The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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Malta objects to UN’s call for better adolescent sex education

Malta Independent Monday, 24 March 2014, 08:33 Last update: about 11 years ago

Malta was one of just four countries that yesterday registered their reservations against a United Nations Commission on the Status of Women document promoting equality for women that reaffirms the sexual and reproductive rights of all women and endorses sex education for adolescents.

Malta’s particular reservation concerned the area of sexual education for adolescents, where the document calls for the development and implementation of educational programmes for human sexuality, “based on full and accurate information, for all adolescents and youth ... with the appropriate direction and guidance from parents and legal guardians”

In expressing its reservations, Malta joined the ultra-conservative Qatar, the Holy See and Pakistan. In fact, Qatar, one of Malta’s fellow objectors to the bid for better sexual education of adolescents, on the commission’s call for an end to early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, even requested a definition of “early”.

After two weeks of heated debate, liberal and conservative countries yesterday approved the commission’s resolutions.

The 24-page final declaration approved by consensus yesterday by the 45-member Commission on the Status of Women expresses deep concern that overall progress toward the UN goal of gender equality and empowerment of women remains “slow and uneven”.

The commission said “the feminization of poverty persists” and reaffirmed that equality for women is essential for sustained economic development.

It called for equality, empowerment, and human rights for women to be a major plank in new UN development goals expected to be adopted next year.

For more progressive countries, there was relief that there was no back-pedalling on international recognition of women’s reproductive and sexual rights and access to health services in the final document.

It calls for “universally accessible and available quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services, information and education”.

This should include “safe and effective methods of modern contraception, emergency contraception, prevention programs for adolescent pregnancy ... (and) safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law,” the document says.

But according to reports by the Associated Press, Malta’s objection was not in the area of abortion but, rather, in the area of teens’ sexual education.

Conservative countries succeeded in blocking any reference to different forms of the family, or to problems that women face because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The document recognises the family as a contributor to the development of girls and women.

Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, said: “The commission recognised that sustainable and meaningful development must address the root causes of gender inequality, which deny women and girls an education, the right to make decisions about their bodies and childbearing, to decent employment and equal pay, and to live free of violence.

“We have achieved what we came to do against great odds and the determined attempts by the Holy See and a few conservative countries to once again turn back the clock on women’s rights.”

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