Y-PEER, an initiative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is facing scrutiny over reports that the group is advocating abortion for young people. Additionally, critics claim that the organization is calling for the decriminalization of both prostitution and illegal drug use.
According to CNS News, the UN-affiliated group has pushed for both abortion and contraception to be "an international human right" for young people. Negative responses have arisen following the publication of Y-PEER's “Joint Youth Statement on the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Young People.” The document, composed in preparation for the U.N. Youth Conference which began on Wednesday in New York City, addresses these controversial issues, among others. The report reads as follows:
In order to fully recognise young people’s sexual and reproductive rights, especially the right to choose, we must achieve universal access to safe and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care services, including access to evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education, in formal and non-formal settings.
The aforementioned block of text may not seem controversial. After all, sexual education is revered by many as a viable tool to better assist young people in understanding complex, reproductive issues. But, as one reads on, the definition of "reproductive rights" begins to become clearer:
Young women’s health is threatened by policies and services that do not provide life-saving access to family planning and contraception. It is vital to implement key effective measures in the continuum of care for maternal health, including access to safe abortion...
It is estimated that almost half of the maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion in the developing regions are young women aged under 24.
It is unclear what age constitutes "youths," though the document does mention 15-year-olds in its commentary about sexual health. Some critics, though, claim that the organization is referring to children as young as 10. Aside from these advocations for abortion, there are other elements that these critics find appalling.
First and foremost, it is important to note that laws differ in their reach and scope across the globe. Some, more restrictive countries, have regulations that ban homosexuality, for instance; others do not. Drug policies also vary greatly on a nation-by-nation basis. This in mind, the word choice in the below segment of the document is perplexing to say the least:
“The rights of marginalized young people, including those who are living with HIV, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, young men who have sex with men, sex workers, injecting drug users, disabled youth, young people in crisis situations and other vulnerable youth continue to be violated through policies and programmes that criminalize them and ignore their specific needs.”
In this instance, Y-PEER has lumped together homosexuals with prostitutes ("sex workers") and illegal drug users (among others). Prostitution and drug use are illegal actions in the United States and in many other nations across the world. Claiming that these individuals are "violated" through criminalization, while comparing them to homosexuals is certainly an intriguing way to tackle these divergent issues.
Aside from some off comparisons, this statement, in itself, seems to indicate that the UN-supported group sees prostitutes and drug users as victims who are deserving of not being held legally responsible for their actions. According to CNS News, Peter Spring, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., had this to say about the bizarre wording:
"I think the plain implication of this statement is that ‘sex workers,’ which is a euphemism for prostitutes, and injecting drug users should not be criminalized, which means, presumably, that their conduct should not be criminalized. So, yes, I think this is a statement calling for the legalization of prostitution and drugs, and it’s shocking that any -- you know, that any self-respecting international organizations would endorse that idea."
What do you think about the issues and the wording addressed within the document? You can read the entire youth statement for yourself here.