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Clinton disappointed in reproductive rights declaration at Rio summit


Kathy Audin
WVoN co-editor

Last week at the UN Economic Sustainability Conference in Rio, US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, stood up for the reproductive rights of women.

She said it was crucial that women were empowered to decide “whether and when to have children” if the world was ever to agree sustainable development goals.

She therefore supported the reference to women’s sexual and reproductive health in the final document from the conference, but objected to the fact that there was no specific reference to “reproductive rights”.

Clinton said:  “this year’s outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women’s reproductive rights.”

However, as a result of opposition from various G-77 developing nations, including the Vatican, part of a clause referring to “women’s sexual and reproductive health and their reproductive rights” was deleted.

The final and diluted document states that:

“We are committed to promote equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities, and health care services”.  The previous draft said the conference was committed to ensuring equal access of women and girls.

The Vatican defended its opposition by associating reproductive rights with abortion, arguing that  “all human life, from conception until natural death, has the same worth and deserves the same dignity.”

This week, an international network of women’s groups including Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) and Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) responded to the disappointing outcome.

Sascha Gabizon, executive director of WECF, “Two years of negotiations have culminated in a Ri0+20 outcome that makes almost no progress for women’s rights and rights of future generations in sustainable development.”

Anita Nayar, executive committee member of DAWN, said:

“Women worldwide are outraged that governments failed to recognize women’s reproductive rights as a central aspect of gender equality and sustainable development in the Rio+20 Outcome Document.  Reproductive rights are universally recognized as human rights.”

In Rio 20 years ago, leaders unanimously agreed that gender equality was integral to  sustainable development.  One step forward, several steps back?

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