The Vatican: UN Member Circa… Never?

Another day, another week full of things to say. Man, does this War on Women and the general shitty misogynistic culture we live in ever give me a horde of topics to write on! What do I choose when day after day, I have so many possibilities?

How badass Rep. Lisa Brown is for performing the Vagina Monologues on the steps of Michigan’s state house? How that whole situation makes me want to run through various legislature buildings, yelling “VAGINAVAGINAVAGINA! I HAVE A VAGINA AND I VOTE!”? What about the serious crush I’m developing on Mr. Jay Smooth, eloquent video blogger extraordinaire whose total awesomeness is finally going viral? Or how lazy writing is claiming Lara Croft as its next victim, by using the age-old ill-advised plot device of sexual assault as a way to make a female character more sympathetic and give her a big obstacle to overcome? How, if we have to spend our time squabbling about basic legal rights women should already have, we’ll never get to other stuff that matters, like the absolute travesty of justice that is the CeCe McDonald case?

I could talk about these. But I won’t. Instead, I’ve linked to websites that are already doing excellent work on these topics.

Today I’m moving the discussion to Brazil. Specifically, to Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. As Zonibel Woods at RH Reality Check explains, the conference, which began in 1992, “was the first of a series of United Nations global conferences that sought progress on sustainable development, including human rights, population change, social development, women’s human rights and gender equality.”

The 2012 conference attendees are currently negotiating the Future We Want document. The contested portions of the document surround– what else? –reproductive rights and other rights unique to women and sexual health. According to the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, “This morning [June 19] the draft text compiled by Brazil does not include any reference to Reproductive Rights, it has been removed.”

Youth SHRH goes into further detail: “Yesterday the G77 proposed to remove references to young people in paragraph 147 which outlines commitments to reducing maternal mortality, improving health of women, men, youth and children and reaffirming commitments to gender equality and language on youth having control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health.

The Holy See, Russia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Chile, Syria, Egypt, Costa Rica all spoke against including reproductive rights in the Gender Section of the draft outcome document. This was the ONLY reference to reproductive rights in the 80 page document. These governments not only questioned reproductive health, they also claimed to not understand the relationship between sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights within the context of sustainable development. They claimed that reproductive rights go against national legislations and constitutions, and that reproductive rights was a ‘code word’ (for abortion) and they have to protect rights of unborn and right to life.”

After reading this, in addition to being upset, I was confused by the idea that the Holy See has any say in this. I have since discovered that the Vatican is what is considered a “permanent observer state,” which apparently means it is a “Non-member State having received a standing invitation to participate as observer in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent observer mission at Headquarters.”

Call me a cynic, but I’m not sure that attempting to prevent reproductive and sexual health is really observing. In any case, G77 members are also guilty of this push to refuse to acknowledge that empowering women can help lead to a sustainable future. Achieving a sustainable future, after all, is ostensibly the purpose of Rio+20.

I have no idea when the Vatican will get its head out of my and everyone else’s uterus, but I can tell you that a future without global reproductive health, sexual health, and women’s rights is not a future I want. So please spread the word all across the internet, so that activists and G77 leaders alike can be told that sustainability means including women’s human rights and reproductive justice.

-Joanna

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