Monday, February 28, 2005

Ten Years After the Beijing Conference on Women

The United Nations is having two weeks of meetings to assess the progress of women in the last ten years:

Sponsors say significant progress has been made in the goal of gender equality, with many nations adopting new policies to eliminate discrimination, enroll increasing numbers of girls in primary school and recognize rape and sexual violence as war crimes. According to a new report from the World Bank, the lives of women and girls around the world have improved in the last 10 years due, in part, to action by the international community following the Beijing conference.

But the global human rights group Amnesty International says violence against women has continued unabated since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration a decade ago, with many nations not fulfilling their pledges.

Kyung-wha Kang, the chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said the issue remains the biggest obstacle to the advancement of the world's women. "I would have to say that the prevalence of violence against women in many forms in almost all countries. In some countries it could be the problem of domestic violence. In some other countries it could be other manifestations of that. But I think almost wherever you go whether it is the developing countries, the developed countries, western countries, wherever, there is still violence again women," she said.

The United States has used these meetings to focus on the question of abortion. This is a reflection of the current administration and its fundamentalist base:

But even before the two-week meeting began, delegates were wrangling behind closed doors Friday on a draft declaration that the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women put forward — and had hoped to have adopted by consensus before Monday's opening session.

The short declaration would have nations reaffirm the Beijing platform and a declaration adopted with it, welcome progress toward achieving gender equality, stress that challenges remain, and "pledge to undertake further action to ensure their full and accelerated implementation."

But at an informal closed-door meeting on Thursday, the United States said it could not accept the declaration because of its concerns that the Beijing platform legalized the right to abortion as a human right, according to several participants.

On Friday, the United States proposed an amendment to the draft declaration that would reaffirm the Beijing platform and declaration — but only "while reaffirming that they do not create any new international human rights, and that they do not include the right to abortion," according to the text obtained by The Associated Press.

This is pretty much what has happened in every international meeting about women since Bush got elected: the U.S. delegation focuses on the question of abortion or on something like trying to stop sex education at schools, and if there is any voting the U.S. votes en bloc with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Funny, if you start thinking about it.