On this sunny Thursday morning, there are a few things that leave a lasting first impression on the WHO committee: the seemingly endless discussion table, the fervent rising of the placards in the air, and the building tension between some of the delegations present.

The topic to be discussed in this committee is none other than “Health and Gender”, where the importance and intersection of these two were brought up by a number of the delegations present and was clearly explained by Antonio Guterres: “the COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone, everywhere. But it affects different groups of people differently, deepening existing inequalities. Early data indicates that the mortality rates from COVID-19 may be higher for men. But the pandemic is having devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls.” 

At the same time, health is also closely related to women’s bodily autonomy and their right and ability to make the choices they believe are right, such as abortion. This sentiment is clearly not mirrored by the Delegation of Poland, who stated in their opening speech that an unborn child is a human being that has human consciousness and only considers the termination of the pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, or when it’s life-threatening. At the same time, the Delegation of Poland strongly opposed same-sex marriage under the implications that it was not moral nor ethical. This opinion was further elaborated by the Delegation of Ethiopia — according to them, same-sex marriages not only appear immoral but are also illegal.

The previous statements caused tension between Delegations such as the Delegation of Chile, Cuba, France, etc., who expressed their opposition towards them. Curiously, the delegation of USA, with its current controversial laws limiting abortion in Texas and other countries such as Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, etc., remained blissfully silent. Is this the eye of the storm or simply a silence of shame for taking three steps backwards into the last century?

One cannot help but wonder about the interwoven threads between the heavily religious backgrounds of the delegation of Poland, Ethiopia and Venezuela and their strict laws in regards to vulnerable and oppressed communities such as women and the LGBT+ community. As a committee whose primary role is to lead partners in a global health response, it is important to also hold countries that threaten to halt this response, responsible. Are we going to navigate through these turbulent waters or are we going to let ourselves drown in them?

The following articles are part of our Model UN Conference. Their content is not based on real events and therefore do not represent the values and actions of the people and organizations mentioned in them.

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