Dispatches from CPD 2012: Tracking the Opposition's Attacks on Youth Rights
To see all our coverage of the 2012 Commission on Population and Development, click here.
This week, the United Nations (UN) is host to the 45 th session of the Commission on Population and Development. This annual meeting builds on a resolution made in Cairo back in 1994 that outlines how country governments can ensure the sexual and reproductive health and rights needs of their people, and of women and young people in particular. Each year, the Commission assesses countries’ progress on this agreement and new commitments are made to prioritize efforts for the forthcoming year. This year, for the first time, it’s focused exclusively on the needs of young people and we are here at the UN, en force.
As a young sexual and reproductive health activist, I believe in the importance of a rights-based approach to all aspects of sexuality, realized through the provision of basic health services like comprehensive sexuality education and safe abortion. It is not my opinion that we should force these, or any other, services on young people, but rather that we should have the ability to access them if we want to.
Clearly, not everyone believes this. Over the past few years, as the global economic recession and a neoconservative shift has swept the globe, there are more and more organisations that exist to oppose the values and missions of rights-based organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which I’m here representing. Many of these opposition efforts are religiously-motivated. Their ‘anti-sexual and reproductive health and rights’ discourse is forever present in the media and continued debate occurs over these controversial issues.
As a representative of a pro-reproductive health and rights organisation at the United Nations this week, I am extremely aware of the activities of the ‘opposition:’ they have a presence here at the UN as much as they do at the local level, whether they are emphasizing abstinence-only education and demonising sex, or leading obstructive, intimidating protests at abortion clinics, to name just a few examples. A number of these groups have spent the past few years mobilising many young people to be the next generation who can proliferate their propaganda.
From my observations at the UN, I can see how the opposition is attempting to undermine effective public health interventions like access to contraception, a service which enables young women (and men) to decide for themselves if, and when, they have children.