Notably one of the obstacles that the UN still faces today when it comes to eliminating the various abuses based on gender identities and sexual orientation, can be characterized by cultures’ extreme disapproval of any sexual orientation or gender identity that opposes the perceived norm that is rationalized in the subjective name of protecting the purity of children (Joseph, 1994). The nature of this obstacle runs parallel to why within some cultures adolescent sexuality is feared.
In Schalet’s (2004) article “Must we Fear Adolescent Sexuality”, she analyzes the boundaries of traditional religions’ infused morals that arguably inhibit sexual political liberation on the basis of the commonly expressed fear that it taints the innocence of children. After comparing the formation of sexuality and adolescence amongst a demographic that controls the media, politics, healthcare, and education within the U. S. nd the Netherlands, Schlaet found international data that refutes the culturally endorsed traditional wisdom in which Americans fear adolescence sexuality with sociological analysis.
Specifically, American parents sensationalize adolescent sexuality by highlighting the dramatic and conflicted aspects of sexuality, hormonal urges that overwhelm the individual, conflicts that put girls and boys at odds, and the fundamental divide between parents and teenagers that is required before parents to accept their children’s sexual relationships as legitimate.
Dutch parents however regularize teen sexuality by stressing teenagers’ capacity to define their own pace of sexual development and avoid unfavorable consequences, their sexual appetite within context of relationships that are reciprocated and loving, the straightforward nature in which sexuality can be discussed, and adolescent relationships integrated within the parental home. The study highlights that there isn’t necessarily a need to fear adolescent sexuality at all, as the Dutch are able to avoid the psychological, medical, familial, and economic “drama” of the sexual maturation of teenagers for Americans.
In order to mitigate the fear associated with protecting children’s rights in societies across the globe, perhaps normalizing variants in sexuality may be a strategy worth considering to liberate ourselves from the lingering repressive effects of the rise of the Bourgeoisie societies, especially as the UN attempts to ensure that children mature with the ability to empathize with people of any sexual orientation and gender identity. The UN can attempt to normalize gender and sexual fluidity across cultures by dissecting the origins of the stigma and fear at one of the roots of societal culture, the family unit.
As family cultures do not operate in a social or political void, the UN’s strategy could prove successful if it constitutes the normalization of human sexuality, similar to Schalet’s findings, by exploring the developmental self-regulatory capacities and responsibilities of particular ages; the norm that sex should take place in intimate relationships of mutual respect free of heteronormative biases; and, finally, the aspects of sexual inclinations should be a normal topic of discussion instead of grounds for apprehension and dishonesty.
Nonetheless, in order to progress to an explicit inclusion of a right to sexuality and uphold the proclamation adopted June 30, 2016, the UN must examine the intersection of stigma and the law. In order to analyze where the law can justly intervene to protect the birthrights of humans regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation, it’s critical to consider possible obstructions for future advocacy.
Because the origins of gender-based violence derive from societal constructions of feminine and masculine identities justified in the name of tradition, culture, privacy, and family, certain governments have intensified their efforts to deny or roll back any acknowledgement of them, using “cultural sovereignty” as a uniting cry and the lack of explicit reference to sexual orientation in international standards as their justification (Merry, 2009; Saiz, 2004).
The appeal to “cultural sovereignty” and “traditional values” as a justification for denying sexual orientation (alongside other sexual-rights) claims, has become all the more prevalent in response to the processes of “economic globalization and global cultural homogenization” (Saiz, 2004). For example, in the past letters circulated by their representatives in Geneva argued that the standard of nondiscrimination on grounds of sexual orientation cannot be considered as universally recognized as it does not explicitly appear in any UN treaty (Saiz, 2004).
They argued, furthermore, that sexual orientation, an “undefined term,” may be a lawful basis for discrimination to protect children and the family (Saiz, 2004). So the largest obstruction along the road to an explicit inclusion of a right to sexuality is the perception that sexuality is not a human rights issue but a social and cultural one, best left to each state to address within its own sovereign legal and social systems (Saiz, 2004). As a result, asserting sexual orientation as a source of universal rights is culturally divisive and therefore threatening to the UN consensus (Saiz, 2004).
Moreover, in order for the UN to establish an explicit right to sexuality, two main identified areas of improvement that would mitigate said obstructions are shifting focus to defending universality against cultural relativist attacks and formulating claims to universal rights in language that recognizes the significance of cross-cultural constructions of sexuality to confront limitations and biases in the way human rights law is interpreted and applied (Donnelly, 1984).
In order to progress the right to sexuality on a universal level, I believe the UN must equip themselves with empirical evidence to navigate cultural relativism. For the purposes of analysis, cultural relativism is defined as moral ethical views that vary amongst cultures but are equally valid in which no one system is “better” than any other (Donnelly, 1984). A gray area that the U. N. must navigate is that conceptually, a society that embraces the notion that there is no ultimate “right” or “wrong” loses the ability to pass any judgements at all (Donnelly, 1984).
Nonetheless, history supports that cultural relativism cannot overcome the boundaries of logic, nor can it override the sense of morality inherent to mankind (Donnelly, 1984). It is imperative for the UN to be capable of formulating claims to universal rights in language that recognizes the significance of cross-cultural constructions of sexuality to confront limitations and biases in the way human rights law is interpreted and applied in order to address the various loopholes that exist today.
Formulating such claims would require the UN to confront the issue of labelling by identifying how to name/define the categories to be protected by law while simultaneously moving away from binary categories inherent to non-discrimination norms (“men/women,” “homo/heterosexual”) and how culturally specific concepts such as “lesbian and gay” and “sexual minorities” challenge fixed universally applicable categorization necessary for arrangement in antidiscrimination mechanisms (Saiz, 2004).
One example of this discrepancy is how in some regions differential treatment is not considered discrimination if the criteria for differentiation are “reasonable and objective,” and has a purpose deemed “legitimate” under international standards (Saiz, 2004). While addressing these loopholes that exist due to a lack of explicit inclusion in UN treaties may appear to be minute, specific word choice and the details of any law has the potential to pose a significant impact on people’s lives.
In 2011, something as mundane as the right to kiss was not protected nor ensured in the United Kingdom despite the existence of legislation that outlaws homophobic discrimination (Hubbard, 2013). Hubbard (2013) article “Kissing is Not a Universal Right: Sexuality, Law, and The Scales of Citizenship” analyzed how nationally recognized rights to sexual orientation doesn’t always translate into equal rights.
Because legislation that outlaws homophobic discrimination typically fails to account for loopholes, a display of a same-sex kiss was removed from a licensed premise in the UK as the couple was bombarded with appeals to public orderliness reinforced by municipal law. This was possible because although, citizenship is recognized as the ‘right to have rights’, the association fostered between the individual, state, and community by definition asserts that the right cannot be extended to all (Aredt, 1986).
Since citizenship is intrinsically an exclusionary concept, rights linked with citizenship are appropriately imbued with understandings of applicable identities (Isin, 2011). Furthermore, queer assessments have reasoned that this model citizen is ‘heterosexualised’, with particular rights of a person controlling their own life in addition to sexual autonomy is denied for any individual whose sexualities vary from the heterosexual ideal (Richardson, 1998; Bell and Binnie, 2002).
One example of how moral panic continues to meddle in political affairs that enables the existence of various loopholes, is how the state removes rights away from individuals that are classified as “citizen-perverts”, as their existence and sexual inclinations fall outside culturally defined parameters of sexual orientations that are regarded as “healthy and holy”.
As Bell (1995) explicitly states, “the figure of the citizen-pervert operates, then, as a constant reminder of the limits of the spaces of sexual citizenship; a figure tucked between the rigid notions of public and private, between sin and crime, disrupting, destabilizing, disordering” (p. 150).
Overall, because of the exclusionary nature of citizenship, the UN’s explicit right to sexuality must inherently ensure sexual citizenship as defined above. In order for the UN to understand how to ensure sexual citizenship with an explicit inclusion of a right to sexuality, it’s critical to understand how culture is embrained (Mu, Kitayama, Han, & Gelfand, 2015) & the human response to the effects of violation of social norms.