Are Urophilia and Partialism Human Rights? Print
By Austin Ruse   
Thursday, 18 December 2008

Yesterday the French government released a statement in the Third Committee of the General Assembly calling on the United Nations to consider “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” new categories of non-discrimination in U.N. human rights treaties. Sixty-five governments joined France in the effort, which has kicked over a hornet’s nest.

France and her allies have the rhetorical upper hand. They insist their effort is only about protecting homosexuals from execution simply for being homosexual. And France’s allies are accusing their opponents of supporting the killing of homosexuals. The Vatican came under brutal attacks two weeks ago for opposing the measure. An Italian homosexual group accused the Vatican of saying “It is normal to kill a homosexual.”

It’s true that some countries have unacceptably draconian laws, including the death penalty, for homosexual behavior. But this exists in only a few countries and is to be condemned. Up to ninety countries, however, have laws against homosexual behavior, a group that included the United States until a few years ago, because a sufficient case can be made that homosexual behavior is harmful to the individual and also to the common good. The penalties for homosexual behavior should not be jail time, but having some laws on the books, even if unenforced, would help society to teach what is good, and also would prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.

But this French campaign is about more than stopping the death penalty and other legal punishments for homosexual activity. It is about importing dangerous new rights into a U.N. treaty-monitoring system that is already groaning under the weight of new ideas of human rights. So sullied has the idea of human rights become that a few years ago a radical feminist claimed a human rights violation when her picture was taken at a U.N. meeting. Human rights claims have to a great degree become merely silly, and in this world that is a dangerous thing.

What France is proposing is that a wholly new category of human rights be enforced by the United Nations and its global mechanisms for enforcing such rights. First, it is not necessary since homosexuals are already covered in all human rights treaties. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), for instance, refers to “all individuals.” All U.N. human rights treaties use such all-inclusive language – “all people” and “everyone.” Homosexuals in so far as they are people like anyone else are already covered.

What they want, though, is for human rights treaties to change the traditional understandings of institutions such as marriage. The ICCPR, for instance, ensures “the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and found a family.” If homosexuality were read into the treaty as a category of non-discrimination, along with such established categories as race, color, sex, language, and religion, then permitting homosexual marriage would be required of states that have ratified the treaty, including the United States.

The French statement goes even further, however, in calling for those states and individuals who “violate human rights based on sexual orientation or gender identity” to be investigated, charged, and prosecuted. According to an unpublished paper from the Vatican, under a not so broad interpretation of this clause a minister who preaches that homosexual behavior is unacceptable in his religion would be open to sanctions.

And then there is the problem with the terms themselves. “Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” have never been defined by any inter-governmental body and certainly never by the United Nations, and this leaves the door wide open for later interpretation by ideological U.N. committees. Do you happen to know how many sexual behaviors the American Psychiatric Association has identified? Twenty-three.

They include the usual and now sadly ho-hum heterosexuality, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, and transgenderism. But the list also includes something called “frotteurism” which is the “touching and rubbing against a non-consenting person.” Also included is something called “autogynephilia” which is “the sexual arousal of a man by his own perception of himself as a woman or dressed as a woman.” There are others like “telephone scatalogia,” “urophilia,” “coprophilia,” and “partialism.” You don’t need to know about any of these.

Is it so hard to imagine how far U.N. experts would eventually go in defining the phrase “sexual orientation?” Dare I say that this is the slipperiest of slopes?

The good news is that after the French announced their statement with most of their support coming from Europe, a coalition of countries from the developing world issued their own statement with almost as many co-sponsors saying quite sensibly that such controversial topics should not be left up to the U.N. General Assembly. but to sovereign states.

Now there’s a radical idea.


Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy
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