Gender is not a social construct, even if the Istanbul Convention says so
What if you knew that you had been born as ‘gender neutral’ and not as a ‘male’ or ‘female’? What if you knew that you could freely choose your gender any time you want, simply by opting for one or another? What if you were told that biology does not play any role in who you are, and that ‘gender’ is just a social construct that is artificially imposed on us by education and society? Does all this sound unscientific? Of course! But this is exactly what the Istanbul Convention wants to promote.
What is the Istanbul Convention?
The Istanbul Convention (complete name: The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence) is an international treaty signed in Istanbul in 2011 that entered into force in 2014. It has been ratified by 18 of 28 EU member states. Its main goal is to combat violence against women and prevent domestic violence in Council of Europe (CoE) countries.
Everyone agrees that violence against women remains a serious issue in Europe and no one disputes the fact that it has to be condemned. Violence against women violates basic human rights and must be stopped. This is why the Istanbul Convention – and its main goal of harmonizing the mechanisms of combating violence against women – must be applauded.
The problem is that the Istanbul Convention is not only about that. In fact, it functions like a ‘Trojan horse’, pretending to pursue something that all can agree on – while also promoting the radical idea that gender is merely a social construct.
‘Gender as a social construct’ – why is this hugely problematic?
Article 3 of the Istanbul Convention clearly states that the concept of ‘gender’ is independent from biological reality: “[G]ender shall mean the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.” Denying the existence of the natural biological differences between the two sexes in this way is wholly unscientific and has profound legal, social, economic, and political consequences.
Francisco Agnello, in the Spanish Yearbook of International Law, points out that “[a] definition of ‘gender’ is absolutely useless for the purpose of this Convention: in a women’s rights perspective, such a definition-and the theories behind it – adds nothing to the protection of women as conceived in the articles of this treaty.” He adds: “One of the intents of the social theories of gender, this way, is the deconstruction of any identity that contemplates a reference to maleness or femaleness, thus aiming at establishing a society where sexual differences are regarded as absolutely immaterial (and inexistent), anyone being free to build up his/her personal gender identity. By doing so, these theories deny any difference of any nature between men and women, affirming that such difference is only of a social nature.”
Therefore, the concept of ‘gender’ is opposite to the one of ‘sex’. Why? Because ‘sex’ is a given, it is objective, and it is part of human nature, while the concept of ‘gender’ says that the sex of a person has no social value and is ‘fluid’.
What does this mean in practice?
As mentioned earlier, defining gender as a ‘social construct’ leads to a society where sexual differences are regarded as fluid. Therefore, a man who identifies himself as a woman can compete in women’s sports. He can also access women-only facilities, such as bathrooms, toilets, and social care shelters.
Also, if gender is just a social construct, then all the terms related to family completely change their meaning. “Mother”, “pregnant”, “daughter”, “grandmother” will not only be attributes of femaleness and “father”, “son”, “grandfather” will not only be an attribute of maleness.
ADF International underlines other important problematic aspects to this change in our understanding of gender – such as the infringement of parental rights.
In practice, this means that parents will not be free to educate their children according to their own moral and religious standards and will not be able to oppose ‘sexual education’ classes where children are taught that they can change their gender. “They might be accused of violence towards their girl child if they refuse to treat her as a boy, if she so wishes,” says ADF International. “The same might happen if parents seek medical help for their child who suffers from gender dysphoria.”
All of the above would lead to chaos in our societies. We can all agree that this approach is completely non-scientific, artificially constructed, and arbitrary.
Francisco Agnello concludes that “[b]y acting this way, the achievement of a good convention capable of efficiently protecting women rights has been sacrificed in order to protect a particular political interest, with the complicity of some states.” This is completely regrettable.
What can you do?
There are several ways in which you can get involved in resisting this Trojan horse. Please follow this link in order to see ADF International’s recommendations on how to raise awareness and advance national legislation.