For Immediate Release
On October 11, the United Nations marks the 5th annual International Day of the Girl. It is encouraging to see attention given to the vulnerability and ongoing inequality faced by adolescent girls worldwide. However, the United Nations website proclaims “Girls are our future” while mentioning in the same paragraph the problem of unwanted pregnancy and the need for increased reproductive health services.
This Western ideological focus on pregnancy as a hindrance to women’s equality tells girls that equality can only be gained on men’s terms. “The pressure on women to delay and/or limit their childbearing is significant in Western countries, and we seem determined to push the same mindset on a broader global scale. Whether this is colonial and condescending or simply an attempt to justify our own (im)moral stance as a culture is unclear,” says Anna Nienhuis, a researcher with WeNeedaLaw.ca. “Abortion is used to make women’s equality based on sameness rather than equal value despite differences.”
“Women can, and should, do anything they want, and have the freedom to do so. But if a girl is told that she should not want children, or that being a mother is underachieving, we are limiting her impact on the future only to herself, and telling her that equality is still defined by a man’s standard,” continued Nienhuis.
The International Day of the Girl should focus on gender-based violence and injustice, on access to excellent medical care, quality education for all, and the ending of child marriage. To shift the focus to pregnancy and abortion access does nothing to enhance girls’ prospects, but simply reinforces the message that they need to earn equality by becoming more like men.