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Women call for fight against stone-age bill
By Barbarena S. Edgard, El Nuevo Diario, 7 March 1997
A dispute has erupted between Liberal Alliance deputies from Nicaragua's majority party and their political opponents after the governing body of the National Assembly set forth for discussion an "urgent Executive initiative" aimed at establishing a "Family Ministry" which opponents say would represent a major legal setback for women.
The bill eliminates the rights won by women and thrusts the country into a stone-age patriarchal system, through an addendum currently being considered by the deputies, would permit the State to intervene in something even more delicate than private property or the economy: the private life of each individual.
[Due to audio problems,] there was some confusion yesterday about statements made by the National Assembly president before the plenary session, and some journalists believed they heard him say that bill had been withdrawn; this reference was actually to a pension bill. On the contrary, National Assembly Vice President Jaime Bonilla confirmed to El Nuevo Diario that the processing of the bill will continue once the national budget has been approved.
Yesterday members of the Maria Cavalleri Women's Health Care Network were present in the Assembly to voice their objections to the bill, which attempts to establish a new ministry without confirmation process under the law of organization of the state, a process approved by the previous National Assembly but annulled January 7 as a result of a Supreme Court decision.
This women's rights activists described the creation of the "Family Ministry" as institutionalized violence. Far from recognizing the participation of women as essential participants in different social, political and economic areas, in their view the ministry "relegates [sic] such participation, minimizing and lacking respect for the rights which, as women, we have achieved throughout the history of our country."
The women's network said the government's project is discriminatory and exclusive because it "does not respect or acknowledge different forms of family recognized at the International Conference on Population and Development which took place in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994, as well as those contained in the Nicaraguan constitution."
The government proposal mentions "family values" seven times as the main sustenance of the family and says the mission of a couple is the formation of a community of love and procreation, "so that women with heath problems or those with some kind of disability can never aspire to form a family such as is proposed in the document."
Women of Ixchen React
The staff of all the offices of Ixchen [an independent, non-profit women's health-care network] throughout the country sent another document to the parliament urging the deputies to reflect on the government bill.
Ixchen says the project presents moral contradictions which should be analyzed by the deputies, and calls for civil society to express their views on the issue.
"We are not opposed to a Family Ministry, but we are opposed to the intrisic content of this bill because it is damaging and discriminatory against the most elemental rights of women, men and children, as well as being regressive in the sense of not recognizing the heterogeneity of families (one person, nuclear, one parent, extended, extended with one parent)," says the document. signed by Maria del Scorro Guido, executive director of the Ixchen Women's Center.
Translated by Toby Mailman and edited by NY Transfer News
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