U.N. Platform for Action on Women Drives Strong Debate

by Karen Johnson


At the final preparatory meeting for the United Nations conference on women to be held in China next fall, NOW activists got a foretaste of the likely debate over the language of a document with far-reaching effects that will be discussed in Beijing.

Feminists globally are lobbying so that this Fourth World Conference on Women will produce a Platform for Action with clear, strong wording that will serve as a guide for legislation on women's equality both in this country and around the world.

At the April meeting in New York, member nations agreed to 50 percent of the wording of the platform. However, they contested 80 percent of the language regarding women's health (to include of course reproductive health) was contested. Also, several countries are contesting the use of the word "gender" in the document. The word gender occurs about 300 times in the document.

Even language that was agreed on in recent U.N. conferences was opposed by the Holy See and conservative countries. The Holy See tried, unsucessfully, to get the U.N. to deny NGO (non-governmental organization) status to Catholics for a Free Choice.

Due to human rights violations in China, even a few of our congressional allies are opposing U.S. participation. If the U.S. does not participate, we will not have a voice or vote in the official action plan for women over the next decade. Contact your congressmember to encourage active particpation by our government in this conference.

The official U.S. delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women will be lead by Hillary Clinton. Several dozen NOW activists -- including NOW President Patricia Ireland, Chapter and State Development Director Barbara Hays- Hamilton and I -- will attend the NGO Forum held in conjunction with the U.N. conference. Ireland is Co-Chair of the U.S./China Joint Conference on Women's Issues in Beijing that precedes the NGO FORUM.


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