Holy See to UN: Children should not be ‘collateral victims’ of violence against women

The Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, which houses the meeting room of the UN Human Rights Council The Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, which houses the meeting room of the UN Human Rights Council./ Groov3 via Wikimedia (CC0 1.0).

The Holy See’s delegation at the United Nations in Geneva told the Human Rights Council last week that children conceived due to sexual violence should not be made “collateral victims” through abortion.

“The Holy See wishes to reaffirm the rights and dignity of children conceived as a result of sexual violence, beginning with their right to life,” the delegation’s statement said.

“These children should not become the collateral victims of the abhorrent violence perpetrated against women,” it added. “Rather, they need to be supported and loved.”

The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva presented the statement June 28, during the 47th regular session of the Human Rights Council, which is being held through July 13.

The Holy See’s statement was a response to a report by the special rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Special rapporteurs are independent human rights experts who work in conjunction with the Human Rights Council. They are not U.N. staff and serve on a voluntary basis.

“This year’s report specifically focuses on rape as a grave, systematic and widespread human rights violation,” the delegation noted. “As stated by Pope Francis, the crime of rape is ‘a most grave offense against the dignity of women, who are not only violated in body but also in spirit, resulting in a trauma hard to erase and with effects on society as well.’”

The statement continued: “On a broader scale, psychological violence, verbal violence, physical violence, and sexual violence are ‘acts of cowardice and a degradation of all humanity.’”

“It is widely recognized that the more the dignity of women is promoted and protected, the more so too for the family, the community and society,” the Holy See underlined. “Likewise, every time a woman suffers violence, it is the whole community and society itself that suffer.”

The Holy See said it is a moral duty to provide victims of violence with support and protection; and children conceived as a result of sexual violence should likewise be given attention and programs “to ensure their protection and to foster healing, reconciliation, and full integration in the society.”

“Respect for human life and for every person, from conception to natural death, is the starting point for overcoming a culture of violence,” the Holy See told the Human Rights Council.

On July 2, the Holy See gave a statement on children’s privacy rights, the subject of another report, underlining that “it is essential to avoid the risk of pitting the ‘rights of parents’ against the ‘rights of the child,’ as if they were conflicting sets of autonomous rules placed on an equal footing.”

“Such an approach fails to consider that all human rights must be at the service of the dignity of the human person,” the Holy See said.

“Children need their parents,” the delegation commented, adding that parents are fundamental to children’s integral human development, “guiding them as they mature in both their personal autonomy and responsibility within the family.”

The Holy See said that “authentic development must take into account all dimensions of the human person, including the intellectual, emotional, spiritual and moral levels. It must also recognize the progressive nature of human development.”

Parents’ capacity to monitor and control their children’s use of electronic devices is not a violation of children’s right to privacy but an essential means of promoting and protecting their rights and dignity, it continued, as well as a safety measure to ensure that they are not exploited.

The delegation expressed its “deep concern” about the approach of the special rapporteur, “in which the rights of the child are in opposition to the legitimate rights and responsibilities of parents.”

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“Instead, a positive approach is needed, one that embraces and supports the constructive and necessary role of parents in protecting and educating their children,” the Holy See said.

The Holy See also reiterated that international law does not recognize a so-called right to “reproductive sexual information and services” and the “‘mandatory parental notification and/or consent for prescribed contraceptives and abortion’ is not an infringement on the right to privacy of children but rather the right and duty of the parent in their evaluation of the best interests of their child.”

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