(NEW YORK - C-FAM) Last week, during a world conference on HIV/AIDS the United Nations came close to advocating a significant worldwide shift on traditional sexual morality, and nobody noticed. While the New York Times recorded controversies about condoms and wording about "men having sex with men," many delegations reported that an intense debate was taking place in basement conference rooms about the very nature of human sexuality, and whether or not the UN should promote the complete transformation of sexual norms.
The conflict concerned a little-known document called the UN International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights. The European Union and Canada sought reference to these guidelines within the Declaration on HIV/AIDS, while all sixty Islamic countries successfully opposed any mention of the document. The guidelines, written in 1998 by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and UNAIDS, argue that a kind of freedom of sexuality is a fundamental human right on par with freedom of religion or freedom of speech.
The guidelines seek "penalties for vilification of people who engage in same-sex relationships." Although it is unclear what 'vilification' means, and what 'penalties' would be sought, the Holy See delegation worries that religious leaders may be criminally liable for upholding the teaching that homosexual acts are sinful. The guidelines argue for other profound changes in judicial systems urging that individuals should be allowed to "bring cases under pseudonym," and judges should be "sensitized" to the aims of the guidelines.
The guidelines also mandate explicit sexual and homosexual education for children -- so explicit, in fact, that the materials used in classrooms "should not be wrongfully subject to censorship or obscenity laws." This seems to mean that pornography should be considered a valid component of classroom instruction.
The guidelines also seek to overturn all laws that limit sexual activity, including laws against "adultery, sodomy, fornication, and commercial sexual encounters [prostitution]," so that the new human right to sexuality is not violated. The guidelines call for nations to legalize homosexual marriage. Not surprisingly, an Islamic delegate called the guidelines "offensive to religious and cultural sensitivities."
After a vociferous debate all references to the guidelines were removed from the final draft of the Declaration of HIV/AIDS. If left in, funding for a wide-range of programs might have been tied to compliance with its agenda. But it is now clear that the guidelines have strong advocates in many delegations. The guidelines call for these norms to be "integrated" into the activities of all "partner" agencies of UNAIDS, including "UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank."
At this time it is unclear how these new guidelines have been integrated into the work of other UN agencies. What is certain is that these guidelines do not reflect the wishes of the UN General Assembly. The debate over the guidelines points up the frequently deep divide between the Member States of the UN and the more radical UN bureaucracy.