By Lisa Zengarini
Gender violence, the right to education, international solidarity and the right to privacy in the digital context, are amongst the topics that are being discussed at the 47th Session of the Human Rights Council taking place from 21 June to 13 July in Geneva.
In a statement to the meeting on gender violence, and specifically on rape, on June 28, the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva reiterated that silence over these crimes, impunity of abusers and impassivity or indifference are “intolerable” and that any violence against women, including domestic violence, constitutes “a grave violation of human rights”.
The right to life of children conceived as a result of sexual violence
At the same time, the Holy See reaffirmed the rights and dignity of children conceived as a result of sexual violence, beginning with their right to life. ”These children – it said - should not become the collateral victims of the abhorrent violence perpetrated against women. Rather, they need to be supported and loved”. ”Respect for human life and for every person, from conception to natural death, is the starting point for overcoming a culture of violence”, the Vatican statement reiterated.
Solidarity is more necessary than ever
Regarding international solidarity, which was discussed on 24 June, the Holy See emphasized that in this difficult time of pandemic the principle of solidarity “is more necessary than ever”, noting, with Pope Francis, that in addition to COVID-19, the “virus of individualism” has spread across the globe giving the illusion that the laws of the market or intellectual property could be placed over the laws of love and the health of humanity”. It therefore urged actors at all levels, including national and local authorities, international organizations and businesses, “to foster a spirit of mutual solidarity rather than competition and to commit themselves to seeking concrete and durable solutions to the challenges posed by isolationism”. In this regard the Holy See reiterated its call on States, multilateral agencies and private partners to implement a waiver on intellectual property rights in order to ensure universal access to Covid-19 care and vaccines.
Making education accessible to all
On the same day, the Vatican’s Permanent Mission intervened on the right to education calling for “a robust and holistic approach to education” and emphasizing the need of making education accessible to all. “The neglect and underfunding of the public educational system raise concern because a system whereby the accessibility of education is determined by a family’s wealth will have long-term negative impacts on society and further entrench inequalities along socio economic lines”, the statement noted. The Holy See also highlighted the fundamental role of parents in providing for quality education for their children, specifically with regard to their moral and religious formation. “Indeed parents have the right and responsibility to ensure that their children receive an adequate and holistic education that is capable of promoting the wellbeing of children in all of their human dimensions, including the physical, mental, moral, spiritual and social”, it said.
Parents' rights in educating their children
The right to privacy in the context of the digital world was discussed by the session on 2 July. On this issue, the Holy See emphasized that it is of the “utmost importance to address more effectively the protection of the dignity of children in the digital world”. To this end the it called for a closer cooperation and a “firm commitment” on the part of every member of society, “especially parents”, who are “fundamental to their integral human development”.There is
No right to reproductive sexual information and services, including abortion
In this regard the Vatican’s Permanent Mission warned against the negative approach “in which the rights of the child are in opposition to the legitimate rights and responsibilities of parents, saying a positive approach is needed instead “one that embraces and supports the constructive and necessary role of parents in protecting and educating their children”. Accordingly, the mandatory parental notification and/or consent for prescribed contraceptives and abortion should “not be considered an infringement on the right to privacy”, as “international law does not recognize a so-called right to "reproductive sexual information and services", the Holy See reiterated.