Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UN General Assembly Debate radical report on sexual rights

We reported last week on a radical report prepared by the previous Special Rapporteur on Education, Vernor Munoz on the right to “comprehensive sexuality education” which was aimed at sexualizing children from a very early age. The report was debated by the third committee of the UN General Assembly, on Monday October 25th, however due to the fact that the term of office of Mr Munoz had come to an end he was not present at the session it was therefore left to his successor Mr Kishore Singh the new special rapporteur for education to briefly present the report.

The report was severely criticised by many member states. The African Group, The Arab Group, The Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), Caricom (a group of Carribean member states), The Russian Federation and the Holy See were all very critical of it. The African Group and the OIC explicitly rejected the report and Caricom called for a new report to be issued in keeping with the mandate. The US while expressing support for the right to education agreed that there is no such international right as the right to comprehensive sexuality education.
Canada, Sweden, Norway Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Argentina and Portugal strongly supported the report and the EU made a carefully worded but supportive statement. No action was taken on the report

The Caricom statement noted
“with deep concern that the former Special Rapporteur has chosen to ignore the specific mandate given to him by Member States in accordance with Human Rights Council Resolution 8/4, and has chosen to selectively focus his entire deliberations on a so-called “human right to comprehensive sexual education” which he indicates has been a matter of interest and concern to him since the beginning of his mandate.

According to CARICOM’s understanding, “a right to sexual education, a right to comprehensive sexual education, or a right to sexuality education”, does not exist in any internationally agreed human rights instrument, nor indeed under international law. We therefore wish to put on record our strong disapproval of this attempt by the Special Rapporteur to create a new right within the universally established right to education, far exceeding his mandate and the mandate of the Council itself in the process. It goes without saying, Mr. Chairman, that our countries recognize the critical importance of and the need for sexual education, scientifically based, and introduced at an appropriate age. However, we take umbrage at the license taken by the Special Rapporteur in indulging his personal interests at the expense of Member States.

We are also gravely concerned that the Special Rapporteur attempts to usurp or undermine the following universally accepted rights:-

1) the right of parents to determine the quality of education and to provide appropriate direction and guidance to the child in the exercise of his rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - including the right to education.
2) the right of Member States to educate their citizens in a manner consistent with their own cultures and within the particularities of their situation.
3) the right of everyone to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Respect for these rights is absolutely essential to guaranteeing the right to education for all people. Without this respect, our goal of universal access to education will not be achieved. The contravention of these human rights violates the dignity of the human person.”

The Caricom statement concluded by asking for a new report on the mandate given to the rapporteur by the Human Rights Council
“That the Special Rapporteur has deprived us of important information necessary for accelerating the achievement of internationally agreed upon goals relating to the right to education is unacceptable.
Caricom would appreciate if a new report is produced which abides by the mandate set by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 8/4. This report should fully respect the rights and obligations set out in international human rights instruments, and accepted by States Parties.”
The Holy See statement focused on the issue from the viewpoint of the prior rights of the family and the rights and responsibilities of parents to educate their children in accordance with their children’s best interests.

“A man and woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 16,3). This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. In the family the child is able to learn moral values, begin to honor God and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

International instruments have consistently affirmed the right and responsibility of parents in the education of their children. One only need recall the most universally ratified international legal instrument, namely, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states quite clearly that the decision regarding the education of the child rests with the parents of that child. As the CRC states, "Parents...have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their child" (Art. 18,1). Other international instruments affirm this in similar terms. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, for example, both call for respect for the liberty of parents "to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions" (ICCPR, Art. 184 and ICESCR, Art. 13,3).

As the CRC makes clear, the best interests of the child is the basic concern of the parents who have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their child. Any attempt to create a division between the primary responsibility of parents and the best interests of the child--as the report of the former Special Rapporteur appears to do (e.g., par. 73)--does a disservice to the child, the parents, marriage and the family. What is needed instead is respect for the child by support of the family, which is the most healthy environment for the child in which to be raised, and not the State but parents who have primary responsibility for the education of their children.”