Religion, Politics and Sex: Negotiating International Norms and Catholic Morality in the Philippine Population and Reproduction Health Debate

The Ateneo Center for Asian Studies
invites you to

Religion, Politics and Sex: Negotiating International Norms and Catholic Morality in the Philippine Population and Reproduction Health Debate

By Jonathan T. Chow, Ph.D.

June 18, 2008 (Wednesday), 4:30 P.M.
Leong Hall 404


 

ABSTRACT
 
To what extent can international norms be reconciled with apparently contradictory religious norms? In this presentation, I explore the limits of norm adaptation in constructivist international relations theory by examining the contentious issues of population growth and reproductive health in the Philippines. International norms, especially the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, promote population management and reproductive health (which are themselves terms with controversial definitions) in the Philippines. Yet these norms frequently clash with the teachings of the politically influential Roman Catholic Church and its allies, which fear that such norms will pave the way for coercive population policies, the demeaning of human life and a culture that tolerates abortion. I will cover some major themes that have emerged in the course of my field research in the Philippines, which involved interviews with some 40 decision-makers in the Church, the government and international and domestic civil society groups. I describe major themes in the debate over family planning and population in the Philippines and discuss how actors on both sides of the controversy attempt to repudiate or modify each other's norms, and why such attempts have largely failed on both sides. By taking apart the dynamics of this norm contest, we can gain a clearer understanding of when attempts to reconcile conflicting norms work and when they fail.
 
Jonathan Chow is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and a Visiting Fellow at the Ateneo Center for Asian Studies. He is currently researching his dissertation on how different political and religious actors contest Catholic teachings on contraception and emerging international norms of reproductive health. In 2008-2009, he will be a Simpson Fellow at the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.