Women are Watching at the United Nations This Week
This week, delegations from around the world are gathered at United Nations’ headquarters in New York City for the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD), an annual gathering to discuss global progress on issues of population and health. The theme of this year’s meeting is adolescents, which means those opposed to comprehensive sex education will be out in full force promoting conservative messages and trying to limit definitions of “traditional” family, gender, and sexuality to exclude anyone who falls outside of the heterosexual box.
Groups like the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), Live Action, Family Watch International, and the UK-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) often attend UN gatherings with the primary agenda of inserting language restricting access to abortion. At a youth-themed meeting such as this one, we also expect a lot of talk about abstinence and other attempts to prevent young people from accessing health information and services.
The same people who are attacking women’s health at the state and national levels in the U.S. are the ones advancing harmful agendas around the world. This dangerous trend has brought us the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda, which would have imposed the death penalty for anyone having homosexual sex, and the life begins at conception legislation across Mexico and Latin America. That’s why it’s important women are watching at the United Nations this week.
In the last couple of years, progress has been made on the international scene to protect women’s health. In fact, the CPD marks the anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, which took place in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994. It was the first time in UN history that sexual and reproductive health was linked to human rights. Before the Cairo meeting, international conversations about population and health centered on issues like overpopulation, as many debated ways to curb population growth. Nevertheless, with the Cairo Consensus, advocates of women’s health and rights gained a new toolbox; conversations began to focus more on empowering women and their partners to make their own decisions about if, when, and how often they wanted to have children. It was a huge step for women’s health.
This week, Planned Parenthood Global will also be at the UN, pushing for broader definitions of family, gender, and sexuality, broader access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and families, and broader access to information and services to arm young people with the knowledge and tools they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs. Women are watching!