Canadian Resolution Adopted at the United Nations: Women's Sexual and Reproductive Rights Reaffirmed

Friday, July 23 2010
Geneva-Ottawa, April 20, 2004 -- A Canadian led resolution on the elimination of violence against women was adopted by consensus today at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Despite attempts by the United States to weaken the language proposed by Canada, including language related to women's sexual rights, the Commission on Human Rights reaffirmed its support for the Beijing Platform of Action. The adopted resolution states that "... women have the right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality...".


Sexual and reproductive health and rights received unprecedented attention at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights this year.  During the discussion of economic, social and cultural rights, Paul Hunt, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, presented his annual report to the Commission, stating that sexual and reproductive health issues "are among the most sensitive and controversial in international human rights law, but they are also among the most important." United States, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all criticized Hunt's work. The United States then spearheaded an unsuccessful attempt to have a reference to the Special Rapporteur's report removed from the resolution on the right to health.


From Geneva, Suki Beavers of Action Canada for Population and Development, a Canadian NGO, praised the Special Rapporteur.  She referred to his "integrity and commitment to advancing basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, including sexual rights and reproductive rights, no matter how unpopular they might be to some.  The Commission is not a popularity contest, it is about ensuring that Governments meet their obligations to respect, protect and fulfill all human rights."


Even the prohibition against extrajudicial killings of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people, was opposed by a few countries.  Despite the opposition, the Swedish led resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was again adopted, with a reference to State obligations to protect against and investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation.


Although the annual session of the Commission has not yet finished, advocates and governments alike are already thinking about how these issues will be dealt with next year.  Among those that will be in the spotlight will be the resolution on human rights and sexual orientation. Even though no country blocked the request by Brazil that the resolution on sexual orientation be considered by the Commission next year, if the 2004 session is any indication, this will be a difficult, but long overdue debate.    

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