed’ to refer to the annoying body parts that might still append to men who have feminine ‘gender identities’, such as a penis.

Absence of women

The anti-feminism of the document is demonstrated by the fact that it contains the word woman only twice and never in bold. The constituency that the document does represent is clearly stated in the preamble which speaks of the rights of ‘trans, intersex and non-binary people’. Feminism, however, is about women.

The first time ‘women’ appears is in the statement that discrimination against women is the result of the ‘western construction’ i.e. belief, that there are two sexes. The document states that:

"Many of us live in a world that is firmly based on the Western binary construction of gender and sex, which, along with heteronormativity, leads to the systemic oppression and structural discrimination of women and anyone who does not, or cannot, conform, and therefore poses a threat to the patriarchy."

Feminists recognise that sex is ‘binary’. It is not because sex is ‘binary’ that women are oppressed but because women’s sexed bodies enable us to be exploited for sexual and reproductive purposes.

The only other time the word woman appears it is in the context of stating that feminism is not about ‘women v men’.

No common cause for women

The document is anti-feminist in asserting that women have no common cause.

"Our feminism analyses power by recognising that there is no homogeneity in our experiences of gender, sex and sexuality, and that diverse people experience varying levels of discrimination, oppression and privilege."

Feminism and women’s rights as human rights are based upon the recognition that women do have a common cause, and that women all over the world are united in being exploited, discriminated against and oppressed on the basis of their biological sex. Without this understanding there can be no feminism and any document which states that there is no common cause is anti-feminist.

Bodily integrity

Under the heading: ‘Bodily autonomy, integrity, agency and the right to identity’ the document makes demands which are very contentious and certainly not representative of feminism. Feminists have employed the term ‘bodily integrity’ to campaign for the rights of women and girls to be free from men’s sexual violence and unwanted childbearing.

The document makes no reference to male violence or sexual exploitation. Instead, it demands that ‘sex work’, meaning prostitution, should be recognised as ‘work’, a position that underlies campaigns by sex industrialists to promote and expand their industry.

It asserts the ‘right to identity’ which ‘extends to self-determine one’s gender identity without interference including the freedom to self determine one’s legal gender’. There is no right to identity. People may entertain whatever fantasies they like about who and what they are, but human rights are based on material circumstances, what is done to people in the real world. The ‘right to identity’ is the right of men to pretend to be women and enter all spaces and opportunities set aside for the protected category of women.

The document demands the recognition of the rights of ‘adolescents’ to engage in sexual activity and be transgendered.

Adolescents' human rights and dignity must be grounded in respecting their evolving capacity to make informed and independent decisions on matters concerning their bodily autonomy, sexuality, pleasure and fundamental freedoms.

Adolescents are children who are undergoing puberty and adolescence typically starts at around 11 years old. The international paedophile movement of men who demand the right to sexually use children has always used the language of children’s sexual rights as a cover for their own interests. Children do not demand to be sexually used by adults.

Feminists have campaigned to protect children from sexual use by adult men in practices such as child marriage, for instance. Feminists have opposed men’s demands to remove or reduce the age of consent and have historically campaigned to raise it in order to protect girls from being prostituted.

Campaigns for the sexual rights of children are always about the rights of adult men to use them. Two of the originating NGOs of the 'Principles' have a history of promoting paedophilia/child sexual abuse, ILGA and COC. COC is the main gay organisation in the Netherlands which in 1981 called for the liberation of ‘child sexuality’ and paedophilia. In the 1990s ILGA lost its ECOSOC status because it contained amongst its members child abuse organisations such as NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association).

It is deeply troubling to see the language which is used to justify men’s child sexual abuse of children in a document which pretends to be feminist.

Women’s human rights organisations should not sign the anti-feminist Affirmation

Any organisation or individual considering signing up to this incoherent ‘affirmation’, which is entirely unsupported by citation or evidence, should ask themselves what these ‘principles ‘ will do to achieve equality for women and girls. Furthermore, they should read it carefully to make sure they are happy to put their name, or that of their organisation, to a document that uses language concerning children and sexuality that is at best ambiguous and at worst dangerous. We suggest they instead consider signing the WHRC Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights, which is based on CEDAW and seeks to eliminate all forms discrimination against women and girls.

It is our position that prioritising the propaganda and pseudoscience of identity and seeking to replace the category of sex with ‘gender’ will harm women and girls so severely that no ‘Generation Equality’ will ever be possible. We ask states, politicians, organisations and individuals concerned with protecting women and girls, advancing their rights and seeking their liberation from male oppression to stand with us and reject this attempt to destroy our sex-based rights.