By Timothy Herrmann
NEW YORK, May 4 (C-FAM) Youth activists arrived at the UN in droves last week in an attempt to hijack the 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) by promoting homosexual rights and abortion. However, countries rejected their demands and produced a fairly balanced outcome document that focuses on more pressing youth concerns like education, employment, health and development.
Sponsored by organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the Youth Coalition, and the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), youth activists flooded the conference floor and were strategically placed on country delegations with the hope of shifting the conference’s focus to sexual and reproductive health of youth and adolescents.
Throughout the week, they lobbied country delegates to place controversial language in the outcome document that would undermine the right and responsibility of parents in the sexual education of their children and include sexual and reproductive health “rights” as well as comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).
Though comprehensive sexual education was eventually included in the document, countries refused to mention it without reference to “the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents” to provide “appropriate direction and guidance on sexual and reproductive matters.” Similarly, any reference to sexual and reproductive rights in the document was explicitly understood by countries not to include abortion as a method of family planning.
Even more disappointing for radical activist groups was the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity language used by the homosexual lobby to promote homosexual rights at the UN. The Arab group and a majority of the African countries along with the help of the Holy See, the Russian Federation, and Pakistan threw out the only reference to sexual orientation in the final draft of the document on the last day of the conference.
While the exclusion of “sexual orientation” appears to be a victory, the UN dialect is so misleading that the single mention that does exist in the document of the right to “decide freely and responsibly on matters related to…sexuality” greatly worried delegations like Uganda, who believed it was an attempt by countries supportive of homosexual rights to sneak in new language.
In addition, even though the conference theme was “Adolescents and Youth,” countries could not agree upon the definition of either term. Initially, they were defined as falling within the ages of 10 and 24 but given that the document mentions sexual and reproductive rights, countries were unwilling to afford these rights to 10 year olds and the definition proved too controversial to include.
Despite the hard fought battle of many delegations to move beyond reproductive rights and, instead, secure strong references to education, employment and the Millennium Development Goals in the document, the serious misgivings among countries related to the reproductive rights and sexuality of youth made it nearly impossible to reach consensus. As a result the chairman of the Population Commission took it upon himself to put together the final outcome document, or chairman’s text, which even he admitted, “was not completely satisfactory to all.”
Timothy Hermann is Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute’s Representative to the United Nations. His article first appeared in Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM, a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/). This article appears with permission.