March 24, 2014 — Liberal and conservative countries on Saturday agreed to a United Nations document urging the promotion of equality for women, reaffirming women's sexual and reproductive rights, and endorsing sex education for adolescents, the AP/U-T San Diego reports.
The 45-member Commission on the Status of Women approved the 24-page document by consensus. It emphasizes concern about the "slow and uneven" progress toward the U.N.'s goal of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The commission also noted that "the feminization of poverty persists" and reaffirmed that women's equality is vital to sustained economic development.
In addition, the commission called for empowerment, equality and human rights for women to be a major portion of U.N. development goals that are expected to be adopted in 2015.
Affirmation of Reproductive Rights
The AP/U-T San Diego notes that more-liberal countries were relieved that the commission did not move backward on international recognition of women's reproductive rights or access to health services.
The document expressed a need for "universally accessible and available quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services, information and education," including "safe and effective methods of modern contraception, emergency contraception, prevention programs for adolescent pregnancy ... (and) safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law."
Further, the commission urged the end of female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage.
The document also called for the creation and implementation of sexual education programs "based on full and accurate information, for all adolescents and youth ... with the appropriate direction and guidance from parents and legal guardians."
Details on the Vote
Conservative countries succeeded in blocking references to different definitions of the family, as well as issues women face because of their gender identities or sexual orientations. The document pinpoints the family as a contributor to female development.
The Holy See, Malta, Pakistan and Qatar expressed concern about the document's references to sex education. According to commission delegates, the final vote on the document was delayed by Russia's unsuccessful last-minute attempt to insert a reference to sovereignty.
Terri Robl, a representative of the U.S., applauded the document and the commission's "commitment to fighting discrimination and prejudice, which for too long has denied many women and girls the ability to contribute to economic growth and development." However, Robl expressed disappointed that the commission "did not explicitly acknowledge the vulnerabilities confronting women and adolescents as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity" (Lederer, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/22).