An alliance made up of Iran, Russia and Egypt has threatened to derail a UN declaration urging an end to violence against women and girls by objecting to language concerning LGBT rights and reproduction.
Reuters reports delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women are racing to reach a deal on a final document by Friday.
However, it’s claimed Russia, the Vatican, Iran and other conservative Islamic states object to references regarding emergency contraception, abortion, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and LGBT rights.
“There’s this sort of unholy alliance… coming together to oppose language on sexual health, reproductive rights and LGBT rights,” one senior unnamed UN diplomat said. “It’s tough going, but progress is being made.”
He added: “People recognise that if there’s a failure again this year to get an outcome document, then the whole future of the status of women commission is at risk.”
UN sources believe LGBT inclusion is unlikely to feature in the final document.
Egypt has proposed an amendment that would allow countries to avoid implementing recommendations if they clashed with national laws, religious or cultural values.
Some diplomats and human rights activists believe the Egypt amendment undermines the entire declaration by allowing states to ignore calls to end cultural and religious practices, such as female genital mutilation.
Western human rights advocates say the idea of cultural tradition is often used to justify abuse of women and homophobic persecution.
Meanwhile, Russia’s opposition to language on sexual, reproductive and gay rights appears to be driven by what critics have described as a bid by President Vladimir Putin to shore up support in his country’s largely conservative society.
Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also recently cited low birth rates in Russia and Iran as one possible reason for their stance on reproductive rights.