I have become aware that an article by Patrick B. Craine with the above title was published on your website. The article takes me back to the long years of apartheid where this was precisely the kind of poisonous mix of innuendo and vituperation used to justify locking up people who had the temerity to ask for basic human rights. Why the innuendo about ILRIG’s “ostensible” mission? Is there another one we’re not aware of? Why the reference to ILRIG’s position first being “uncovered” There is nothing to uncover …everything we do is proudly displayed in our work and in our media.
Over the last three to four years, as a result of the spread of our development work, our publications and our website I have requests from a range of media from many parts of the world wanting to know about ILRIG and its educational and developmental work. This has become increasingly so with the arrival of the World Cup in South Africa. So it was not unusual to be told by our receptionist on Monday, 15 March, that a journalist from Canada had phoned wanting to know about ILRIG. I was in meeting but he then followed this call up with an email asking if he could call … and the he made the call on Tuesday 16 March. I had no idea which publication this was but Craine started by asking whether ILRIG takes up women’s rights issues. I then clarified that we are a support organisation for trade unions and social movements and thus not an advocacy organization, as such, but we do believe in women’s rights and their right to make their own decision about their bodies. These rights – including the right to abortion – are now enshrined in law in South Africa in our constitutional democracy. That is something we are truly proud of. But, apart from the fact that we are a support organisation and not an advocacy organisation we, cannot be campaigning for something in South Africa that already legally exists! Craine, clearly, knows nothing about South African law.
Nevertheless and despite the right in law thousands of women and young girls do not know their rights or find that the health resources in their communities are inadequate for them to access pap smears, gynaecology and a whole range of women’s health requirements. So there are community-based organisations in South Africa who seek to ensure that women know their rights and have access to their rights. These are the organizations of the Reproductive Rights Alliance. ILRIG provides our usual support work – in the form of research and educational resources – for these organisations as well, and will continue to do so. In the nature of our work we are not an organizer or campaigner on national or regional structures. The funds used for this particular support work, however, come from other ILRIG partners and not from Development and Peace because D&P support is for our projects on Trade and Investment, Local Democracy, New Forms of Trade Unions and Building Women’s Activism.
We South Africans undertook a long and bitter march to win our right to human dignity against apartheid. In this struggle we enjoyed the support of people of conscience internationally – such as the Catholic Organisation for Development and Peace. Along the way we had to deal not only with a violently repressive state but cheer-leading journalists in sections of the media who used precisely such tactics to finger and smear human rights activists. People in Canada have my sympathies in being confronted with this kind throwback to our horrible apartheid past. In South Africa the Catholic Bishops Conference and the church, under the indefatigable leadership of the late Archbishop Denis Hurley, in the 1980s and 1990s, was a beacon of leadership in the struggle for democratic rights. As a result we have less experience with having to deal with this kind of gutter journalism in South Africa today.
Editor’s Note: Not withstanding the abundance of self-serving rhetoric, the writer has confirmed again that the organization has a definite pro-abortion policy. The comments he made to Patrick Craine in the LSN article amplify that reality. Gentle told Craine, “We believe in reproductive rights, we believe in the right of women to control their own bodies and make their own decisions about abortions, as an organization.” He also admitted to LSN that his organization sits on the steering committee of the Reproductive Rights Alliance, which pushes for expanded access to legal abortion in the country.
Gentle wants to have it both ways. That is deceitful. Lastly, although ILRIG’s position on abortion has indeed been open in South Africa, it needed to be “uncovered” for the benefit of Canadian Catholics who overwhelmingly are not aware of this organizations’s contradiction with Catholic moral principles. Development and Peace has certainly not been providing full disclosure. It is difficult to imagine that D&P did not encounter the strong and very open pro-abortion views of this organization. We can only assume that D&P staff deliberately follow the policy of “hear no evil, see no evil”, in order to approve these organizations for their their social justice projects.
A couple of minor points:
1. ILRIG is not only pro-abortion, they are also Marxist. Both positions are in direct contradiction to Catholic principles and beliefs. Either one of these positions should disqualify ILRIG from receiving Catholic aid money. The fact that they are receiving money for “Building Women’s Activism” is part and parcel of the feminist agenda, as this little snippet makes more than apparent:
More experienced women activists are taking their struggle one step further – committing to feminist principles and forming networks for education. In this vein there are some emerging alternatives and signs of a feminist revival – including a consultative processes around the creation of a South African Feminist Forum, a radical feminist working class women’s network formed by grassroots activists; accompanied by a network of feminist political educators to support this work. Women-only spaces that focus on understanding the personal as political and centering the fight against patriarchy are critical. Anti-sexist men have a positive role to play in the struggle for women’s human rights, but they are certainly not in the majority. It is time to reclaim women’s spaces and re-politicize our movements with feminist politics. We can only do this if we put back onto the table, the fact that this is about power…Gender is about men and women, and the unequal power relations between them. (p.7)
2. Mr. Gentle states above that while ILRIG is proud to be a pro-abort organization, “we are a support organisation and not an advocacy organisation.”
Really Mr. Gentle? One of your employees sits on an organization called the “Reproductive Rights Alliance” who work on “advancing reproductive choice and justice“, including forming guidelines for the abortion industry. That’s what we call not only advocacy but actually regulating the “industry”.