BCI ban on gender equality advertisement bizarre

The decision of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to instruct all commercial broadcasters, including Today FM and TV3, to cease broadcasting the Trócaire advertisement on gender equality is incomprehensible. 

The television and radio advertisement campaign draws attention to the reality that female babies, irrespective of their origin, their ethnicity, their state of health or otherwise, all share a common disadvantage by reason of their gender. The advertisement also includes a section encouraging members of the public to access the charity's website to donate online or order a Trócaire box.

The website in turn asks individuals to participate in the campaign for gender equality by signing a petition lobbying the Irish Government to enact a specific UN resolution on the issue.

The BCI said in defense of its decision: "Following detailed consideration...it is the commission's initial view that the advertisement is contrary to Section 10(3) of the Radio and Television Act, 1988, which prohibits advertising directed towards a political end."

In contrast, RTE has decided to broadcast the advertisement. Peter Feeney, head of public affairs with RTÉ, said "RTÉ's view is that we define political ends quite tightly....We would feel this Trócaire advertisement is much more general in nature….. we also try to draw a distinction between national campaigns and international campaigns."

On its web site, Trócaire says the following:
“The role of women in our global society has changed dramatically over the past century. In many countries, women have the right to vote, to own property in their own name, to work in every profession, to join the army or to do any number of other things that were forbidden to them in the past because of their gender. Because they were women they had to adopt a particular role in society.

“While great strides have been made towards gender equality in the developed world, in large parts of the world women have still not achieved full equality. In order for this to happen, men and women must work together to ensure that both have equal opportunities and rights.

“Women suffer sustained violations of their human rights, particularly in societies torn by conflict. Domestic violence and other forms of violence against women, such as trafficking, forced prostitution and rape – including marital rape – is a common experience for women. Violation of women's human rights increases their vulnerability in many ways. In this context, achieving gender equality is both a matter of human rights and of great urgency.

“Trócaire's 2007 Lenten campaign promotes gender equality – looking at the social roles that men and women have been assigned and how the two genders are often valued differently, as men have more rights and opportunities in many societies.
“If we had true gender equality, women and men would have equal rights under the law and equal participation in decision-making. They would also have equal access to and control of resources such as food, water and land and benefits granted by states.

“In our world today:
• 70 per cent of people living in poverty and 66 per cent of those who can't read or write are women.
• Worldwide, women earn 69 per cent of male wages. There is no country where women earn the same as men.
• A total of 70 per cent of refugees and displaced people are women.
• Women are more vulnerable than men in conflict and are more often victims of violence
• Women produce nearly 80 per cent of the food on the planet, but receive less than 10 per cent of agricultural assistance
• In 2006, more than twice as many young women were living with HIV as young men
• Women, not planes, trains or trucks, still carry two thirds of Africa's goods

“Yet women have enormous power to make positive change happen in their communities. Trócaire works in countries where women are often the main providers for their families and have the primary responsibility for their health and welfare. But women in these countries do not have equal access to the resources and services that are vital to them and this makes and keeps them poor.

“As a result women's experience of poverty is different to that of men; it is more severe and more prevalent. The quality of life for society as a whole is adversely affected by gender inequality, hindering development and poverty reduction.
“There are a number of international agreements such as The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). At the Fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing, China, in 1995 it was agreed: “The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue.”

“The United Nations passed resolution number 1325 in the year 2000 that called on countries to:
• Protect women and children in conflict
• Prevent violence against women
• Ensure women can participate in peace processes

“But world governments have not fully implemented this resolution, so Trócaire is urging Irish and British politicians to put it into practice.

“International Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by language and by ethnic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their day, they are celebrating at least nine decades of work towards equality, justice, peace and development.
“International Women's Day is a celebration of the story of ordinary women who have changed history through the ages through their work for gender equality. It has been observed since the early 1900s. This year, a number of events will take place to mark International Women's Day, including a meeting at the UN of the Commission on the Status of Women to review progress towards global gender equality”.