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UN Accused of Subverting Sexual Protections for Minors - UN Denies as Experts, Fact-Checkers Say Untrue

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CLARIFICATION, April 28, 2023: The Associated Press has fact-checked articles like this one, ruling “false” the claim that a U.N. report calls for decriminalizing sexual activity between adults and minors.

“A report published in March by the International Commission of Jurists in collaboration with the U.N.’s AIDS agency called for enforcing minimum age of consent laws in a non-discriminatory manner,” the April 21 fact check said. “It did not call for decriminalizing all sexual activity between minors and adults, spokespersons for the U.N. and the commission confirmed.”

The AP is correct that the report “did not call for decriminalizing all sexual activity between minors and adults.” However, the final paragraph in the section titled “Principle 16 – Consensual Sexual Conduct” could be read as encouraging the decriminalization of some sexual activity between minors and adults:

“Moreover, sexual conduct involving persons below the domestically prescribed minimum age of consent to sex may be consensual in fact, if not in law. In this context, the enforcement of criminal law should reflect the rights and capacity of persons under 18 years of age to make decisions about engaging in consensual sexual conduct and their right to be heard in matters concerning them. Pursuant to their evolving capacities and progressive autonomy, persons under 18 years of age should participate in decisions affecting them, with due regard to their age, maturity and best interests, and with specific attention to non-discrimination guarantees.”

The AP, however, cites two experts and a U.N. statement contending that is not the case.

This article and its headline have been revised to reflect a broader view of the report.

A Switzerland-based group has issued a report urging nations to end the criminalization of various acts — the most notable being certain instances of sex with a minor who supposedly consents to the activity.

The report was created by the International Committee of Jurists, alongside the United Nations group UNAIDS and the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to a news release from UNAIDS.

The report urged an end to criminal laws that prohibit acts that the groups deem human rights.

The report listed eight such “Principles” and urged the removal of laws criminalizing the following:

  1. Contraception and acts harmful to unborn children, such as alcohol and drug use
  2. Obtaining, assisting in, or providing an abortion
  3. Sexual conduct with a consenting minor and same-sex relations
  4. Prostitution or “sex work”
  5. Obtaining, assisting in, or providing gender-affirming care
  6. Non-disclosure of HIV status resulting in another’s exposure to HIV
  7. Drug use, possession, purchase, or cultivation for personal use
  8. Begging, sleeping, cooking, washing, urinating or defecating in public
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Attempts to criminalize the acts amount to “human rights violations,” according to the report.

The report also suggested that these criminal laws are faulty because they rely on claims of “cultural, traditional or community values or religious beliefs, or stated threats to the rights and reputation of others, national security, public order, public morals or public health.”

Such claims are “illegitimate,” the report argues.

Of the eight principles, the most alarming demand was in calling for the decriminalization of sexual acts involving consenting persons under the minimum age of consent.

Is the United Nations a good organization?

The idea behind contemporary age-of-consent laws is that young people are not legally competent to make a responsible decision about whether to engage in sexual activity, particularly with an older partner. Currently, the age of consent to sex in the U.S. is generally between 16 and 18 years, depending on the state.

But according to the report, sexual conduct involving “persons below the domestically prescribed minimum age of consent” may “be consensual in fact,” even if the law says it’s not.

“In this context, the enforcement of criminal law should reflect the rights and capacity of persons under 18 years of age to make decisions about engaging in consensual sexual conduct and their right to be heard in matters concerning them,” the report states.

Laws should instead reflect the “evolving capacities and progressive autonomy” of minors to make the decision to participate in sexual acts, “with due regard to their age, maturity
and best interests, and with specific attention to non-discrimination guarantees,” the report says.

That section of the report drew widespread criticism on social media as a blurring of age of consent laws.

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Regarding sex, the report went on to urge the decriminalization of “sex work” and limit laws regarding HIV transmission.

The report argued against criminal laws that punish prostitutes who perform sexual services, “whether in a public or private place,” as well as any third party who may benefit in any way from such services.

In cases of HIV exposure from someone HIV-positive, the report suggested that criminal law “should be limited” to cases where those involved knew they had HIV and intentionally transmitted it to another person.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV is a disease that attacks the immune system. Once contracted, it cannot be cured. Without treatment, it can lead to AIDS, which is a severe form of HIV that can be fatal.

Overall, most of the principles proposed by the organization have been implemented throughout states and cities across the U.S.

The organizations urged those in authority to take note of their proposed principles, which they said “should be of immediate relevance to certain critical audiences.”

This audience included politicians, administration officials, prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials, policymakers, members of oversight committees and academic institutions, among others listed.

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