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  Saturday, December 14, 2019
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More than 100 countries and 6,000 women-s rights campaigners and activists began a conference at the United Nations headquarters on Monday
Pakistan is being represented by a delegation led by Mrs Nilofar Bakhtiar, the prime minister-s adviser on women-s affairs. The meeting takes place a decade after a major world conference of women held in Beijing adopted a platform dedicated to achieve equality for women. There are contentious issues at stake, especially the issue of abortion. The United States, given President Bush-s strong views on the issue and the nationwide conservative revival, is trying to ensure that the right of women to abortion is not endorsed. A draft declaration is being prepared but it is bound to trigger a controversy. Islamic countries, including Pakistan, also favour right to life as against abortion. The US has taken the position that the declaration issued at Beijing 10 years ago legalised abortion as a human right and is said to have proposed an amendment to the draft declaration reaffirming the Beijing platform and declaration, but only "while reaffirming that they do not create any new international human rights and that they do not include the right to abortion", writes the Daily Times. U.S. delegate Ellen Sauerbrey said Washington's position is that countries should be free to decide whether or not abortion should be legal. She told reporters the Bush administration does not believe reproductive health, referred to in the Beijing platform, necessarily means abortion. While most of the speeches tread lightly over the issue, it is a hot topic in smaller gatherings. Vena Madunagu of Nigeria, says reproductive health issues are foremost in the minds of many attending the conference. "It used to be a taboo in Africa to talk about those issues, but no longer," she said. "We now talk about issues of abortion as a public health concern, and the governments are taking it on board. Look at my country is one of the highest in terms of the rate of maternal mortality as a result of unsafe abortion, so it's really a public health issue", says Voice of America
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