Published October 21, 2009
In case you weren't sure, human gender is "changeable over time and contexts," sex slaves must not be "stigmatized" for their work, and it's important to recognize the role of "transgender and intersex individuals as stakeholders" in counterterrorism policy.
Those are some of the conclusions of a United Nations report on counterterrorism that is intended to promote human rights — but that critics say is designed to redefine gender and hamstring actual counterterror efforts.
Martin Scheinin, a special rapporteur for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, filed his report in August after six months of studying the "complex relationship between gender equality and countering terrorism."
Scheinin recommends a radical reworking of counterterrorism policies, insisting that the U.N.'s member nations "abandon the 'war paradigm'" and "enshrine the principles of gender-equality and non-discrimination in the design and implementation of all counter-terrorism measures."
Among his proposals:
• "Repeal all counter-terrorism measures" that sanction the ill-treatment of women and children as a way to put pressure on terror suspects within their families.
• Loosen terror financing laws to ensure "safe and effective channels for funding ... of organizations devoted to gender equality"
• "Repeal restrictive immigration controls" that violate human rights by "unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change" as their "self-defined gender identity" changes.
Critics say the suggestions are part of an "absolutely insane" agenda at the U.N. that too often seems intent on undermining efforts to blot out terrorism across the globe.
"I would be surprised and disturbed if the U.S. took any of these recommendations seriously," said Steven Groves, a fellow and international law expert at the Heritage Foundation.
"It seems an inescapable conclusion that their desire is to greatly weaken any effective counterterrorism measure that is made by the U.S. or its allies."
The report criticized enhanced security checks "that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny [and] make transgender persons" — who might also be crossdressing — "susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion."
"Once you put them into a form of an overall policy what you do is undermine the nature of counterterrorism," said Herb London, president of the Hudson Institute. "You're trying to thwart the ability of those to counter terrorist activity."
Scheinin is set to present his findings Monday morning to the U.N.'s 3rd Committee, which helps set policy on social and cultural issues and oversees the Human Rights Council for the world body.
The Finnish law professor has been a special rapporteur since 2005. This year he visited Egypt as part of his mandate for the 47-member Council, and criticized countries like Somalia and Pakistan for selling out women's rights to arrange a tenuous peace with Islamic militants.
Legal experts said it was important to consider the effects of security measures on human rights, including the question of gender.
"It does not strike me as ridiculous ... to look at policies through the lens of gender," said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Wittes noted that gender issues — including the Taliban's vicious treatment of women — have made it virtually impossible for Western nations and Pakistan to have normal relations with the Taliban.
"That's not an inconsiderable criticism — it's a valid criticism," he said. But Wittes added that to place "gender rights at the center of (counterterrorism policy) is kind of an absurd proposition" that he said made the report ridiculous.
Schienen did not return requests for comment.
Past reports from the special rapporteur have focused on many issues relating to women — including the challenges faced by pregnant Palestinians trying to cross border checkpoints and the effects of counterterror measures on Chechnyan women.
But U.N. watchers say the new report is a confused amalgamation of important issues like women's rights and tangential ones that have very little real application, including Scheinin's demand that invasions like the U.S.'s "war on terror" in Afghanistan be "actually responsive to the concerns of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals in local contexts."
London, of the Hudson Institute, said that it was hopeless to look for moral guidance from a body composed of some of the world's most brutal and repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia and China.
"The Human Rights Council and the nations that are represented on it, they're clearly involved in human rights violations," London told Foxnews.com. "They're going to be the arbiters of human rights?"
The Third Committee will hear reports from a number of its 36 special rapporteurs and pass on some of their recommendations to the General Assembly.
The committee hearings do not provide the force of law for Schienen's proposals, but some critics of the report say it represents a "stealth effort" to change international law and the meaning of gender by fiat.
"There might have been value in a report that addressed how counterterrorism efforts interact with the rights of women," said Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.
"But by burdening this report with these extreme forms of social engineering, it makes the report kind of laughable."