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"Human Rights Watch" Says U.S. Abstinence Programs Violate 'Human Rights'

Robert H. Knight

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More specious ideas from self-professing protectors of human rights.

'Human Rights Watch' Report Part of Broader Assault on Abstinence Programs

The United States is a human rights violator because it promotes abstinence programs, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a $20-million, New York-based organization devoted to "protecting the human rights of people around the world."

A September 18 report, "Ignorance Only: HIV/AIDS, Human Rights and Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Programs in the United States -- Texas: A Case Study," also says that virginity pledges put teens "at increased risk of HIV/AIDS infection," and recommends a slate of pro-homosexual political proposals.

The 47-page report faults the United States for having laws that favor marriage and for not enacting sweeping "gay rights" legislation at the state and federal levels. HRW calls on Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act "to bring the U.S. into conformity with international law," to strike down all remaining sodomy laws, and to initiate pro-homosexual programs in public schools.

HRW also makes several recommendations to various U.S. authorities, including these:

To the United States Government:

  • "Repeal abstinence-only-until marriage legislation and enact in its place legislation supporting comprehensive sex education that would include information and instruction about HIV/AIDS prevention, including the use of condoms for this purpose."
  • "Federal government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control, should give priority in funding to adolescent HIV/AIDS prevention and sex education programs that do not discriminate against gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth."

To the Government of Texas:

  • Amend the Texas Education Code "to require that courses on human sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases include scientifically accurate information on condoms as a means of HIV/AIDS prevention."
  • "Repeal" a portion of the state health code that school curricula should include 'emphasis, provided in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under state law."

To Other State Governments:

  • "Repeal state abstinence-only legislation" in favor of "comprehensive sexuality education that would include information about the proper use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS."

To local school districts throughout the United States:

  • "Include information that is specific to the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in health education on sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases. Such information should be integrated into the regular curriculum and should not be presented with the implicit message that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is itself a health problem."

HRW's leftist history

Although billing itself as nonpartisan, Human Rights Watch has a checkered history of supporting leftist causes.

"Just as they start to get credibility in the mainstream, they come out with something like this," J. Michael Waller, vice president at the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based think tank on defense and foreign policy issues, told Culture & Family Report. Waller, who studied how groups like HRW during the Cold War "were used as a transmission belt for Marxist propaganda," said HRW was once "so one-sided, you couldn't really take them seriously. During the 1980s, in Central America, the communist side could do no wrong, while the people defending against communism were cast as evil-doers."

"They had been working hard to build credibility since the Soviet collapse, and in fact, in the past decade, had been more objective and gaining credibility. Now it seems the extremists have taken over again," he said.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post featured HRW's attacks on the Bush administration's efforts to increase funding for abstinence-based programs. No pro-family spokesmen outside the administration were quoted. (Associated Press took the same approach in a similar article.)

"Whenever AIDS educators are repressed and harassed and kept from doing their jobs, the epidemic is the big winner," Joanne Csete, Human Rights Watch's director of HIV/AIDS programs, was quoted in the Post. "Whenever moral judgmentalism and squeamishness are judged by politicians to be more important than preventing a life-threatening catastrophe, the epidemic is the winner."

Target: Abstinence-only programs

HRW is teaming up with Advocates for Youth (ADY), a group that promotes homosexuality and condom-based sex education, to lobby for ending federal funding for abstinence programs. ADY has defended the "booty call" and "great sex workshops" put on by the Stop AIDS Project with federal CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) funds. This Stop AIDS program is among those being audited by the CDC at Congress' request for possibly misusing federal funds.

The HRW/Advocates for Youth effort is part of a new coordinated campaign by homosexual activist and liberal "safe sex" groups to de-fund government abstinence programs because they allegedly discriminate against homosexuals. The nation's leading "gay" pressure group, Human Rights Campaign, issued a press release Tuesday blasting the Bush administration for defending abstinence-only programs.

HHS deputy secretary Claude Allen, responding to the Human Rights Watch report, said, "We believe young people across the board should abstain until marriage." If that fails, Allen said, "fidelity is the next-safest protection against contraction of disease," followed by condom use.

HRC cited Allen's remarks as evidence of the Bush administration's "dangerous philosophy on prevention efforts." HRC's press release states:

The Bush administration has requested that Congress increase abstinence-only programs funding to $135 million, while not providing adequate funding for traditional programs that offer a more comprehensive range of options, including condom use. The problem with Bush's plan is that by promoting abstinence until marriage as the only option, it is completely ignoring the health needs of gay and lesbian people who cannot legally marry. Bush's policy also keeps crucial, life-saving information away from all Americans.

HRW's homosexual activism

Like its sister organization, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch has fully scrambled aboard the homosexual activist bandwagon. HRW's Web site features an array of pro-homosexual materials, including a list of recommended films, such as Scouts Honor, which assails the Boy Scouts of America for barring homosexual men from being Scout leaders. HRW's overall Report on the United States 2001 calls for lifting the military's ban on homosexuality and for initiating pro-homosexual school programs.

Another HRW resource is "Hatred in the Hallways: Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Students in U.S. Schools." This monograph, which calls for "gay"-positive school policies, claims that there are "more than 2 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth of school age," and that these children are at risk because of society's failure to accept their behavior as normal.

On its "LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] Factsheet," Human Rights Watch urges teens to:

  • "Start or help to start a Gay/Straight Alliance in your school";
  • "Organize a Youth Lobby Day to let your State Legislators know that this issue is important to you."
  • Send letters "to school board, state lawmakers, and representatives in Congress to urge them to adopt anti-discrimination policies and make your school safe for all kids."

Under the heading, "How to Start a Gay-Straight Alliance," HRW suggests finding "a faculty member to act as the GSA advisor. ... Sponsor events like guest speakers, gay theme films, library displays or even organize your own Pride Week that offers panel discussions, educational workshops, and a coming-out fest."

A call for defunding abstinence programs

The anti-abstinence report, "Ignorance Only," written by Rebecca Schleifer, specifically assails the Bush administration's advocacy of increased funding for abstinence programs.

"Federally funded abstinence-only programs interfere with fundamental rights guaranteed by international law, including the right to 'seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds' and the right to the highest attainable standard of health, and, indeed, may have dire consequences on the right to life. The failure to provide accurate information about prevention of HIV transmission needlessly puts children at risk of contracting this devastating and fatal disease." (Page 3)

The report equates condoms with "safe sex" and criticizes abstinence programs for discouraging teens' reliance on condoms. The report notes that abstinence programs point out the failure of condoms to stop such sexually transmitted diseases as Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and that consequently teens lose confidence in condoms. The report takes issue with claims made by abstinence programs that condoms have a high failure rate for preventing pregnancy.

Conspicuously absent are statistics about sexually transmitted diseases such as HPV, chlamydia and genital herpes, which infect millions annually and against which condoms are useless.

"The entire emphasis is on HIV prevention, as if that is the main threat to all U.S. teen-agers. The kids are being told they are 'safe' from AIDS without being told that they are almost guaranteed to come down with another STD," said Michael Schwartz, CWA's vice president for Government Relations.

A Planned Parenthood counselor interviewed by HRW laments that an abstinence media campaign in Texas left teens thinking "condoms aren't as safe as everybody seems to think."

Likewise, the report complains that the answers in an HHS publication about "tough questions" regarding homosexuality "characterize homosexual relationships as both unhealthy and wrong."

The author also is especially troubled that abstinence programs withhold some sexual information from children. She cites the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR -- to which the United States is a party, with some reservations) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which the United States has not ratified) as U.S. authority to allow children to "seek, receive and impart information of all kinds (ICCPR).

"So now so-called human rights includes protecting children and teens from abstinence and promoting homosexuality as normal?" asked Janice Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute and a U.S. delegate to the U.N. Children's Summit.

"Abstinence is certainly not a cause of HIV/AIDS or other sexually-transmitted diseases," Crouse said. "One of our responsibilities as adults is to protect children, and that includes helping to preserve their childhood and guard their innocence. Sex education programs that focus on condoms, infections and diseases are inappropriate for children, irrevocably robbing them of their innocence and producing fear by introducing them to adult situations that are statistically unlikely to affect mutually monogamous, married couples.

"May I remind these activists that the 'life-threatening catastrophe' of HIV/AIDS is caused by the behavior that they want to promote as normal? Complete and accurate information, of necessity, must include this fact," she said.

The article can be found on the Culture and Family website (link closed). The Culture and Family report is affiliated with the Concerned Women of America. Reprinted with permission.



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