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Feminists Disappointed with Lack of Progress at UN Conference

While pleased that the United Nations Beijing
Plus Five Conference in New York ended
with 180 nations reaching consensus on a
document that reaffirmed the platform
approved at the 1995 Fourth World
Conference, feminist organizations, including
the Center for Women's Global Leadership
(CWGL) at Rutgers University, the Women's
Environment and Development Organization
(WEDO), and Feminist Majority Foundation,
expressed their disappointment with the
failure to implement a stronger statement.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
lamented the lack of "more concrete
benchmarks, numerical goals, time-bound
targets, indicators, and resources aimed at
implementing the Beijing Platform" (see entire
statement in the Beijing +5 Newsroom) and
condemned the role of the Catholic Church
and Muslim countries of holding up

Significant gains made at Beijing Plus Five
included approval of the Political Declaration
that reaffirms and extends governments'
responsibility to implement the Beijing
Platform of Action. Delegates agreed on a
statement to "eradicate harmful customary or
traditional practices" against women, including
marital rape and forced marriages. They also
called for the prevention of sexual
exploitation, including trafficking in women
and girls, and condemned so-called "honor
killings." A final negotiation session, which
lasted from Friday into Saturday morning,
resulted in the inclusion of a statement that
"women have the right to decide freely and
responsibly on matters related to their
sexuality…without coercion, discrimination,
and violence."

However, little progress was made on the
weekend's most contentious issues: abortion
and sexual orientation. Opponents of
proposed recommendations for wider access
to and protection for reproductive rights and
for non-discrimination protections for gays
and lesbians was led by Catholic and Islamic
countries, including the Vatican, Nicaragua,
Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, and Iran.
Conservative delegates blocked the use of the
term "sexual orientation" from the final
documents, even in a factual statement on the
passage of nondiscrimination laws in various
countries. They also blocked language that
would have called for access to birth control
and abortion for women and girls.

As a part of their "See Change" campaign that
is demanding that the Vatican's UN status as
a government be rescinded, Catholics for
Free Choice sailed a protest ship on the river
outside of the United Nations. The ship with
banners and chanting protesters was visible to
conference delegates.

Despite blocks to progress on reproductive
rights and sexual orientation, the final
Outcome Document and Political Declaration
contained concrete gains for women. For
example, the delegates' condemnation of
dowry-related violence, "honor killings," and
marital rape marked the first time an
international document has specified these
activities as crimes, says both the NGO
Linkage Caucus and the New York Times.
Other gains include an attention to the gender
aspects of various infectious diseases,
women's access to health services, inheritance
rights, gender-related asylum, and the
negative impacts on women and gender
differences in globalization, privatization, and
economic restructuring.

Media Resources: Statement, NGOs of the Linkage Caucus - June 10,

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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