An all day debate on Children’ Rights took place at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday March 7th. The debate focused on a controversial report issued recently by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.
The report was welcomed by some member states however large groups of states such as the African Group, the Arab Group and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) together with a number of individual states rejected the report claiming that the special rapporteur Anand Grover, who prepared the report on behalf of the High Commissioner, had exceeded his mandate.
The report A/HRC/22/31 sets out an anti-life and anti-family agenda for children’s health that includes controversial ‘comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), which has been described by some observers as pornographic, together with access to so called ‘confidential’ sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services including abortion. Since the report deals with children the question arises from whom should such information be kept confidential? The answer becomes clear when the report goes on to attack cultural norms and parental rights. It identifies barriers, which, it says make access to both CSE and SRH services difficult for children, such as cultural values and parental consent laws. The report cites article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which it says; “highlights children’s need for information on all aspects of health education to realize their right to health and to enable them to make informed choices in relation to lifestyle and access to health services without any reference to their parents or guardians. Information and life skills education, according to the report, should address, inter alia, comprehensive sexuality education.”
The report then goes on to encourage States to review national laws and policies and, where necessary, amend them to ensure consonance with fulfilling the right of the child to health including the removal of barriers relating to comprehensive sexual and reproductive information and services, the barriers which had been identified earlier as cultural values and parental consent laws
During the all day debate, the African Group of member states told the meeting it had been looking forward to the report but had concluded it presents a high-risk and culturally insensitive prescription that disregards the priorities of developing countries and departs from the main legal frame of reference embodied in Article 24 of Convention on the Rights of the Child, highlighting inter alia, the following:
1) The family is the natural and fundamental base unit of society, and should be perceived as a valuable asset in protecting children’s rights. Against this backdrop, we are alarmed by how the report tackled the issue of seeking information, education, and counseling by children in a way that severely violated the principle of the responsibilities, rights, and duties of parents in guiding and upbringing their children according to their evolving capacities, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and its related educational curricula. […]2) The report used concepts and notions that lack any basis in International Human Rights Law, in a way that deviates from the international consensus on universally recognized and agreed human rights, prejudges the sovereign right of states to create and enact national legislation that reflect their obligations under international human rights law; and likewise disrespects the diversity of cultural, moral, and religious value systems present in different societies.3) The African Group would like to stress that the occurrence of hazardous behaviors among children, such as sexual activity among minors and drug use, should not be a justification to normalize these practices and accept them. On the contrary, these behaviors must be unequivocally rejected and eradicated through means of parental guidance, awareness, and promotion of abstinence, which the Report failed to realize. Addressing these issues simply from the angle of enhancing precautionary measures while practicing these unacceptable behaviors is counter-productive, and actually makes children more vulnerable to increased risk factors and undermines their right to health. […]To conclude, the African Group would like to register its definitive rejection to the methodology and major parts of the content of this document, and expect that this position will be clearly reflected in the summary report of the discussion.
Similar statements were made by the Arab Group and the OIC.
The Egyptian delegate told the meeting that his country express their deepest disappointment at the Report. Instead of providing a contribution to global and national efforts, the report presents a high-risk and culturally insensitive approach that disregards the priorities of the developing countries and departs from the main legal frame of reference embodied in CRC.
The Egyptian delegate also said.
1) The family is instrumental in protecting children’s rights. Henceforth, we are alarmed that the report tackled the issue of information, education, healthcare services, and counseling by children in clear departure from the principle of the role of parents in guiding and upbringing their children. International human rights law has unambiguously enshrined this principle in the UDHR, CRC, ICCPR, ICPD.