But platform asserts religious-freedom rights.

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women and the parallel forum for nongovernmental organizations (NGOS) in September promised to bring an agenda for promoting equality, development, and peace to the world from a woman’s point of view.

But the 30,000 women who gathered in Beijing and Huairou, China, were unable to develop a comprehensive global agenda for women that all 189 national delegations could affirm. Mary Ann Glendon, head of the Vatican delegation and a Harvard Law School professor, said the controversial Platform for Action is “full of promise, but short on commitment.”

The 120-page document was able to develop a consensus on many matters, including condemnations of brideburning, economic discrimination, rape, and female infanticide. However, consensus remained out of reach on such topics as abortion rights, homosexual rights, and sex education.

Because economic and social conditions vary widely worldwide, delegations came with dramatically different agendas. Aloysie Inymba, a Rwandan delegate, commented, “I’m here because my people are starving, and we want to discuss a cure for malaria, not abortions.”

REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM? The platform lists scores of problems affecting women, with corresponding action steps to be taken by governments, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOS. The accompanying Beijing Declaration is a “women’s charter.” It states that “women’s rights are human rights” and calls for the right of all females, including girls, to control their own fertility. The document also urges equal sharing of family responsibilities by women and men so that women can achieve equal participation “in all spheres of society.”

Some 51 countries in attendance ...

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