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From Intrinsically Disordered Acts to Rights: Impugning the Nairobi Summit (ICPD25)

The Nairobi Summit of the International Conference on Population and Development was held November 12-14, 2019. It was in celebration of the 25th anniversary since the first one held in Cairo in 1994 – thus ICPD25. The hosts were United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the Government of Denmark and the Government of Kenya. The over 5000 participants met to elicit commitments from governments and stakeholders on: Zero “unmet” need for family planning, zero maternal mortality, zero gender based violence etc. The solutions offered however would send anyone familiar with the catechism cringing.

The organizers locked out any prolife and pro-family voices. The chairperson of the National Council for Population and Development in Kenya explained that for every application, a technical and security vetting would ensue. Even then, organizations with United Nations ECOSOC Consultative status but known to be prolife and profamily were denied access to the venue at the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC). The prolife and profamily groups ended up organizing side events to the ICPD25 within the premises of The Catholic University of Eastern Africa and the Holy Family Minor Basilica. The intolerance of dissent or divergent opinion referred to as opposition by the UNFPA and its allies was thus demonstrated. The Holy See disassociated itself from the proceedings of ICPD25 for lack of consultation and being held outside the United Nations framework so as to preclude transparent intergovernmental negotiations.

The intended semblance of consensus at the Nairobi summit was further dented when a number of states led by the United States issued a joint statement on the Nairobi Summit that was critical of the processes at ICPD25. Brazil, Belarus, Egypt, Haiti, Hungary, Libya, Poland, Senegal, St. Lucia, and Uganda all joined in to express concern about the language in ICPD25:

“We do not support references in international documents to ambiguous terms and expression, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which do not enjoy international consensus, nor contemplates the reservations and caveats incorporated in the Cairo Outcome….We cannot support a sex education that fails to adequately engage parents and which promotes abortion as a method of family planning…But we support proper regard for parental guidance and responsibilities…”

A number of catholic theologians at the prolife and profamily side events came to understand the real meaning of the SRHR concept and were appalled that most of what has been hitherto taught as intrinsically disordered is now taking on the face of human rights.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is categorical in its judgment over some acts. Pornography is a grave offence (CCC 2354). Masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action (CCC 2352). Homosexual acts are sins against chastity and contrary to the nature of man and sex itself (Gn 19:4-10). Those who find themselves in the homosexual condition are given hope that by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection (CCC 2359). A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae, by the very commission of the offense, and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law (CCC 2272).

Yet, there is a new trend in the evolving human rights language. The concept Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) seems be diametrically opposed to the catechism as first above indicated. At the first International Conference of Population and Development (ICPD), “reproductive health” was defined to include “sexual health” but the latter was not defined. As a result, there has been recourse to the several, highly evolving, controversial but widely used working definitions of the World Health Organization (WHO). Essentially reproductive health has come to include sexual health which in turn has come to include sexual rights. The evolution of these terms makes an interesting read.

In 1975, WHO Technical Report Series No.572 defined Sexual health as … the integration of the somatic, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual being in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication and love… In 1994, the ICPD then sought to expand sexual health beyond “… counseling and care related to reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases.”(ICPD 7.2). In 2006, WHO stretched sexual health to include …the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences and that if sexual health is to be attained and maintained, …the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled. In the subsequent years, a number of UN agencies have been promoting controversial comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in schools in which children should have the “possibility” of sexual pleasure as a right.

Most recently in 2015, a UN inter agency entity led by WHO published: “Sexual Health, Human Rights and the Law in which sexual health was defined to encompass “sexuality”, “sexual practices”, “abortion”, and  “the recognition of the diversity of sexual behavior and expression.” In fact the definition of sexual health is stretched to include the ability to control ones fertility through access to contraception and abortion, it restated the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences for all persons, including many different forms of behavior and expression, and the recognition of the diversity of sexual behavior and expression.

In this same document, “sexuality information” refers to information pertinent to sexual health, different forms of relationships and sexual practices, ideas and opinions which convey diverse perspectives on sexuality inter alia. The UN inter agency International Technical Guidance on Sexuality (2018) holds that sexuality encompasses “gender identity; sexual orientation; sexual intimacy; pleasure….”(p.17) It also affirms that “CSE includes ongoing discussions about social and cultural factors  … such as sexual orientation and gender identity.”(p 18) In Africa as elsewhere, CSE is largely targeted at schools. It is also rolled out through phone apps and through online curricula most often without the knowledge of consent of parents. It encompasses sexual orientation (homosexuality), gender identity (transgender ideology), sexual pleasure and intimacy, diverse sexual practices and sexual perspectives, fantasies and desires.

Family Watch International has developed a 15 point score for any Curricula developed for CSE and the extent to which it undermines life and family. There are common elements in CSE curricula globally and those promoted by UNESCO, UNICEF and UNFPA score highly on this scale. The CSE has been known to sexualize children, promote homosexual behavior, promote solo or mutual masturbation, remove chastity and abstinence as an expected standard, promotes contraception and abortion to children, teach children how to do sexual rights advocacy while generally undermining parental rights as the primary educators ( Actually one of the curriculum called “The World Starts With Me” has a lesson on Child Rights which is introduced on page 4 as: This lesson directs children and teens to assert their rights, having the right to “know about sexuality, contraceptives, STIs/HIV,” to make their own decisions about their sexual health, and the right to choose to marry and plan a family. Another one by International Planned Parenthood Federation called “Healthy Happy and Hot” is targeted among others to “young people living with HIV who are interested in dating and having sex with people of the same sex or opposite sex.” Healthy Happy and Hot also encourages masturbation as a great way to find out more about your body…”

One of the commitments that stood out at the ICPD25 was  one to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health as a part of universal health coverage (UHC). Taken seriously, this commitment will see governments funding through their health sector and in pseudal pursuit of human rights all those actions that have hitherto been deemed intrinsically disordered. So pastors/catechists in their parishes are going to be pushed by human rights language to revise what they teach about contraception, homosexuality, masturbation, pornography etc. One can only hope that catholic theological ethicists will not fence sit on this matter.