The debate should have taken place April 25, but a letter from the episcopate addressed to the president of the Senate called attention to the seriousness of some of the contents of the protocol. In response to the letter, the Senate decided to address the ratification in June.
"As bishops and citizens, we have seen Brazilian sovereignty threatened several times, either by a wave of indiscriminate privatizations, or the plan to internationalize Amazonia," the bishops´ letter said.
"Now we are witnessing something that is even more threatening, inasmuch as it is more silent and apparently inoffensive," it stated.
"It relates to the intention to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Woman, known in Brazil as the ´Woman´s Convention,´" they explained.
The bishops state that Article 17 of the convention, or CEDAW, provides for "a committee of experts to examine progress made in the application of this convention." However, in the name of non-discrimination against women, this institution has committed considerable abuses, the bishops pointed out.
First, although "abortion does not appear in the text of the convention, the committee defends it openly: It recommended to Burundi that it legalize abortion; it recommended to Chile the legalization of therapeutic abortion; it criticized Ireland for the influence of the Catholic Church in public policies; it criticized Italy for allowing doctors to appeal to conscientious objection for religious reasons in cases of abortion; and it recommended to Libya that it reinterpret the Koran to allow abortion."
Second, the CEDAW committee maintains that "maternity is not a joy, but rather a disgrace for woman," the bishops warn. As proof of this, they refer to the criticisms leveled against Belarus "for instituting Mother´s Day."
Third, "in the name of the elimination of discrimination against woman, the committee recommended to Kyrgyzstan the legalization of lesbianism, something that does not appear in the text of the convention."
Fourth, "the committee dared to recommend what the convention prohibits. It recommended to China the legalization of prostitution, when the convention is expressly opposed to it (Article 6)," the bishops stressed.
In order to increase the committee´s powers, the U.N. General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol for that convention on Oct. 6, 1999. The Brazilian government signed that protocol on March 13, 2001, at the U.N. headquarters in New York. All that is now lacking is the National Congress´ ratification.
Ratification of the protocol will give the committee enormous powers over the party states, the bishops fear. The committee will be able to handle allegations, carry out investigations in the territory of accused countries, make recommendations, and insist on their implementation.
Therefore, the bishops point out, "Brazil will be obliged to comply, not only with the established text of the convention but also with whatever the all-powerful committee decides in the name of the convention. By ratifying the protocol, the National Congress will allow enormous external influence on internal affairs."
"If there are real unjust discriminations against woman in our nation, it is the mission of our legitimate representatives to eliminate them. We do not need an organization to control, pressure or threaten us," the episcopal letter concludes, which was signed by all Brazil´s bishops. Brazil has the largest number of Catholics in the world.