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NYTimes.com Article: U.N. Forum Stalls on Sex Education and Abortion Rights
by swsystem
10 May 2002 13:21 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by swsystem@aol.com.


Interesting line-up of countries at the UN special session on children.

Steven Sherman

"During the negotiations over wording, American officials have pressed for 
specificity  demanding, for instance, that the term "reproductive health 
services" be annotated to exclude abortion. In this they are joined by the 
Vatican, as well as several Islamic nations, from Iran to Pakistan. On the 
opposing side are delegates representing the European Union, as well as 
countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia."



swsystem@aol.com

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U.N. Forum Stalls on Sex Education and Abortion Rights

May 10, 2002
By SOMINI SENGUPTA 




 

UNITED NATIONS, May 9 - Differences over abortion and sex
education continued to distance the Bush administration
from many of the other delegates to a General Assembly
Special Session on Children today, complicating efforts to
draft a final declaration due on Friday. 

Delegates prepared to negotiate through the night to meet
the deadline for a document that outlines goals and
standards on issues ranging from child labor to
immunizations. The three-day session is the General
Assembly's first devoted exclusively to children. 

Sex has proved the most contentious topic. The United
States delegation, upholding the White House stance against
abortion, seeks to amend language arrived at in previous
United Nations conferences so that it excludes abortion
from the menu of reproductive health services offered to
teenagers. 

Since in some countries abortion is one of a range of basic
health services while in others it is against the law,
language from previous conferences contained no
proscriptions against it, holding only that in countries
where the service is legal, it ought to be safe. 

During the negotiations over wording, American officials
have pressed for specificity - demanding, for instance,
that the term "reproductive health services" be annotated
to exclude abortion. In this they are joined by the
Vatican, as well as several Islamic nations, from Iran to
Pakistan. On the opposing side are delegates representing
the European Union, as well as countries in Latin America,
Africa and Asia. 

The American delegation has also pressed for language
promoting abstinence for unmarried youths. The delegation's
head, the Bush administration's secretary for health and
human services, says abstinence is "the only sure way of
avoiding sexually transmitted disease, premature pregnancy
and the social and personal difficulties attendant to
nonmarital sexual activity." 

Critics accused the United States of trying to withhold
life-saving tips about sexually transmitted diseases,
including H.I.V., which is swiftly spreading among the
young, particularly in the developing world. 

"We are really stuck," said Eveline Herfkens, the Dutch
development minister, "because one or two governments - one
of them this country - wants to renegotiate commitments we
made in previous conferences. Others, like us, feel it's
unacceptable. I feel it's irresponsible." 

The European Union delegation, as well as those from many
Asian, African and Latin American countries, favors
maintaining earlier language. "I think we should keep all
the agreements we have done so far," the Finnish president,
Tarja Halonen, said at a briefing with reporters this
afternoon. "This special session is supposed to take steps
forward." 

Responding to the criticism this afternoon, an American
official said, "We are trying to lead the world." 

The official added that the American delegation had pressed
for stronger language on child pornography and prostitution
- efforts that he contended had been drowned out by
attention to the abortion fight. 

Negotiations were expected to continue until consensus is
reached. "It's a countdown now," said Dirk Rotenberg,
spokesman for the German mission to the United Nations. "No
one is allowed to go home. If we reach a text no one is
happy with, that would be a good compromise." Germany is
leading the negotiations. 

Though sex dominated the closed-door debates over the
conference document, the dozens of panels, briefings and
luncheons here took up a range of equally important and
sometimes bitterly contested issues. Arab nations pushed
for a resolution declaring that children in
Israeli-occupied territories remained "deprived of many
basic rights"; a senior Israeli official shot back by
accusing Palestinians of recruiting teenagers as suicide
bombers. 

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Ruud
Lubbers, used the occasion to highlight his office's
efforts to combat reported sexual exploitation of refugee
children by relief workers. The reports have emerged
recently from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where
interviews indicate that some aid workers exchanged food
rations for sex with children. An investigation into these
reports is continuing. Mr. Lubbers said this morning that
one way the agency was combating the problem was by having
only women distribute food rations. 

Perhaps one of the most poignant and politely contentious
sessions was one in which African children sat face to face
with representatives of their governments. "We must put an
end to this demagoguery," a 15-year-old from Mali, Adam
Maiga, told a room packed with heads of state. "You have
parliaments, but they are used as democratic decorations." 

Joseph Tamale, 12, from Uganda, lit into the group on debt
servicing. Who will pay those big loans when they come due
in 20 or 30 years? asked Joseph, a boy with braces,
swimming inside his denim jacket. "It will be us," he
answered. "And we have nothing to pay them with, because
when you get the money, you embezzle it, you eat it." 

Gael Mbemba, 17, from Chad, begged them, his hands bouncing
off the table in front, to carry out their promises back
home. If you want to set up schools, he told them bluntly,
make sure you have a teacher, a library. The promises of
the past, he added, had left him disenchanted. "The result
is not what you said, which is we are worried," Gael told
them. "Listen to the children not with your ears, but with
your hearts." 

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/10/international/10CHIL.html?ex=1022044536&ei=1&en=f492d8ae42de8954



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