Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Update on UN Disability Rights Convention Negotiations

See this page on Jurist for the latest; not much new since yesterday.

Here's the official release.

Again, Cory Silverberg has extensive coverage. Check out this post; excerpt:

It's hard to get news from disability organizations who are attending the talks as few are writing on line, but there are plenty of organizations that do not represent people with disabilities that are making their views known. The UN did put out this release today that indicated there were problems in the negotiations, but it leaves out the sex part. Other than that, we’re mostly hearing from self-serving, hypocritical politicians and religious leaders who are only interested in pushing their politico-religious agendas and obviously have no understanding of disability issues. Let's consider the most offensive and inane first:

The World Congress of Families (a pro-life organization whose goal is to "affirm that the natural human family is established by the Creator and essential to good society.") issued a press release "UN Convention on Disabled Raises Grave Concerns" that focuses on two elements of the current draft of the treaty: the one that states people with disabilities have a right to sexual and reproductive services, and the one that states that people with disabilities have a right to "experience their sexuality".

In order to establish that they’re the good guys who are on the side of people with disabilities (which clearly they are not) the head of the organization makes a most bizarre argument that the current wording of the treaty (wording which has definitely, and appropriately, been influenced by disability rights organizations) would result in reducing the protection of people with disabilities from euthanasia. From their press release:

"The treaty's danger lies in its ambiguous language. For instance, the International Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. in 1948, speaks of the 'worth' as well as the 'dignity' of the individual. By contrast, the Disability Treaty speaks only of their 'dignity,' but not their 'worth.' Since euthanasia advocates use the expression 'death with dignity,' there's a reasonable fear that a convention intended to secure their rights actually could lead to the killing of the disabled."

I'm not sure if this poor excuse for an argument works on anyone, but God help them if it does. Suggesting that a document on disability exclude the word "dignity" because crackpot organizations choose to use the term in their slogans is not an argument, it's a distraction. What are they trying to distract us from? Maybe it's their real interest in changing the treaty wording, although they don't hide that interest for long. A little further down in the press release is this gem:

"Finally, the draft document says those with disabilities have an unqualified right to "experience sexuality" and "have intimate sexual relations." "What does this mean?" Carlson [the organization's leader] asked. "In marriage or outside of marriage? Is there any age limitation? Does this establish a right to homosexual as well as heterosexual relations? For families, these undefined terms could be ticking time bombs.""

Ticking time bombs indeed. First they're going to want to have sex, then have gay sex, and then before you know it sex-pot people with disabilities will be the ones to tear down the fine institution of marriage.

Of course what pro-life organization isn’t going to step into the fray and tell people with disabilities (who by and large continue to be disproportionately affected by eugenics programs, and reproductive technology advocates that often walk a fine eugenic-ish line) how they should think and feel about abortion. From the release:

"The draft also recognizes a right of persons with disabilities to "reproductive health services," without defining the term. Said Carlson: "Proponents of abortion use the term to mean unhindered access to abortion. If that's what it means here, as it well may, the disabled -- whose own existence is threatened -- are being given the right to end the lives of others.""

It’s hard to figure out what Carlson is saying here about people with disabilities existence being threatened. It’s possible that he’s offering a cogent analysis of the dangers of euthanasia or reproductive technologies to the lives of people with disabilities. But I’m more inclined to think that Carlson assumes that everyone with a disability also has a life threatening illness. Either way, no one can accuse Carlson on this point of treating people with disabilities differently than he treats all women. No one in his book should have the right to control their bodies (well no one but Carlson himself).

And check out this one; excerpt:

Associated Press did release a piece today, which was at least an update of the immediately outdated story that Reuters ran a few days ago. But the article failed to outline the concrete problems being worked on in negotiations, and instead focused on the fine work of fiction U.S. mission spokesman Richard Grenell is writing for his children and grandchildren. Grenell is quoted in the AP article:

"The U.S. doesn't support a convention on disabilities because we have the most advanced protection of the disabled with the Americans with Disabilities Act…however, we strongly believe it is important for national governments to raise their standards and enact legislation that would protect their disabled populations."

If you want to know how effective and protective the ADA is, why not ask folks who are supposed to be protected by it. Here’s a spoiler: it’s not that effective.

Grenell’s quote, which is equal parts hypocritical and self-serving, is also completely disingenuous. If the US government really did care about the rights of people with disabilities, and if their legislation really is so much more progressive than anyone else’s (which it actually might be, I don’t know enough about international disability law to say for sure) why are they blocking a treaty that is attempting to enshrine these rights in a legally binding international document? And why hide behind countries like Nicaragua in their opposition?

While I’m quite sure the US government doesn’t care that much about the sexual rights of people with disabilities (and this current administration certainly doesn’t care for the idea that anyone should have access to sexual and reproductive services) it’s likely that the main reason for their opposition has to do not with sex, but with the only things that politicians care about more than sex: money and power. From the AP article:

"Last week, MacKay said he was concerned about resistance by the U.S. and six other countries to the monitoring mechanism. Their main objections centered on concerns about an increased burden on regulators and pressure on governments to constantly report back."

Basically, the US wants to make sure that this document won’t force them to start providing any more services than they already provide (or don’t provide, as the case may be) under the ADA.


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