"ICPD Beyond 2014: An Opportunity to Move Beyond Cultural Relativism"
The Arab caucus* is closely monitoring the language of Arab member states during the 47th Commission on Population and Development; and so far, we find that discourses of cultural relativism and sovereignty are being used at alarming rates in this session.
Culture is a dynamic and complicated process and does not have one single meaning. More importantly, it is unacceptable to use culture as a justification to deny women and youth their rights, specifically their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Member states should in fact commit to enact and implement laws and policies that respect and protect sexual and reproductive rights for all individuals without discrimination on any grounds. This includes ensuring equal access to a comprehensive, accessible, and integrated package of sexual and reproductive health services, and the realization of universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all adolescents and young people in and out of school. Culture also cannot be invoked in incidents of early and forced marriage, marital rape, sexual violence and violence in conflict situations, female genital mutilation, and other forms of gender-based violence, or to deny access to post-abortion health care for women.
Moreover, Arab member states must bear in mind that a developmental approach does not function as an alternative to the rights-based approach. In fact, any sustainable development model must be built on the fundamental principles of human rights, equality, non-discrimination, and social justice for all. Arab member states have responsibilities to promote, respect, protect and fulfill people’s rights to reproductive health, bodily integrity, as well as freedom from violence, as they are signatories of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Cairo Declaration: Development Challenges and Population Dynamics in a Changing Arab World. These obligations are not overridden by allegations of sovereignty.
*The Arab caucus consists of civil society organizations and alliances working nationally and regionally on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues and who are currently attending the CPD.