Subject: [fem-women2000 393] New York Times: June 11 2000
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 10:58:20 -0500
Seq: 393


(New York Times: June 11 2000)
Rights Gains Are Preserved At U.N.Forum On Women

By Barbara Crossette

    Five years after a watershed conference held in Beijing articulated and 
affirmed what more than 180 nations could agree were the universal rights of 
women, a weeklong follow-up meeting ended yesterday at the United nations 
with no significant victories for opponents who have tried to reverse those 
    An all-night session Friday into yesterday, capping a week of heated 
arguments, preserved a range of women's rights including the most contenious, 
that "women have the right to decide freely and responsibly on matters 
releated to their sexuality" and can do so without "coercion, discrimination 
and violence."
    Around the world, this can mean something as basic as choosing a spouse 
or avoiding genital mutilation in the name of tradition.
    "I'm very happy that the dire predictions that there would be a rollback 
have proved false," said Angela King, the United Nations official in charge 
of women's advancement.
    "We were determind to get a strong document that did not in any way 
diminish the gains women had achieved in Beijing," she said. "We were also 
determined to go beyond Bdijing, and we did, despite the efforts of countries 
that made the process such an arduous one."
    Although some Western and international women's groups failed to expand 
definitions in the Beijing document to include more explicit homosexual 
rights, broad definition of "family" and more clearly stated support for safe 
and readily available abortions, other issues did make advances.
    Delegations from 180 nations, urged on from the sidelines by 
representatives of about 1200 nangovernmental organizations, took strong 
stands on the trafficking of women and girls, who are sold or lured across 
borders by the sex trade or for domestic or industrial work that often 
amounts to wage slavery.
    Delegates also agreed on strong planks that call for punishment of 
domestic violence, including marital rape, which some delegations had argued 
was essentially a private matter not recognized as a crime in many nations. 
There were also calls to outlaw the killings of women whose families claim 
have shamed them, so-called "honor" crimes that have drawn attention to 
countries like Joprdan and Pakistan.
    United Nations officials and women's rights campaigners say that this is 
the first time an international document has specified these activities as 
crimes. Although the final agreement of the conference does not have the 
force of law, it can be used by women as a statement of international norms 
when trying to change the laws of nations.
    The meeting's final declaration also demanded more attention to the 
H.I.V.-AIDS epidemic, which in the five years since the Fourth World 
Conference on Women in Beijing has begun to victimize many more women, 
especially in Africa. There, women's organizations say, the sexual rights of 
women are a matter of life and death, when traditions within extended 
families or clans may force girls and women into sexual arrangements they 
cannot avoid with men whom they may know to be infected with H.I.V., the 
virus that causes AIDS.
    As is almost inevitably the case when sensitive social issues are exposed 
to international debate, battle lines were drawn between canservative 
countries, largely Islamic or Roman Catholic, and more secular nations, 
though there was no fixed geographical pattern. poland and Nicaragua, for 
example, have often been reticent on certain women's rights, while Europe and 
Latin America in general take a much more liberal stand, even on 
contraception and abortion.
    Among Islamic notions, delegates said, Algeria, Iran, Libya, Pakistan and 
Sudan were most reluctant to advance women's rights. The opposition lobby got 
strong support from Vatican, which attends such conferences based on its 
territorial possessions in Rome. 
    Among the organizations that expressed desappointment yesterday were the 
Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University, and the Women's 
Environment and Development Organization in New York. They issued a statement 
regretting the failure to agree to a stronger document.
    Anna Diamantopoulou, a Greek politician who is now the European Union's 
commissioner for employment and social affairs, was not concerned that the 
conference did not push too hard on the limits of what the majority of 
national governments or societies could accept. She warned of the danger of 
provoking a backlash against women's groups in many countries if they 
returned with a declaration that could be interpreted as a call to upset the 
social order. "When they go home, they want to be waving the document, not 
apologizing for it," she said.
(New York Times: June 11 2000)

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