The Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) welcomes the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council (the Council or the HRC) on 27 March 2015 of its annual resolution on the rights of the child, entitled ‘Towards better investment in the rights of the child’. By means of this resolution, the Council calls upon governments to ensure access of all people, including children, without discrimination, to a range of health services, including sexual and reproductive health care services (paragraph 28). It further calls upon States to provide comprehensive evidence-based education on human sexuality in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child (paragraph 30). Both of these provisions are within the context of calling upon governments to employ laws, policies, regulations and budget allocations to enable access to social services (paragraph 25).
Development of the resolution
The resolution was presented by the member States of the European Union (EU) and the Group of Latin America and Caribbean States (GRULAC). Four public informal consultations were held, during which States expressed a number of different positions, including:
- Egypt asking to delete all mentions of the word ‘gender’ and replace with language on girls in relation to boys.
- Egypt asking to delete language on sexuality education; supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran. This was strongly opposed by Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Norway.
- Asking to add language on the rights and responsibilities of the family and parents: Iran, Qatar, Russia, China, Pakistan and India.
- India asking to delete language on a human rights-based approach/ perspective, saying that this language/ concept is not the result of an intergovernmental process and they do not understand what it means; supported by Egypt, South Africa, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and others.
- India asking for references to the Declaration on the Right to Development; supported by others.
- The US asking for weaker language on different rights issues (as they have not ratified CRC), and on the responsibilities of the private sector.
- Egypt asking for weaker/ to delete language on participation of children and children’s groups.
- South Africa not in favour of the sections on budgeting, resource mobilisation and allocation, claiming that they were “too prescriptive” and went beyond the remit of the HRC; supported by Russia and Pakistan.
- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Russia wanted to shorten/ delete the sections on education, health, social services, claiming that they did not want to “repeat past resolutions”.
- Egypt, India, Russia, Iran and Pakistan asking for more language on international cooperation.
The EU and GRULAC made many changes to the initial text over the course of the negotiations, in order to accommodate concerns of different States. They held firm in terms of retaining much of the substance of the resolution, and showed flexibility in terms of adding caveats and softening the ‘action’ language e.g. encouraging States instead of urging.
During the course of the negotiations, most States showed flexibility. Exceptions include Egypt, which continuously asked for ‘education on human sexuality’ to be replaced with ‘sex education’, on behalf of a group of States that were not enumerated. And South Africa, which continued to reserve its position on the sections pertaining to budgeting, resource mobilisation and allocation (paragraphs 11-24) stating that these were too prescriptive.
The SRI worked closely with a number of States to advocate for retention of strong references to: access to sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education; application of a human rights-based perspective to integrating children’s rights in national laws and policies (paragraph 7); application of a gender perspective rather than a focus on girls in relation to boys (paragraph 41); marginalised and disadvantaged groups of children (paragraphs 10, 16(b) and 29); and participation of children and children’s groups in national processes and further work of the Council (paragraphs 14, 20, 21, 51 and 52).
Adoption of the resolution
After the tabled text was introduced by the EU and GRULAC, India took the floor to emphasise that the budgetary exercise is a national prerogative and that the HRC should not be prescriptive. Qatar, on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, spoke about the inclusion of concepts that were not acceptable to them, citing incompatibility with their religion, and disassociated with paragraphs 10, 16(b), 28, 29 and 30. Russia called the resolution text intrusive and disassociated from paragraph 30 in relation to the language on sexuality education. Pakistan, also speaking for Bangladesh, spoke against the request for a follow up report (to the report A/HRC/28/33) on the subject of investing in the rights of the child, and provisions related to resource mobilization, monitoring, transparency, accountability, sexual and reproductive health services and education, and dissociated from the relevant paragraphs. The US took the floor to say that in their view the resolution does not imply that States must implement obligations under human rights instruments to which they are not party, and they do not recognize any change in the current state of international law. South Africa dissociated from PP1 and paragraph 30, saying that these were prescriptive in terms of the call for universal ratification of treaties, and the formula for achieving universal education.
The resolution was adopted without a vote.
At the time of adoption, the resolution had 78 co-sponsors (listed below). States have until April 10 to communicate their co-sponsorship of this resolution to the secretariat of the HRC. At this time, you can:
- Inform your networks about this resolution, and
- Urge your governments to co-sponsor, if they have not done so already.
Albania, Andorra,* Argentina, Armenia,* Australia,* Austria,* Belgium,* Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil, Bulgaria,* Chile,* Colombia,* Congo, Costa Rica,* Croatia,* Cuba, Cyprus,* Czech Republic,* Denmark,* Dominican Republic,* Ecuador,* El Salvador, Estonia, Finland,* France, Georgia,* Germany, Greece,* Guatemala,* Haiti,* Honduras,* Hungary,* Iceland,* Ireland, Italy,* Jamaica,* Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein,* Lithuania,* Luxembourg,* Malta,* Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand,* Nicaragua,* Norway,* Panama,* Paraguay, Peru,* Poland,* Portugal, Republic of Moldova,* Romania,* Serbia,* Slovakia,* Slovenia,* Spain,* Sweden, * Tajikistan,* Thailand,* the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste,* Turkey,* United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay,* and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Additional co-sponsors at the time of adoption
Angola, Barbados, Benin, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Japan, Philippines, Rwanda and Ukraine
* Non-member State of the Human Rights Council.