> June 13, 2003
> Volume 6, Number 25
> UN Child Rights Committee Calls for Child Access to Contraceptives
> Last week, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child sought
> to weaken parents' authority to guide their children's access to
> contraceptives and other sexual and reproductive services and information.
> At the conclusion of its current session in Geneva, the Committee released
> a general comment on adolescent health in which it asserts that all
> countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child
> (CRC) should "strictly respect the right to privacy and confidentiality,
> including confidential advice and counselling on all health matters,"
> "that access to information on sexual and reproductive health be
> accessible regardless of.prior consent from parents or guardians."
> The Committee exists to guide nations' implementation of the Convention
> on the Rights of the Child, a document that has now been ratified by every
> country on earth except Somalia and the United States. After a country
> ratifies CRC, it must submit periodic reports to the Committee, which then
> determines if the country is in compliance with the Convention. The
> Committee has the ultimate power to interpret the CRC document, and to
> establish what legal obligations the Convention creates for ratifying
> Many scholars of international law worry about the broad interpretive
> powers possessed by the Committee. For instance, Brigham Young University
> law professor Richard Wilkins has frequently charged that the Committee,
> through its radical interpretation of the CRC document, has in effect
> created new legal obligations never imagined by nations when they ratified
> the original Convention. In this case, the CRC document nowhere mentions
> that children have a right to such reproductive and sexual services
> without their parents' knowledge or consent.
> The current general comment builds upon other controversial Committee
> interpretations of CRC. For instance, in a general comment on HIV/AIDS
> issued in 2002, the Committee said that states are responsible for
> providing children with "confidential sexual and reproductive health
> services, free or low cost contraception, condoms and services." The
> Committee also showed "particular concern" for ".taboos
or negative or
> judgmental attitudes to sexual activity of girls, often limiting their
> access to preventative measures and other services. Of concern also is
> discrimination based on sexual orientation." Free contraceptives and
> sexual orientation are not mentioned in the original document.
> The Committee has also informed individual nations that they must comply
> with these interpretations. For example, the Committee has told Grenada
> that it should increase ".its efforts in promoting adolescent health
> policies and counselling services, as well as strengthening reproductive
> health education, including the promotion of male acceptance of the use
> contraceptives." The Committee has told Djibouti to ".provide
> information about sexual and reproductive health, and that services in
> this area be user friendly and address the concerns and need for
> confidentiality of adolescents."
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