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UN experts stress rights to sexual and reproductive health and free schooling


UN experts stress rights to sexual and reproductive health and free schooling

Countries worldwide should not shrink from confronting sensitive issues of sexual and reproductive health, and all nations should provide free public primary schooling, according to two United Nations human rights reports.

The Special Rapporteur on the right of all to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt, told the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva meeting yesterday that his report this year had three main themes: neglected diseases, poverty and sexual and reproductive health.

The rights to sexual and reproductive health had an indispensable role to play in the struggle against poverty, HIV/AIDS, gender inequality and intolerance, Mr. Hunt said. They were among the most sensitive and controversial in international human rights law, but they were also among the most important.

Representatives from some countries took issue with Mr. Hunt's focus on sexual orientation as it related to health, saying the topic appeared to fall beyond his mandate.

In reply, Mr. Hunt said it was important that his mandate be relevant, and an abiding concern in the international community at the moment was the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which involved meeting targets on preventing HIV/AIDS and maternal and infant mortality, all of them intimately linked to sexual and reproductive health, by 2015.

Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Katarina Tomasevski, said not even half the world's governments ensured free primary education due to the higher importance placed upon military and defence spending.

"The illogic of expecting education to eliminate poverty while those too poor to afford the cost are excluded necessitates open recognition and urgent action," Ms. Tomasevski added, noting that primary education is free in only three African countries while none of the developed nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) charges for compulsory schooling.

"Denial of children's right to education cannot be retroactively remedied," she says in her annual report, the last she is presenting to the Commission. "The right to education operates as multiplier, it unlocks all other human rights when guaranteed and forecloses them all when denied."