THE WORLD CONGRESS OF FAMILIES, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT hate group, held its regional conference in Barbados on April 8 and 9. The conference, which claimed to be promoting “natural family” ideals, held panels on subjects such as “Marriage as a Public Good: Why we Should Defend Marriage as Between One Man and One Woman,” “The Sexual Revolution and Demographic Winter,” and “Population Issues and Coerced Abortion.”
The conference formed just part of WCF’s renewed attempts to both radicalize anti-gay rhetoric and to disseminate “traditional” family values to more receptive communities outside of the US Bible-belt.
Originally founded in 1997 by conservative Christian Allan Carlson, WCF says that its mission is to promote anti-choice, anti-abortion and anti-LGBT policies. Over the past 10 years, WCF has held meetings and conferences in Geneva, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Sydney, and Moscow. Over time, the organization has also increased its ties with Russia, frequently working together with the Kremlin to lobby and draft anti-LGBT legislation.
WCF has historically kept a quiet international presence, but with support for conservative traditionalist groups dwindling in America, it has begun aggressively spreading its message abroad. And with support by members such as Scott Lively, Benjamin Bull and Brian Brown, who helped develop and preserve anti-LGBT laws in Russia and Uganda, WCF has increasingly gained momentum in the international community.
In many Caribbean states, LGBT people remain marginalised and subject to violence (Photo: A homeless LGBT man makes a home in a gully in Jamaica/HRW)
WCF operates under the supporting theory of the “demographic winter,” a proposed catastrophic collapse of the modern world resulting from the demise of heterosexual, procreative family structures. Focusing on abortion and the LGBT community, WCF believes that choices undermining the production of children ultimately destroy modern society. But critics say that the theory is merely a guise for racial resentment and nativism, a way for individuals to preserve the appearance of a white majority in a quickly growing multi-faceted, multi-cultural global society.
Kathryn Joyce, a researcher and journalist focusing on the negative impact of natural family and demographic winter theories, told Political Research Associates:
“The concern is not a general lack of babies, but the cultural shifts that come when some populations, particularly immigrant communities, that are feared to be out-procreating others.” – Kathryn Joyce
WCF teaches that rising feminism, birth control and access to abortions contribute to the downfall of society by allowing women to abandon the traditional mother role. The decision to pursue a childless life is seen as a direct impediment to furthering the human race, and one that should be actively fought against in order to preserve the existing demographic and social makeup.
Rooted in nativism, “natural family” policies operate under the idea that once native populations stop having children, non-native communities will supplant themselves, eradicating the historic demographic. When used as a tool to promote support for traditional family values, nativism is a direct attempt to increase the native population and simultaneously keep the non-native population at bay.
Exporting WCF’s rhetoric to the international community, especially those questioning their own LGBT and abortion laws, creates dangerous opportunities for oppressive legislation targeting families and individuals that sit outside of the narrow “natural family” framework.
WCF seeks to impose strict standards of gender and heterosexuality, promoting only gender essentialism — that is, the idea that men and women are fundamentally different because of divinely appointed masculinity or femininity — creating new opportunities for legislators, politicians and fellow civilians to single out vulnerable communities.
Particularly for the Caribbean, with Barbados being the most recent location for the WCF’s conference, the spread of anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive rhetoric is especially dangerous.
Donnya Piggott, head of the Barbados Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination group, points to parents and families in the community who speak against contraception, condom use and abortion as one of the main factors in derailing years of sexual education and STD/STI prevention:
“We have made lots of progress regarding people protecting themselves from STDs and STIs, and we in Barbados especially have made real and measurable progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS… spreading these messages can destroy that progress.” – Donnya Piggott, B-GLAD
Concerned about the conference’s effect on young people, Piggott, who is also the Barbados focal point for the Global Youth Coalition Against HIV/AIDS (GYCA), is focusing on teaching young people about safe sex, contraception and abortion.
For Piggott, the conference represented much more than demographic winters and promotion of natural families, it was a direct attack on years of social progress. “For people and parents to speak out against contraception, condom use and abortion with such vigor… what does that tell our people about sexual safety?”, Piggott asked.
While organizations such as GYCA have made measurable progress in promoting safe sexual practices and self-protection, the impact of the growing influence in the Caribbean of foreign anti-minority groups like the WCF remains to be seen.