(The Daily Signal) – As the United Nations celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this month, the global body’s bureaucrats are reinterpreting the document and U.N. treaties in a manner that undermines the backbone of all societies—strong families.
Progressive activists have captured the U.N. bureaucracy. And they are using it to advance a view of children’s rights that elevates government actors and experts over the rights and duties of parents.
Gender ideology is a branch of critical theory with roots in feminism. It subordinates a person’s biological sex to his or her—or zis or zer—internal sense of gender. And its march through social, legal, and medical institutions is leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
While progressives spread their radical ideologies throughout the U.N. system, the vast programming and funding devoted to “comprehensive sexuality education” makes it an easy target and an effective delivery mechanism.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education
The promotion of so-called comprehensive sexuality education is the biggest threat to parental rights stemming from the United Nations. The term is innocuous by design. Many parents, policymakers, and diplomats alike think that CSE is just lessons about the birds and the bees delivered with a side of “safe sex” admonitions to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Instead, comprehensive sexuality education’s curricula use human rights language to present sexual activity to children as a right for them to enjoy. They contain graphic instruction on how to perform various sex acts, encourage children to question the values they’ve learned from parents, and imbue the tenets of gender ideology.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, has published an “international technical guidance on sexuality education” in cooperation with other U.N. bodies. Its advisory group includes the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the World Association of Sexology, and the Population Council. Each of these promotes nonexistent “sexual rights.”
In fact, there is no consensual or intergovernmental agreement among U.N. member states on the source, content, or contours of such supposed rights for children.
According to the guidance, comprehensive sexuality education “aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values” to “develop respectful social and sexual relationships” and to “understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives.” In other words, CSE programs—by their own admission—are aimed at children. These programs seek to change children’s values and promote a rights-based view of sexuality.
By promoting sexual rights for children and adolescents, CSE programs implicitly assert the capacity of children to exercise such rights. By teaching children that they have sexual rights, these programs undermine parental or religious messages that view sexuality as a gift to be experienced within marriage.
Once again, we have U.N. agencies pushing ideas that contradict U.N. treaties. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, for instance, insists that the state must ensure that parents have the right to oversee the religious and moral education of their children in accord with their own convictions.
Here’s the kicker: If so-called sexual rights are human rights, then everyone must be empowered to exercise them. That makes comprehensive sexuality education a human rights imperative.
And that’s exactly what the International Planned Parenthood Federation explains in a recent report, insisting that “the absolute minimum requirement is that CSE must reach all young people—wherever they are.”
“We cannot achieve gender transformative change by focusing only on health outcomes,” Planned Parenthood argues. “We must equip young people with information about health as well as positive aspects of sex and sexuality.”
Some Popular Programs
According to UNESCO’s technical guidance, comprehensive sexuality education “addresses safer sex, preparing young people … for intimate relationships that may include sexual intercourse or other sexual activity.” A review of popular comprehensive sexuality education programs in use throughout the world—and recommended by various U.N. bodies—reveals that these programs go way beyond explaining the birds and the bees.
For example, the Population Council’s “It’s All One” curriculum pushes sexual pleasure for children and teens. It teaches that “as long as sexual activity is undertaken with mutual and meaningful consent and is not harmful, there is no one true or better way to enjoy it.” This is hardly a message that most parents want their children to learn in school.
Another program, dubbed UNHUSHED, is in schools throughout the United States. It uses a graphic of the “sexualitree” to illustrate elements of sexuality to explore. It includes abortion, fantasy, fetish, pornography, sex toys, and “skin hunger,” whatever that is.
Discussion of such topics is a feature, not a bug, of CSE programs.
Here’s another example: The facilitator’s manual that the United Nations Population Fund developed for adolescents in Zimbabwe describes pedophilia, pederasty, and bestiality, as well as sadism and masochism among the “major sexual patterns.” A cautionary note explains that “some of these behaviors are acceptable in some cultures whilst others are considered deviant in some cultures.”
The manual assures parents, though, that “the information provided does not encourage or facilitate experimentation.” This is small comfort. There are some things—pederasty and bestiality included—that cannot be unseen. Why introduce them to children at all?
“Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” is UNESCO’s flagship program for over 30 million adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. It is funded by the Packard Foundation and the governments of France, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. All are major donors to family planning and abortion programs throughout the world.
Comprehensive sexuality education is the entry point for delivering family planning, “sexual rights” (including abortion), and gender ideology to millions of children on every continent. And when CSE is bundled with human rights, that project is even easier.
Human Rights Corrupted
Indeed, U.N. bureaucrats and nongovernmental organizations now insist that children have a right to comprehensive sexuality education. Various U.N. bodies instruct member states to deliver comprehensive sexuality education in their nations’ schools.
For example, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a general comment on what it calls the “right to sexual and reproductive health.” The committee distorted the underlying treaty, a common strategy among these U.N. treaty bodies.
The committee claimed falsely that “preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions requires states to adopt legal and policy measures to guarantee all individuals access to affordable, safe and effective contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education,” and to “guarantee women and girls access to safe abortion services and quality post-abortion care.”
Earlier this year, several U.N. experts within the human rights system issued a compendium on comprehensive sexuality education. CSE, they assert, is “an effective means to address systems of patriarchal domination and toxic masculinity by changing social and cultural patterns of behavior.”
These experts call upon national governments to provide adolescents with free “nondiscriminatory sexual and reproductive health services, information and education responsive to their needs.” This would include contraception, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, access to “safe” abortion, and so-called gender-affirming care—a euphemism for experimental and irreversible hormonal and surgical interventions.
Not only is there no “right” for a child to be subjected to comprehensive sexuality education, but too often, these programs violate parents’ internationally recognized right to direct their children’s upbringing and development.
As journalist and commentator Christopher Rufo explains, the aim of gender ideology is “to abolish the distinctions of man and woman, to transcend the limitations established by God and nature, and to connect the personal struggle of trans individuals to the political struggle to transform society in a radical way.”
Removing parental safeguards in the name of “human rights” will cause children to be more, not less, vulnerable to harm. Children need strong families. Poisonous ideologies marketed through comprehensive sexuality education programs are no substitute.