The report released in December by the increasingly-controversial High Commissioner for Human Rights states that adolescent health depends on “comprehensive sexuality education and full access to confidential youth-friendly and evidence-based sexual and reproductive health services.” Last weekend, physicians presented evidence at a conference that a different approach is needed.
“Clearly, those sex ed programs are doing harm in my opinion,” said public health researcher Dr. Jokin de Irala. He encouraged doctors and scientists to provide their expertise to international organizations and “to write reports distinguishing what is really evidence-based and what is ideology because they think they do not have ideology nor dogmas.”
Comprehensive sexuality education programs, such as those developed by UNESCO and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), have drawn criticism for their emphasis on risk reduction over risk avoidance in their approach to AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Risk reduction, including condom promotion, give young people a false sense of security and paradoxically lead to an increase in the instances of risky behavior, a phenomenon known as “risk compensation,” explained Dr. de Irala at the annual conference of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG).
The High Commissioner follows groups like SIECUS and Planned Parenthood in calling for “evidence-based” sexual and reproductive health policy. Evidence was plentiful at the AAPLOG conference. Dr. Freda Bush presented data demonstrating the devastating effects of early sexual initiation and promiscuity in the lives of young people, especially girls. She reported the sobering statistic that at least a quarter of all teenage girls in the United States have a sexually transmitted infection, with rates among African American girls as high as one half.
Dr. Bush emphasized the important role of parents in the lives of their daughters and urged that society “combat the media lie that parental guidance is uniformly bad.” In contrast, the report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights states, “parental and spousal consent laws may deny adolescents their right to have access to sexual and reproductive health information.”
The report argues that comprehensive sex education is necessary for adolescents to achieve the right to the “highest attainable standard” of health, a standard set forth in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Neither that UN treaty nor any other mentions comprehensive sexuality education.
Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has distinguished her tenure by promoting abortion and homosexual rights. In her annual report to the Human Rights Council last week, she complained that her office lacks funding.
The new session of the UN Human Rights Council began this week in Geneva. If the resolution they produce welcomes the High Commissioner’s report, the recommendations included in the report will likely be funneled into the policies and programs of the General Assembly in the future.