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Other Advances That Were Made in the Platform

Women’s rights as human rights: The Platform takes the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which recognizes violence against women as a human rights problem, one step further by asserting women’s 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”.

Right to inherit: Traditional legal structures in many societies discriminate against women inheriting land and property. The Platform calls for a change in these structures by “enacting as appropriate, and enforcing legislation that guarantees equal rights to succession and ensures equal right to inherit, regardless of the sex of the child”.

Reviewing laws on illegal abortion: The Platform asks nations to “consider reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortion”.

Role of the family: The Platform points out the importance of the family as the basic unit of society and recognizes the “social significance of maternity, motherhood and the role of parents in the family and in the upbringing of children”. Furthermore, it notes that maternity should not impede the full participation of women in society.

Culture and religion: Traditional interpretations of religious texts often marginalize the role of women in society. However, according to the Platform, religion can “contribute to fulfilling women’s and men’s moral, ethical and spiritual needs and to realizing their potential in society”.

Rape as a war crime: Rape, according to the Platform, is a war crime, and in some cases, an act of genocide. Those guilty of such a crime “must be punished” whenever possible.


Background

The decision to hold the Fourth World Conference on Women flowed primarily from the momentum generated by the three earlier women’s conferences and from the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985), which gave international expression to and support for national women’s movements around the globe. These movements had a profound effect on the recent cycle of world conferences, from the Children’s Summit in New York, where the special needs of the girl-child were emphasized; to Rio, where the Earth Summit articulated the pressing need for recognition of women’s central role in sustainable development; to Vienna, where special emphasis was put on the equal rights of women; to Copenhagen, which underscored the central role that women have to play in combating poverty; and to Cairo and, later, Istanbul, where women’s right to control over decisions affecting their health, families and homes was affirmed. All of these Conferences prepared the way for the Beijing Conference, helping to break new ground in the struggle for equal rights and a central role for women in decision-making at all levels of society. In addition, the fact that Governments committed themselves at all of these Summits and Conferences to the empowerment of women in different areas add greater weight to follow-up strategies to the Beijing Platform for Action.

The decision by the General Assembly in 1990 to convene a World Conference in 1995 was also spurred by the growing concern, reflected in the Economic and Social Council and other forums, at the uneven pace of implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women by the Year 2000, which had been adopted in 1985. Despite progress in some areas, the objectives of ensuring equality for women, preventing violence against women and advancing their participation in efforts to promote peace and in economic and political decision-making were lagging.

As agreed in Beijing, the set of actions set out in the Platform for Action “should lead to fundamental change”. To that end, immediate action and accountability are essential if the targets are to be met by the year 2000. Implementation is primarily the responsibility of Governments, but is also recognized as dependent on a wide range of institutions in the public, private and non-governmental sectors at the community, national, regional and international levels. Governments have been called upon to prepare national action plans by the end of 1996, with support from civil society.


 

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© Copyright United Nations 23 May 1997 | Department of Public Information | Revised 23 May 1997