The President of El Salvador, Elias Antonio Saca, affirmed at an Ibero-American leaders’ summit late last month that his country would not sign the Ibero-American Convention on the Rights of Youth (ICRY), as it violated El Salvador’s Constitution. His decision cheered Latin American social conservatives who have been wary of articles in the Convention that they say promote homosexuality and abortion.
The ICRY is backed by Spain’s socialist president, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and has the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Proponents tout the treaty as enhancing the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Critics focus on provisions like Article 25, which labels “sexual and reproductive health” a “right” and calls for “confidentiality” with respect to this right. “Sexual and reproductive health” is used by United Nations (UN) committees and UN agencies to promote abortion. They also point out that Article 23 mandates a “right to sexual education” that includes “full acceptance” of the youth’s “identity,” a term another article defines as including “sexual orientation.” Given that the ICRY encompasses minors within the scope of “youth,” critics view the Convention as undermining parental rights and the family unit.
While President Saca’s constitutional objections concern provisions of the Convention that would allow youths to evade military service and forbid capital punishment of adults under the age of 24, the Salvadorian Constitution also states that the family is the fundamental base of society and entitled to protection by the State, language similar to that used in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Although El Salvador rejected the ICRY, the nations participating in the 18th Annual Iberoamerican Summit also issued a non-binding “Declaration of San Salvador” and a corresponding Program of Action that critics find ambiguous and therefore troubling. The Declaration calls for education in “sexual and reproductive health,” and, though it does not mention “sexual orientation,” calls for an open-ended “Ibero-American Year Against All Forms of Discrimination.”
Critics also point out that neither the Declaration nor the Program of Action were circulated publicly in draft form prior to their release, despite calls that governments do so to allow for greater citizen input. Julia Cardenal, a Salvadorian pro-life and pro-family activist, asked if the summit documents were “such a good thing for youth, why was everything done so secretly?” While she credits the Declaration for stating that sexual education should be conducted in conformity with the “moral values and internal legislation of each country,” she told the Friday Fax that the Declaration would have been stronger had such language been incorporated elsewhere in the document as well.
The ICRY went into effect in March of this year, when Costa Rica became the fifth country to ratify it. In addition to El Salvador, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia have refused to sign the ICRY, and Peru’s legislature debated and rejected ratification. Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua have also balked at ratifying the Convention.