GENEVA, Switzerland—It's no surprise that President George W. Bush was no fan of human rights, and when the United Nations passed its Resolution 60/251 in 2006, establishing the "Universal Periodic Review" (UPR), which looks at the human rights records of all 192 member nations, Bush declined to send any delegation and refused to allow the U.S. to take part in it.
But with the Obama administration now in charge of such policies, the U.S. has joined the review, which began on Nov. 1 and will continue through Nov. 12, for the first time this year. Although the UPR has no enforcement powers, it is supposed to act as the "world's moral conscience on human rights."
It is expected that a three-hour session devoted to the U.S., scheduled for Friday, will take the current and former administrations to task for the various war crimes they've committed (and in some cases continues to commit) regarding torturing captives from its two ongoing wars, the government's continued use of the Guantanamo prison, its death penalty and immigration policies, its treatment of racial and religious minorities ... and thanks to the Woodhull Freedom Foundation (WFF), the delegates have heard and will further hear how the U.S. government suppresses sexual freedom in America.
WFF's human rights program director, RJ Thompson, one of the keynote speakers at the organization’s Sexual Freedom Day on Sept. 23, has joined a delegation of NGO (non-governmental organization) advocates attending the UPR to talk about governmental suppression of its citizens' rights to sexual expression and conduct.
"Our presence at the UN is a powerful statement of our vision of affirming sexual rights as integral part of a broader human rights framework, and an exciting benchmark in the international discussion on sex and sexual freedom," said Ricci Joy Levy, WFF president and CEO. "This is a very big week for Woodhull, and we couldn't be more excited about RJ's work."
Thompson, an attorney, is uniquely qualified to be part of the delegation, having spent several years highlighting gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and sex worker health issues. He successfully lobbied to pose a sexual rights recommendation during the U.S. portion of the review, questioned the U.S. government representatives at a Town Hall Meeting, and strengthened Woodhull's participation in the "Human Rights at Home" campaign by emphasizing the pressing need for the United States to ratify such treaties as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), most of which had been opposed by the Bush administration as well as conservative and fundamentalist groups.
"Our advocacy and the advocacy of our allies this week in Geneva was a great success," Thompson reported. "States posed questions and recommendations to the U.S. on a wide range of human rights concerns, including reproductive rights, LGBT rights and sex workers' issues. This was a historic review for many reasons, including the fact that we had the rare opportunity to raise economic, social and cultural rights issues despite the fact that the U.S. has not ratified the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, thanks to the fact that the UPR considers the entirety of a country's human rights obligations, including those under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Indeed, dozens of U.N. member countries insisted that the U.S. establish an independent non-partisan National Human Rights Commission in accordance with the 1991 "Paris Principles."
"As part of the Human Rights at Home Campaign, Woodhull will be fully engaged in this work once we return home," Thompson assured.
Pictured: WFF President Ricci Joy Levy (left) and all-around sexpert Nina Hartley