Many nations at this week’s United Nations population conference object to giving women the right to make their own sexual decisions, fearing that it would lead to the condonation of same-sex relationships.
At the 1994 U.N. population conference in Cairo, Babatunde Osotimehin, head of the U.N. Population Fund, said gay rights became an incendiary issue at the meeting of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development when 179 countries recognized for the first time that women have to the right to control their reproductive and sexual health and to choose whether or not to become pregnant. Although this recognition did not include that women have the right to control decision about when they have sex and when they get married, many countries fear that the acknowledgement, of women having the right to make their own sexual decision, would indicate that the U.N. tacitly condones same-sex relationships.
Many states are trying to include language regarding a woman’s right to decide when to have sex and when to get married, but many conservative nations are resisting and arguing that it would implicitly give people the right to enter into same-sex relationships. Osotimehin argues that this interpretation is wrong and says this language regarding establishing the right of women to control their sexuality is crucial to the fight against practices such as child marriage.
This backlash comes even after sexual rights and reproductive rights was approved in 1995 at the U.N. women’s conference in Beijing. The documents both in Cairo and Beijing made no mention of gay rights. Osotimehin says that the same countries who objected to the inclusion of gay rights in 1995 are objecting now instead to language protecting the sexual rights of women. He said the delegates are conflating the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Do you agree with Osotimehin’s statement that delegates are conflating the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity? Do you agree that theses are two separate issues or are they somehow related? The United States is attempting to push for gay rights while other nations are cracking down on it…why do you think there is a disconnect in this ideology and policy? What can be done to harmonize the rights of women and the rights of gays or same-sex couples? How does this resistance affect family autonomy? Will the debate ever improve in the U.N.?