By Terrence McKeegan, J.D.
NEW YORK, NY, February 18, 2010 (C-FAM) – Last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) hosted the 4th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights. Plenary speakers included a United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary General, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Chief of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Africa Section, and the director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Liaison Office, as well as Dr. Jacqueline Sharpe, IPPF's President.
Major conference themes included promoting sexual education and sexual rights for young people, establishing closer links between “sexual rights” and “reproductive health rights,” transforming traditional cultural and religious norms about human sexuality, and advocating for legal abortion on demand throughout Africa.
Organizers focused on youth participation, hosting a “Youth Sexuality Institute” immediately prior to the conference, as well as homosexual lifestyle promotion. The steering committee report called for a “strong focus on issues of sexual pleasure/positive sexuality” and “strong involvement and engagement of LGBTIS” [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Intersex individuals].
Papers presented at the conference included “A Boy Can't Marry Another Boy: Adolescents [sic] boys talk about gay boys and men,”“'Good Catholics Use Condoms,”“Heterosexual anal sex in the age of HIV,”“MSM [men who have sex with men], Sex and the Internet in Nigeria,” and “Sexuality Life-Size: Body Mapping With Young Women and Men from the LGBTQI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Intersex] Community in Kenya.”
Abortion advocacy was another conference theme. The Center for Reproductive Rights launched the second volume of “Legal Grounds: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Africa Commonwealth Courts,” an advocacy guide pushing abortion liberalization and alternative sexual lifestyles in Africa.
Despite the controversial topics, the conference had the apparent support of the host government. Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis stressed in his keynote speech that “education curricula had to be opened up to include sexuality education to enable young people to know their bodies at an early age and to take responsible choices and decisions on issues related to sexual health.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Minister of Health for Ethiopia, was the “Patron” of the conference. Ghebreyesus was recently elected as Chairman of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, an enormous public/private partnership with over $18 billion dollars in committed funding. The Global Fund was the third largest worldwide donor of condoms in 2005-2006, behind UNFPA and the United States Agency for International Development.
Financial sponsors included the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) – a group backed by several European governments and American foundations whose roots are with the population control movement – and Nigeria's Action Health Incorporated, which promotes “comprehensive” youth sexual education.
Ethiopia has been praised by the global pro-abortion lobby for liberalizing its laws on abortion in 2006, with the ostensible goal of lowering rates of maternal mortality. Despite having liberalized its laws, Ethiopia has among the worst rates of maternal mortality on the African continent, according to World Health Organization statistics.