Women’s rights activists accused the Vatican and some Islamic and Catholic countries of blocking consensus on plans to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, which emerged from the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing, China 5 years ago. This week’s gathering of women’s rights activists aims to review the progress made by the US and 188 other countries according to the platform for action they adopted in Beijing. This platform includes addressing women’s equality in health, education, jobs, and an ending the increasing rates of poverty among women.
Women’s rights activists, as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, warned against attempts to roll back the advances made since Beijing. A coalition of anti-abortion and conservative, religious activists blamed Western states for pushing “radical language” that promoted lesbian and gay rights as well as abortion rights. The UN document calls for increased access to abortion, family planning services, and sex education, as well as mandatory training of abortion procedures. Mary Ellen Glynn, spokeswoman for the US Mission to the UN, noted that the Beijing platform recognizes for the first time that human rights include the right of women to control their own sexuality without “coercion, discrimination, and violence.”
Also at the conference, women’s activists issued a report card Wednesday on the United States government’s efforts to improve equality for women in America-revealing great progress as well as failures. The US received failing grades for its attempts to reduce poverty among American women but scored higher, receving a “B,” for the progress made during the Clinton administration to appoint women to important, decision-making positions.