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UN report says young girls cannot succeed without abortion C-Fam

UN report says young girls cannot succeed without abortion

NEW YORK (C-Fam) To commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child, a UN treaty body has released a statement mentioning abortion 27 times as the most important factor for the well-being and development of young girls.

The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) says that unless young girls have access to abortion, they cannot lead a fulfilling life or reach their full potential. These experts says that unless widespread abortion access is secured, a discussion of any other rights may be worthless.

CEDAW also says that “access…to safe and quality abortion is a human right under international law, and especially crucial for girls,” yet no UN resolution or treaty has ever considered abortion a human right. The committee did reference the Cairo Program of Action as a setting stone for declaring abortion an international human right, yet the Cairo document declared that “abortion is a subject that may be exclusively addressed in national legislation” and that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”

Critics argue that many UN treaty bodies and agencies, including UN Women, dedicate a disproportionate amount of time and resources to helping girls terminate their unwanted pregnancies while commitments to improve their access to education, water, sanitation, food, and other pressing humanitarian services often take a backseat.

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An audit report of the Spotlight Initiative, a partnership between the EU and UN to end violence against women and girls, showed the €505.6 million investment on the part of the EU “has had little impact and is yet to prove its value for money.” The Initiative spent $173.7 million to support organizations that advocate for women’s empowerment in developing countries, many of which engaged in advocacy and normative work on the sexual and reproductive health front.

At a World Health Summit side event on a “new agenda” for women’s health, several panelists expressed concern that the current understanding of women’s health is disproportionately focused on sexual and reproductive health and fails to address the myriad of essential health needs of women.

The CEDAW statement also omits any discussion on the role of the family in the upbringing of young girls and makes no reference to the impact of maternal and paternal figures on children’s lives. The word “family” is mentioned twice in the document, once referring to family planning and second condemning “gender-based violence” perpetrated by family members.

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At several recent UN events on women’s rights, panelists depicted the family in a negative light and referred to it as an “oppressive” and “patriarchal” unit where girls are expected to perform unpaid domestic work at the detriment of their education and career aspirations.

In contrast with this view, at a UN meeting on the rights of the child, several member states, including Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Holy See, delivered statements on the role of families in the development of young boys and girls and the need for more social recognition and protection for the family. The Holy See said, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state. Therefore, any discussion of the rights of the child must be linked to the rights of the family.”

Editor's note: Iulia-Elena Cazan is Associate Director of UN Government Relations and International Youth Coalition (IYc) for C-Fam. This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-Fam (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute. This article appears with permission.

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