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Date: Wed, 8 Mar 1995 14:43:35 -0500
Sender: Pan-Africa Discussion List <AFRICA-L@VTVM1.CC.VT.EDU>
From: Nyanchama Matunda <matunda@GAUL.CSD.UWO.CA>
Subject: WOMEN: Religion Under Fire At Social Summit

From Wed Mar 8 09:36 EST 1995
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 95 16:24 EET
From: Inter Press Service Harare <> Subject: WOMEN: Religion Under Fire At Social Summit

Women: Religion Under Fire At Social Summit

By Jaya Dayal. 8 March, 1995

COPENHAGEN, Mar 8 (IPS) - Conservative religious forces and free market policies are destroying decades of effort to protect the health of women throughout the world, women activists charged wednesday.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at the UN Social Summit here said that major advances to guarantee women's rights to sexual and reproductive health, reached at the 1994 population conference in cairo, were now under attack from conservative church and Islamic forces.

The vatican has a delegation at the social summit to safeguard references to the family and deny references to 'reproductive health' which it equates with abortion, one womens rights activist said.

Draft documents prepared for the current summit include many ''bracketed'' - or disputed - references to key Cairo issues like reproductive and sexual health, the family in its various forms and personal responsibility and choice.

''To call on the heads of state in Copenhagen to remove the brackets around reproductive health is entirely absurd, said Sonia Correa of the Rio de Janeiro-based Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis.

She said that issues concerning women and their human rights were still not acceptable to a handful of countries like Muslim Iran and Pakistan and catholic-dominated Honduras, and Nicaragua.

''We never imagined that the number of brackets around the issue of family, human rights and sovereignty would be as large as the number of brackets around the question of debt,'' Correa said.

''Looking at the brackets portrays where the tensions are - macro-economic issues are as important as gender issues, said Correa, a member of the Barbados-based Development Alternatives With Women for a New Era (DAWN).

''For many women's NGOs, the social summit was seen as the opportunity to fill the silences of Cairo - namely the macroeconomic issues,'' she said, ''instead, what we find is Cairo language in brackets.''

The Chile-based Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network said that calls for social justice in the social summit documents had been undercut by parallel calls for freer market forces.

It noted that mostb countries were far from reaching the goal set in 1978 of 'health for all by the year 2000', largely because of domestic budget cuts in health and education programmes during the 1980s, as well as the process of privatisation.

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