by Susan Yoshihara, C-Fam
UNICEF says that nations are bound by international law to recognize the right of children to sexually-related information and services without parental knowledge.
UNICEF's latest annual report revealed that it interprets two UN human rights treaties–on disabilities and children's rights–to include a child's right "to confidential sexual and reproductive health information and services during adolescence and into early adulthood." UNICEF defines adolescence as 10 to 19 years of age.
Neither treaty mentions such a right, but in 2009 the committee that monitors the Children's treaty began interpreting it such that children must have access “without parental consent” to “reproductive health education or services,” a term often used by UN staff to include abortion. In 2010 the Vatican upbraided the committee that monitors the treaty for misinterpreting it.
The circumvention of parents on sexual matters is in sharp contrast with the rest of the report that emphasizes the primary role of the family in protecting disabled children. It recommends removing children from institutions which it says are "poor substitutes for a nurturing home life," and calls for an immediate moratorium on new admissions and promotion of services to support family-based care.
Only in the family do the youngest disabled children receive the "love, sensory stimulation, health care and social inclusion" that prevent significant social and economic implications, the report says. It recommends subsidies to offset the high cost of raising a disabled child, such as cash grants that "respect the decision making rights of parents and children." It notes the "pivotal role" of parents' organizations in making sure that children with disabilities are "valued, cherished and supported" by their families and communities.
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