Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Major battle on wording of HIV/AIDS resolution in Geneva.

The 12th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva is currently considering a draft resolution on HIV/AIDS. This resolution contains many good proposals but has also generated considerable debate and controversy. There have been sustained attempts by Brazil, The US, Canada, and the European Union to retain references in the draft resolution, to the 'UN International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights'.

Whilst the 12 guidelines in themselves are uncontroversial they have been inserted into a very controversial document containing an explanatory text and commentary. The international community rejected this document during the 2001 special session on HIV/AIDS because the commentary seeks to overturn all laws that limit sexual activity, including laws against "adultery, sodomy, fornication, and commercial sexual encounters [i.e. prostitution]," and calls for nations to legalize homosexual marriage. The offending text also seeks to impose explicit sexual and homosexual education on children – and other public information programmes that according to the explanatory text should, “not be inappropriately subject to censorship or other broadcasting standards

The commentary also seeks to impose "penalties on anyone who vilifies people who engage in same-sex relationships." Although it is unclear what 'vilification' means in this context, and what 'penalties' would be sought, there is concern that religious leaders may be held criminally liable for upholding the biblical teaching that homosexual acts are sinful. Islamic countries consider the document to be offensive.

The current draft resolution seeks to reference the document in a way that separates the 12 basic guidelines from the commentary and explanatory text. This approach was previously used in a resolution on violence against women in the 2005 Human Rights Commission, however there is strong opposition to this and many countries wish to return to the 2001 solution where all references to the document were removed from the outcome document

The draft resolution was initiated by Brazil and they have made it clear that they wish to retain the references but they also wish to have a consensus text. Egypt on the other hand have warned that if the references remain they will not join consensus and will push for a vote on the text when it comes before the plenary later this week