While there was unanimity in adopting the Asian and Pacific ministerial declaration on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment on Thursday, a key aspect of the Beijing declaration and platform for action adopted in 1995 on sexual rights was left out after objections by some countries.
India too managed to replace gender discrimination due to caste with the words ‘social origin’ and also succeeded in changing the section on women and armed conflict to merely ‘conflict.’ Indian civil society organisations slammed the government for refusing to acknowledge armed conflict in the country. The government, in its review of the Beijing plus 20 report, said the stated position is that there is no armed conflict in the country.
In the Beijing declaration and platform for action, Section 96 had said: “The human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction, including full respect for the integrity of the person, require mutual respect, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behaviour and its consequences.”
However in the declaration adopted today, sexual rights have not been acknowledged in the section on women and health, and the reference is only to protection of reproductive rights for all. Activists said it diluted an otherwise comprehensive ministerial outcome.
While issues like the collective bargaining of women and trade union representation are recognised, young women said the declaration had left out the concerns of adolescents, and issues of cyber crime, date rape, sexual assault in educational institutions were totally ignored, according to Nadia Rajaram, Coordinator, of the Young Women’s Caucus.
Roberta Clarke, regional director of UN Women, said the objectives of the conference — to assess and review the Beijing goals, recommit to the centrality of gender equality and strengthen social institutions — were achieved. However, there was a need to deepen political will and provide finances for gender equality programmes in the region.