Yesterday, Stonewall Scotland took to Twitter to deny that they support the lowering of the age of consent. The accusation was prompted by the discovery of a shadowy conference paper which appears to open the door to child abuse. The document was signed and promoted by ILGA World, an international organisation of which Stonewall Scotland are members.
Supporters of Stonewall Scotland have suggested this is a cynical attempt to link LGBT groups with paedophilia; a modern manifestation of the smear that gay men are more likely to abuse children. But underscoring claims and counter claims is a morally repugnant document that has been promoted internationally by well-funded bodies with links across the world.
In 2020, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, 200 NGOs signed a so-called ‘feminist declaration’ which calls for the removal of laws prohibiting sex with or between adolescents, the abolition of laws prohibiting of certain forms of violence against women and the full decriminalisation of prostitution.
Here, couched in the language of human rights, is a call for a reduction in the age of consent.
ILGA World promoted the document describing it as “an alternative to the political declaration that outlines the steps necessary to achieve gender equality.” ILGA World is a global federation of more than 1,600 organisations from over 150 countries and territories “campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex human rights.” It counts amongst its UK membership a host of unions, Stonewall, Mermaids and even the British Council.
The ‘feminist declaration’ was the work of the Women’s Caucus, a collection of organisations which lobby on the fringes of the UN. The declaration is hosted on the website of the New York based NGO, the International Women’s Health Commission (IWHC). IWHC are described on their website as co-conveners of the Women’s Caucus. According to their most recent financial report, one of IWHC’s most generous donors is the Open Society Foundations (OSF) which gave in excess of $100,000 in 2018-19. OSF donate to many organisations which call for the full decriminalisation of the sex industry, and the replacement of sex-based rights with those based on gender identity.
One particularly troubling excerpt reads: “Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex or sexual and reproductive health services.”
Despite sending requests for clarification to both the UN and to IWHC, no response has been forthcoming regarding the legal status of the document nor of the constitution of the Women’s Caucus.
One particularly troubling excerpt reads:
“Eliminate all laws and policies that punish or criminalize same-sex intimacy, gender affirmation, abortion, HIV transmission non-disclosure and exposure, or that limit the exercise of bodily autonomy, including laws limiting legal capacity of adolescents, people with disabilities or other groups to provide consent to sex or sexual and reproductive health services.”
Here, couched in the language of human rights, is a call for a reduction in the age of consent. The World Health Organisation define adolescence as occurring between the ages of 10-19. Furthermore, the phrase “sexual and reproductive health services” ushers in the possibility of commercial sexual exploitation of adolescents in surrogacy and prostitution.
Elsewhere in the document there is a commitment to “replacing punitive laws with comprehensive social interventions” with regard to issues including “female genital mutilation, domestic and intimate partner violence, and child, early and forced marriage.” This would seem to be a call for decriminalisation of some the most pernicious forms of violence against women and children.
Interestingly, the UN has some qualms about the type organisations with which they will work. Those who promote what are in effect laws that could lead to the rape of children are welcomed into the fold. Whereas grassroots organisations which promote women’s sex-based rights are not to be tolerated.
The Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) are a group pushing against the “replacement of sex with ‘gender identity’ on the grounds that it undermines women and girls’ rights.” Funded entirely by donations, WHRC paid $1,500 to exhibit at a virtual forum for NGOs and be included in the forum handbook. On 26 March 2021 the WHRC were removed from the online space on the grounds that they had ‘disrupted discussion’ during an event and made ‘offensive comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, physical appearance, political affiliation, age, race, national and/or ethnic origin, immigration status, language, religion, or indigeneity’. WHRC co-ordinator, Jo Brew, contests this;
“My only comment in chat during the whole event was that the opening meeting was inspiring” she said. “It is impossible for me to have done the things that they say that I have. Chat transcripts from conference events would confirm this.”
The story here extends far beyond lobby groups like ILGA and Stonewall. The Women’s Caucus document could legitimately be recognised as rolling-back every gain feminists have made over the past two hundred years. It is clear there are a host of organisations working at an international level to undermine basic human rights and moral boundaries.
Jo Bartosch is a writer and campaigner for the rights of women and girls.