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Catholic Women Urge Governments of the World to Unequivocally Defend the Consensus on the Beijing Program of Action

March 4, 2005

Statement of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir and Catholics for a Free Choice
on the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

NEW YORK— Women of different religious beliefs; social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations from all over the world have come to New York to defend our human rights.

We come to evaluate the advances in the implementation of the Program of Action that were agreed upon in the IV World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, to reaffirm its ongoing legitimacy and to encourage the mobilization of the necessary resources and mechanisms to achieve full integration of the program in national public policies for the benefit of all women.

As Catholic women from North, Central and South America and Europe committed to the defense of women’s human rights, specifically sexual and reproductive rights, and access to safe and legal abortion, we affirm that the rights defended in the Program of Action are congruent with principals of social justice found in the Gospel and the Catholic tradition.

For this reason, we manifest our indignation at the attempts of the US delegation to:

  • Coerce the poorest countries of the planet to support its political agenda, taking advantage of their economic vulnerability; and
  • Undermine the wealth of benefits that the Program of Action has signified for women from all over the world who are present at the meeting, including the United States of America.

It is unacceptable that the US, using overseas development aid as its weapon, aims to violate the sovereignty of other countries by trying to influence their positions at the conference.

It is unacceptable that in the 21st century, the US aims to impede the full exercise of women’s rights in all areas of their life.

In this conference, the US delegation, encouraged by the Holy See, is acting as the spokesperson for a conservative moral agenda that does not recognize the moral authority of women to make decisions based on their freedom of conscience.

We ask ourselves how the US government, which has not even ratified the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW, 1979), dares to question the world consensus that guarantees women’s basic human rights.

We call on the governments of the world to:

  • Firmly defend the consensus achieved and to join forces with the Bureau at the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women,
  • Overcome the obstacles and reject the distraction tactics that the US government has introduced into this conference; and
  • Reaffirm the Beijing Program of Action in its entirety.

As Catholics, we reaffirm our determination to keep the doors of hope that both the Cairo and Beijing Programs of Action opened for the women and girls of the world.