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Gender agreement adopted by EU Council. Poland in defense of the right to life and against the deconstruction of traditional norms

Published: 24.08.2023

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· The Council of the European Union has decided on the signing and provisional application of the Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States. The EU is expected to sign the Agreement itself in the coming months.

· The Agreement, known as the Post Cotonou Agreement, is a framework treaty governing economic, trade and political relations between the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States - OACPS.

· Primarily regulating issues related to the economy or the fight against poverty, the agreement also includes a commitment to implement a gender perspective in legal orders, deconstruct traditional social norms and promote the concept of so-called sexual and reproductive rights.

· In addition, the act introduces certain mechanisms whereby the EU-OACPS Council of Ministers will be empowered to make binding decisions on behalf of the parties.

· The Post-Cotonou Agreement is significant as it covers more than 20 percent of the world's population, including all EU countries and the 79 OACPS member states.

· In its submitted position, the Polish delegation stressed, among other things, that it opposes deriving from "reproductive rights" the so-called right to abortion.

The Partnership Agreement between the European Union (EU) and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), is a treaty primarily regulating economic and trade relations, between the two organizations. It is also referred to as the Post Cotonou Agreement, as it is intended to replace an earlier international agreement, adopted in 2000 for 20 years and signed in the African city of Cotonou, the largest center and seat of government in Benin.

Work on the new version of the agreement began in 2016, when the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy adopted a joint communication on the partnership, and formal negotiations began in September 2018. The Agreement under discussion is a very important part of the international order, which is primarily due to the fact that it will apply to all EU member states and the 79 OACPS member states. As a result, it will cover more than 20% of the world's population.

The Council of the European Union has agreed to sign and provisionally apply the Agreement. It is expected to be in force for the next 20 years, regulating many important issues in various fields such as sustainable development or peace and security.

The Agreement establishes new principles of cooperation and covers the following priority areas:

· Human Rights, Democracy and Governance;
· peace and security;
· social development;
· inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development;
· environmental sustainability and climate change;
· migration and mobility.

However, the Post-Cotonou Agreement is controversial, as in addition to norms relating to matters of economic and trade relations, it contains many provisions of an ideological nature, deeply interfering in the cultural, legal and health spheres of the parties. In the text of the Agreement alone, the term gender appears as many as 60 times in many different configurations, such as gender equality, gender perspective and gender-based violence.

According to Article 1 para. 3(a), contained in the general section of the agreement, one of its objectives is to "promote, protect and respect human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance, with particular emphasis on gender equality in a gendered context" (gender equality).

In turn, in Article 2 para. 5, which defines the "principles," i.e., the most important norms pertaining to the implementation of the agreement, states that the parties are obliged to systematically promote the "gender perspective" (gender perspective) and ensure that "gender equality" (gender equality) is implemented at all levels of policy pursued by the state parties.

Article 10, devoted entirely to "gender equality," contains a number of ideological provisions, including, among others, a commitment by the parties to achieve gender equality (gender equality, Article 10(1)) or to combat "gender-based violence" and "deeply rooted gender bias" (deeply rooted gender bias, Article 10(4)).

In addition to the gender theme, the Agreement contains other troubling provisions relating to so-called "reproductive and sexual health and rights" (SRHR, sexual and reproductive health and rights). Article 29 para. 5, in fact, contains a commitment by states parties to promote universal access to so-called sexual and reproductive health services, including full access to family planning services, to conduct reproductive and sexual health education and information campaigns, and to implement the concept of reproductive and sexual health in strategies and programs implemented at the nation-state level. Similar wording can be found in Article 36, para. 2, where states parties pledge to work for health and reproductive and sexual rights in the context of the provisions of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development as well as the final documents of their review conferences. In this context, it is worth noting that some circles are trying to bring within the scope of this concept the so-called right to abortion on demand. In addition, under Article 88 para. 5, the EU-OACPS Council of Ministers will be authorized to take decisions on behalf of the states parties, which will, in principle, be binding on them.

In its position, Poland noted that the Post-Cotonou Agreement is incompatible with the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, to the extent that it replaces the Treaty principle of "equality between women and men" with the new and extra-treaty phrase "gender equality."

According to the adopted position, where the Agreement stipulates "gender equality," Poland will interpret the principle in question as "equality between women and men," in accordance with Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty on European Union, and Article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.In addition, Poland interprets the term "gender," included in this Agreement and not found in any of the above treaties, as "sex," meaning biological sex, in accordance with Articles 10, 19(1) and 157(2) and (4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Representatives of the Republic of Poland also noted that Poland understands reproductive and related rights exclusively as activities that are aimed directly at promoting and saving human health and life.

Accordingly, Poland opposes deriving abortion and the use of contraception from them as forms of health promotion, family planning or guaranteeing human rights.For abortion is not a human right, but a form of deprivation of the right to life. With regard to so-called "sex education," Poland understands it as age-appropriate and content-appropriate education, in accordance with the relevant Polish law and curricula based on it.

"I deserve special praise for the position taken by Poland's representatives, who drew attention to the need for clear terminology and emphasized the importance of the most important of human rights, namely the right to life, which stands in clear contradiction to the currently pushed so-called right to abortion," stressed Patryk Ignaszczak of the Ordo Iuris Center for International Law.

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