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The Fourth World Conference on Women

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Chapter 5: Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

1. At the 16th plenary meeting, on 15 September 1995, the Conference considered agenda item 10 (Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women). The Chairperson of the Main Committee of the Conference, Patricia B. Licuanan (Philippines), made a statement.

2. At the same meeting, the representative of the Philippines, on behalf of the States Members of the United Nations that are members of the Group of 77, introduced a draft resolution (A/CONF.177/L.9) whereby the Conference would adopt the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and recommend them to the General Assembly for endorsement at its fiftieth session. The Conference then adopted the draft resolution (for the text, see chap. I, resolution 1).

3. After the draft resolution was adopted, representatives of the following States made general and interpretative statements or expressed reservations on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: Peru, Kuwait, Egypt, Philippines, Holy See, Malaysia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Ecuador, Indonesia, Mauritania, Oman, Malta, Argentina, Brunei Darussalam, France, Yemen, Sudan, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Bahrain, Lebanon, Tunisia, Mali, Benin, Guatemala, India, Algeria, Iraq, Vanuatu, Ethiopia, Morocco, Djibouti, Qatar, Nicaragua, Togo, Liberia, Syrian Arab Republic, Pakistan, Nigeria, Comoros, Bolivia, Colombia, Bangladesh, Honduras, Jordan, Ghana, Central African Republic, Cambodia, Maldives, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Brazil, Panama, El Salvador, Madagascar, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Gabon, United States of America and Canada. The observer for Palestine also made a statement.

Reservations and interpretative statements on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

4. The representatives of a number of countries made statements which they requested the secretariat of the Conference to place on record. Those statements are set out below.

Pope John Paul, Peru, Kuwait, Egypt, Holy See, Malaysia, Iran (Islamic Republic of)Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Indonesia, Mauritania, Malta, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Tunisia, Guatemala, Iraq, Vanuatu, Morocco, Honduras, South Africa, United States of America, Russian Federation, Israel, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Paraguay

5. The representative of Argentina submitted the following written statement:

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The concept of family as used in the Conference documents is understood to mean the union of a man and a woman, who produce, nourish and educate their children. No definition or recommendation contained in these documents weakens the parents' primary responsibility for bringing up their children, including providing education on sexual matters, a responsibility which should be respected by States pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

No reference in these documents to the right to control matters related to sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, may be interpreted as restricting the right to life or abrogating the condemnation of abortion as a method of birth control or an instrument of population policy (in accordance with article 75, paragraph 23, of the Constitution of Argentina, article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and paragraph 42 of the Vienna Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights). No proposal contained in the documents may be interpreted to justify programmes of female or male sterilization as an adjustment variable in eradicating poverty.

The Argentine delegation participated in the consensus on paragraph 106 (k) of the Platform for Action, which recommends that Governments should consider reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone abortions. This position was taken in view of the legal tradition of Argentina, the practice of our courts and the attenuating circumstances that have generally been considered; this does not constitute, however, a proposal to decriminalize abortion or exempt from criminal responsibility those who may be accomplices or participants in this offence.

The references to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development contained in the documents of the Fourth World Conference on Women should be understood in the context of the reservations formulated by the Government of the Argentine Republic and included in the report of that Conference (A/CONF.171/13 and Add.1).

With regard to all that is relevant to the documents of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Argentine delegation maintains the same reservations which it submitted concerning the Regional Programme of Action for the Women of Latin America and the Caribbean, adopted in Santiago, Chile, in June 1995.

6. The representative of Costa Rica submitted the following writtenstatement:

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Costa Rica is a State in which the strict rule of law prevails; it is respectful of the law, being fully devoted to respect for human rights and the promotion of tolerance; and it participates in the world- wide consensus that inequalities exist which place women at a disadvantage, and that this situation should be rectified.

Accordingly, Costa Rica has adopted, signed and ratified all the instruments which promote equality of rights and opportunities between women and men, and it has been adapting its national legislation to these instruments, especially in relation to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Nevertheless, we are aware that new challenges exist in our country, that much remains to be resolved with regard to improving the situation of women and that the advancement of women is crucial to the achievement of sustainable human development.

Aware that the series of measures contained in the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women is consistent with the policies promoted in our country for the advancement of women, we wish to confirm to the international community that we support the Platform, that this support is respectful of the socio-cultural diversity of nations and that the Platform will be incorporated at the national level into the current legal system, in strict concordance with our best traditions, beliefs and values.

From this point of view, Costa Rica wishes to state that, in matters relating to sexuality, it understands any references in the Platform to women's rights to mean, as in the case of men, the capacity of women or men to achieve and maintain their sexual and reproductive health in a framework of relations of equality and mutual respect.

In relation to the strategic objective of the Platform which proposes the reduction in military expenditure and limiting the available arms, which is based on chapter IV, paragraph 70, subparagraph 12, of the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development on the topic of social integration, Costa Rica reiterates its devotion to peace and the statement it made at that Conference concerning the need for conflicts and differences among nations and peoples and among social groups to be resolved through negotiation, dialogue and the quest for consensus, and that the resources being spent for weapons could be much better spent on the social development of peoples.

Lastly, we wish to confirm and reiterate to the international community that it is a priority task of both women and men to seek to eliminate all forms of discrimination in accordance with the principle of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

7. The representative of the Dominican Republic submitted the following written statement:

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Pursuant to the rules of procedure of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Dominican Republic supports the general agreement reached on the Platform for Action and reaffirms its commitment to comply with that agreement.

The Dominican Republic, as a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights, and in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Republic, confirms that every person has the right to life, and that life begins at the moment of conception.

Consequently, it accepts the content of the terms "reproductive health", "sexual health", "maternity without risk", "reproductive rights", "sexual rights" and "regulation of fertility" in the Platform for Action, but it makes an express reservation to the content of these terms, or any others, if they include abortion or interruption of pregnancy as a component.

We confirm the position taken by our country at the International Conference on Population and Development, and these reservations apply to all regional and international agreements referring to these concepts.

In accordance with the above-mentioned rules of procedure, we request that this statement of reservations be included in full in the final report of this Conference.

8. The representative of Egypt submitted the following written statement:

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The participation of Egypt in the Fourth World Conference on Women reflects its conviction of the importance of women's issues and their promotion. It is an extension of Egypt's participation in the three preceding conferences on women, in addition to its having been host to one of the most important international conferences, the International Conference on Population and Development. The Egyptian delegation would like to register the fact that its understanding of the texts included in the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women that refer to sexual and reproductive relations rests on the basis that these relations are within the framework of a marital bond and that the family is understood to be the basic unit of society. Egypt's compliance with the recommendations contained in the Platform for Action will be conditional on complete respect for the rights of national sovereignty and various moral and religious values and conformity to our Constitution and the precepts of law and with the divine guidance of our true and tolerant religious law.

The Egyptian delegation would also like to register the fact that its reading and understanding of the paragraphs relating to inheritance rights in the Platform for Action, particularly paragraph 274 (d), will be against the background of complete respect for the laws of inheritance in the Islamic Shariah and in accordance with the provisions of the law and the Constitution.

The Egyptian delegation requests that this statement in its entirety should be included in the official report of the Fourth World Conference on Women.

9. The representatives of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania submitted the following written statement:

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Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania wish to express a reservation regarding paragraph 5 of the Platform for Action. We feel it is essential that the mission statement reflect a strong commitment by the international community to all the world's women and that the message should be all-encompassing. Paragraph 5 in its present form is exclusionary and contradicts the principle of universality, which should apply to all States Members of the United Nations.

The changes in the present paragraph are also a violation of the rules of procedure in light of the fact that new language was introduced to unbracketed text already agreed to in document A/CONF.177/L.1 at the preparatory meeting for the Conference in March 1995.

10. The representative of Guatemala submitted the following written statement:

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My delegation wishes to state that, consistent with the national interest of Guatemala, it is submitting the following reservation, with the request that it be included in the final report of the Fourth World Conference on Women:
(a) Guatemala has the sovereign right to implement the recommendations contained in the Platform for Action in accordance with the provisions of its Political Constitution, national legislation and international treaties and conventions to which it is a party, and therefore none of the provisions and recommendations of this Conference and of the Platform for Action may or should be interpreted as contradicting the aforesaid legal instruments. In addition, these recommendations will be implemented in accordance with the development priorities of our country, in full respect for the diverse religious, ethical and cultural values and philosophical beliefs of our multi- ethnic, multilingual and multicultural people, and in accordance with universally recognized international human rights;
(b) Guatemala confirms all its reservations to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and its reservations to the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development, especially in relation to the topics, terms, conditions and provisions contained in the aforesaid documents which are repeated and re-utilized in this Platform for Action.The concerns and needs of countries with economies in transition have been marginalized by paragraph 5, thus weakening the Platform for Action. For this reason, our delegations regrettably feel obligated to place this reservation on record.

In addition, the Government of Guatemala reserves the right to interpret the Platform for Action expressly in accordance with its unconditional respect for the right to life from the moment of conception and its unconditional respect for the right of parents to choose the upbringing of their children. It endorses and guarantees the social, economic and juridical protection of the family on the legal basis of marriage, equal rights of spouses, responsible parenthood, the right of persons to decide freely the number and spacing of their children, and the dignity of motherhood.

In conformity with the ethical, moral, legal, cultural and natural criteria of the Guatemalan people, Guatemala interprets the concept of gender solely as female and male gender in reference to women and men and reserves its position on the interpretation of the term "lifestyle", because its meaning is not clear in these documents.

11. The representative of the Holy See submitted the following written statement:

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"When one looks at the great process of women's liberation," one sees that the journey has been a difficult one, with its "share of mistakes," but headed toward a better future for women. Those are the words of Pope John Paul II. And he goes on to say: "This journey must go on!" The Holy See delegation joins its voice to his: This great journey must go on!

Women's voyage has been marked by false starts and disappointments, as well as by luminous achievements. There have been times, as in the industrial revolution, when old forms of oppression were exchanged for new, as well as times when intelligence and good will have triumphed.

The documents before us reflect that complex and uneven history of women's search. They are full of promise, but often short on concrete commitment, and in certain respects one could ask if the long-term consequences will really serve the good of women.

The delegation of the Holy See has worked hard, in a constructive way and in a spirit of good will to make the documents more responsive to women. Certainly, the living heart of these documents lies in their sections on the needs of women in poverty, on strategies for development, on literacy and education, on ending violence against women, on a culture of peace, and on access to employment, land, capital and technology. My delegation is pleased to note a close correspondence between these points and Catholic social teaching.

My delegation would be remiss in its duty to women, however, if it did not also indicate several critical areas where it strongly disagrees with the text.

My delegation regrets to note in the text an exaggerated individualism, in which key, relevant, provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are slighted - for example, the obligation to provide "special care and assistance" to motherhood. This selectivity thus marks another step in the colonization of the broad and rich discourse of universal rights by an impoverished, libertarian rights dialect. Surely this international gathering could have done more for women and girls than to leave them alone with their rights!

Surely we must do more for the girl child in poor nations than give lip service to providing access to education, health and social services while carefully avoiding any concrete commitment of new and additional resources to that end.

Surely we can do better than to address the health needs of girls and women by paying disproportionate attention to sexual and reproductive health. Moreover, ambiguous language concerning unqualified control over sexuality and fertility could be interpreted as including societal endorsement of abortion and homosexuality.

A document that respects women's dignity should address the health of the whole woman. A document that respects women's intelligence should devote at least as much attention to literacy as to fertility.

Because my delegation is hopeful that out of these documents, which are in some ways at odds with themselves, the good for women will ultimately prevail, it wishes to associate itself with the consensus only on those above-mentioned aspects of the documents that the Holy See considers to be positive and at the service of the real well-being of women.

Unfortunately, the Holy See's participation in the consensus can be only a partial one because of numerous points in the documents which are incompatible with what the Holy See and other countries deem favourable to the true advancement of women. These points are indicated in the reservations which my delegation has set out below.

My delegation is confident that women themselves will overcome the limitations of and bring out what is best in these documents. As John Paul II has so well put it, "The path that lies ahead will be long and difficult, nevertheless we must have courage to set out on that path and the courage to go on to the end."

I would ask that the text of this statement, the reservations formally indicated below, as well as the statement of interpretation of the term "gender" be included in the report of the Conference.

Reservations and statements of interpretation

The Holy See, in conformity with its nature and particular mission, in partially joining the consensus on the documents of the Fourth World Conference on Women, wishes to express its position regarding those documents and make reservations on some of the concepts used in them.

The Holy See wishes to reaffirm the dignity and worth of women and the equal rights of men and women and regrets the failure of the Platform for Action to explicitly reassert this concept.

The Holy See, in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stresses that the family is the basic unit of society and is based on marriage as an equal partnership between husband and wife, to which the transmission of life is entrusted. It regrets that in the Platform for Action references were not made to such a fundamental societal unit without banal qualifying language (see, for example, strategic objective L.9).

The Holy See can only interpret such terms as "women's right to control their sexuality", "women's right to control ... their fertility" or "couples and individuals" as referring to the responsible use of sexuality within marriage. At the same time, the Holy See firmly condemns all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.

The Holy See reaffirms the reservations it expressed at the conclusion of the International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo from 5 to 13 September 1994, which are included in the report of that Conference, concerning the interpretation given to the terms "reproductive health", "sexual health" and "reproductive rights". In particular, the Holy See reiterates that it does not consider abortion or abortion services to be a dimension of reproductive health or reproductive health services. The Holy See does not endorse any form of legislation which gives legal recognition to abortion.

With regard to the terms "family planning" or "widest range of family planning services" and other terms concerning family-planning services or regulation of fertility, the Holy See's actions during this Conference should in no way be interpreted as changing its well-known position concerning those family planning methods that the Catholic Church considers morally unacceptable or concerning family planning services that do not respect the liberty of spouses, the human dignity or the human rights of those concerned. The Holy See in no way endorses contraception or the use of condoms, either as a family planning measure or in HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

The Holy See maintains that nothing in the Platform for Action or in other documents referenced therein is to be interpreted as requiring any health professional or health facility to perform, cooperate with, refer or arrange for services to which they have objections on the basis of religious belief or moral or ethical conviction.

The Holy See interprets all references to the term "forced pregnancy" as a specific instrument of armed conflict, in the context in which that term appears in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, part II, paragraph 38.

The Holy See interprets the term "gender" as described in the statement set out below.

The Holy See does not associate itself with the consensus on the entire chapter IV, section C, concerning health; it wishes to place a general reservation on the entire section and it would ask that this general reservation be noted in the chapter. This section devotes a totally unbalanced attention to sexual and reproductive health in comparison to women's other health needs, including means to address maternal mortality and morbidity. Furthermore, the Holy See cannot accept ambiguous terminology concerning unqualified control over sexuality and fertility, particularly as it could be interpreted as a societal endorsement of abortion or homosexuality. The reservation on this chapter does not, however, indicate any reduction in the Holy See's commitment towards the promotion of the health of women and the girl child.

The Holy See does not join the consensus and expresses a reservation on paragraph 232 (f), with its reference to a text (para. 96) on a right of women to "control over ... their sexuality". This ambiguous term could be understood as endorsing sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage. It asks that this reservation be noted on the paragraph. On the other hand, however, the Holy See wishes to associate itself with the condemnation of violence against women asserted in paragraph 96, as well as with the importance of mutuality and shared responsibility, respect and free consent in conjugal relations as stated in that paragraph.

The Holy See, with regard to the entire section on human rights, with the exception of quotations from or restatements of already existing human rights instruments, expresses its concern about an excessive individualism in its treatment of human rights. The Holy See further recalls that the mandate of the Fourth World Conference on Women did not include the affirmation of new human rights.

With regard to the phrase "Women's rights are human rights", the Holy See interprets this phrase to mean that women should have the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

With regard to all references to international agreements, the Holy See reserves its position in this regard, in particular on any existing international agreements mentioned in the documents, consistent with its manner of acceptance or non-acceptance of them.

The Holy See requests that these reservations, together with the following statement of interpretation on the term "gender", be included in the report of the Conference.

Statement of interpretation of the term "gender"

In accepting that the word "gender" in this document is to be understood according to ordinary usage in the United Nations context, the Holy See associates itself with the common meaning of that word, in languages where it exists.

The term "gender" is understood by the Holy See as grounded in biological sexual identity, male or female. Furthermore, the Platform for Action itself clearly uses the term "Both genders".

The Holy See thus excludes dubious interpretations based on world views which assert that sexual identity can be adapted indefinitely to suit new and different purposes.

It also dissociates itself from the biological determinist notion that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.

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Pope John Paul insists on the distinctiveness and complementarity of women and men. At the same time, he has applauded the assumption of new roles by women, stressed the degree to which cultural conditioning has been an obstacle to women's progress, and exhorted men to assist in "the great process of women's liberation" ("Letter to Women", 6).

In his recent "Letter to Women", the Pope explained the Church's nuanced view in the following way: "One can also appreciate that the presence of a certain diversity of roles is in no way prejudicial to women, provided that this diversity is not the result of an arbitrary imposition, but is rather an expression of what is specific to being male and female."

12. The representative of Honduras submitted the following written statement:

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The Government of the Republic of Honduras, in accordance with its belief in democracy, joins the consensus of all the peoples of the world in adopting the Platform for Action, regarding it as an effective instrument for the promotion and advancement of women to the year 2001 and in the new millennium. Accordingly, it reaffirms its desire and commitment to take the necessary actions to bring about the implementation of the Platform.

The Constitution of Honduras provides that all men and women are born free and equal before the law, that there are no privileged classes and that all Hondurans are equal before the law (article 60).

Articles 65, 111 and 112 provide that the right to life is inviolable and that the family, marriage and de facto union are under the protection of the State.

The American Convention on Human Rights, of which our country is a signatory, reaffirms that every individual has the right to life from the moment of conception, on the basis of the moral, ethical, religious and cultural principles that should govern human behaviour.

Accordingly, Honduras shares the concepts relating to reproductive health, sexual health and family planning in the Platform for Action, provided that abortion or interruption of pregnancy is not included as a family planning method.

The Government of the Republic reaffirms that the family is the basic unit of society and therefore commits itself to strengthening all actions aimed at achieving greater levels of well-being, bringing into harmony the various segments of society.

Lastly, we invite the international community to support Governments and peoples in their efforts to ensure that the implementation of the Platform for Action is as successful as anticipated and that our women will finally achieve equity, development and peace, which are so necessary to the advancement of our peoples.

13. The representative of Indonesia submitted the following written statement:

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While expressing our delegation's satisfaction on the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by consensus, my delegation at the same time feels unhappy about the fact that there have been numerous reservations made by the delegations attending the Conference. This may give the public the false impression that our joint commitment to implement the Platform for Action, which is crucial to the goals of equality, development and peace for all women, will be difficult to realize.

The concerns reflected in the reservations - and my delegation also has reservations on certain paragraphs which are not consistent with the national interest of Indonesia - should not in any way constitute an obstacle to our genuine endeavour to implement the Platform for Action, since we all know that the spirit and objective of international cooperation in this regard is indeed a matter of mutual respect and support for our common cause.

Finally, my delegation wishes to request that its reservation be duly recorded in the report of the Conference.

14. The representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran submitted thefollowing written statement:

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I would like to register the reservation of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the following issues:

Although the family is the basic unit of society and as such plays a significant role in the advancement of women and promotion of human development, the Platform for Action falls short in recognizing its contribution and the importance of its stability and integrity.

Concerning paragraphs 96 and 232 (f), our understanding is that the provisions of those paragraphs can only be interpreted in the context of health and the framework of marital relations between men and women. The Islamic Republic of Iran holds that the rights referred to in those paragraphs fall in the category of existing human rights and do not establish any new rights.

The Islamic Republic of Iran upholds the principle that safe and responsible sexual relationships between men and women can only be legitimized within the framework of marriage. Moreover, the phrase "couples and individuals" should also be interpreted in that context.

Concerning programmes aimed at sexual and reproductive health, education and services, the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that such education and services should be guided by ethical and moral values and respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents, taking into account the evolving capacities of adolescents.

With respect to the issue of inheritance, the Islamic Republic of Iran interprets the references in the Platform for Action to this matter in accordance with the principles of the economic system of Islam.

The concept of equality in our interpretation takes into account the fact that although women are equal in their human rights and dignity with men, their different roles and responsibilities underline the need for an equitable system of rights, where the particular priorities and requirements of the woman in her multiple roles are accounted for.

The Islamic Republic of Iran affirms its commitment to the implementation of the Platform for Action with full respect for Islam and the ethical values of our society.

15. The representative of Iraq submitted the following written statement:

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The delegation of Iraq has reservations with regard to paragraph 96 of the Platform for Action because it is incompatible with our social and religious values. Our reservation also applies to paragraph 232 (f) because of its allusion to paragraph 96.

The delegation of Iraq accepts the text of paragraph 274 (d) on the basis of its understanding that this does not conflict with the Islamic Shariah.

16. The representative of Israel submitted the following written statement:

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The delegation of Israel to the Fourth World Conference on Women wishes to submit the following interpretative statement on paragraph 46 of the Platform for Action.

Israel would have preferred that explicit reference be made to the particular barriers faced by women because of their sexual orientation. However, in light of the interpretation given to the words "other status" by, inter alia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, we interpret the words "other status" to include sexual orientation.

17. The representative of Japan submitted the following written statement:

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My delegation would like to confirm its interpretation concerning paragraph 106 (k). The delegation of Japan joined the consensus on paragraph 106 (k) on the following understanding.

There has been a continuing debate on this issue in many countries. Some countries, including Japan, have undertaken a review of the relevant laws, while others have not. Bearing this in mind, my delegation confirms its understanding that relevant national laws can only be reviewed at the national or local level with due regard to national and legislative circumstances.

18. The representative of Kuwait submitted the following written statement:

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My country's delegation attaches great importance to the Platform for Action adopted by this Conference and believes in its significant contribution to the advancement of women. However, at the same time, it would like to register a reservation to anything which constitutes a contravention of the Islamic Shariah and the customs and practices of our Islamic society, particularly paragraphs 232 (f), 106 (k) and 94 to 96.

The delegation of Kuwait would like to have its reservation recorded in the report of the Conference.

19. The representative of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya submitted the following written statement:

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My delegation greatly appreciates the efforts made by the Main Committee and working groups of the Conference towards producing formulas which represent the common positions of the participating delegations and respect the beliefs of different societies and their private affairs. In this context, the Libyan delegation has made every possible effort in its discussions with all the working groups and in meetings to join in the global consensus towards which this Platform for Action is directed.

In view of our belief in the importance of the dialogue between the different cultures and civilizations of the peoples of the world for the achievement of universal social peace, we do not accept the right of any nation or civilization to impose its culture or political, economic or social orientations on any other nation or people. In view also of our belief in the sovereign right of every State to draw up domestic policies in keeping with its religious beliefs, local laws and priorities for social and economic development, it is our understanding that the terms and expressions which appear in this document and their application will be within the limits of what is permitted by our beliefs and the laws and traditions which shape our behaviour as a society. On this basis, our country's delegation would like to express reservations with regard to the following:
(a) The expression "sexual relations and sexual behaviour" between men and women, adult or otherwise, outside of a lawful marital relationship, which has appeared in a number of articles;
(b) The expression "sexual education and reproductive health" used with reference to the unmarried and outside the ambit of parental responsibility, supervision and care;
(c) The term "individuals" linked with the basic right of all couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children. This right is not accorded in our society outside the framework of a lawful marital relationship. This expression appears in paragraphs 95 and 223;
(d) The entire text of paragraph 96 because it is inconsistent with our social and cultural values. The same applies to paragraph 232 (f);
(e) Everything included in and intended by the text appearing in paragraph 106 (k), since it is contrary to local laws based on the Islamic Shariah. The same applies to the text appearing in paragraph 106 (j) regarding abortion, since local laws do not permit the performance of abortion except to save the mother's life;
(f) The text of paragraph 274 (d), which will be interpreted and implemented in accordance with the Islamic Shariah, which guarantees females the right of inheritance.

We hope that this statement and these reservations will be included in the official report of the Conference.

20. The representative of Malaysia submitted the following writtenstatement:

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The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action are an achievement for all women world wide. My delegation is gratified to join the international community in expressing our commitment to the Platform, especially on those provisions dealing with poverty, education, health, the elimination of violence against women in civil and armed conflicts, and the active participation of women in decision-making and economic development for their advancement and empowerment. However, we cannot help noting a number of differences among delegations arising from the stand on certain issues by one group of countries. While this group may adopt their own cultural standards and priorities, their insistence on others has inevitably resulted in the Platform for Action being accompanied by a number of reservations.

I wish to state that certain provisions within the Platform for Action remain unacceptable to us, but in the interest of achieving a consensus, we do not wish to stand in the way of its adoption. Nevertheless, in view of the differing cultural norms and the lack of clarity of certain words and phrases in the Platform, I wish to make the following reservations and clarifications on behalf of the Malaysian delegation.

First, the interpretation of the term "family", and the terms "individual and couples" throughout the document refer to the traditional family formed out of a marriage or a registered union between a man and a woman and comprising children and extended family members.

Second, we are of the conviction that reproductive rights should be applicable only to married couples formed of the union between a man and a woman.

Third, we wish to state that the adoption of paragraph 96 does not signify endorsement by the Government of Malaysia of sexual promiscuity, any form of sexual perversion or sexual behaviour that is synonymous with homosexuality or lesbianism.

Fourth, in the context of paragraph 106 (k) we wish to support the view that attention should be given to the prevention of unsafe abortions and the provision of humane management of complications from abortions as part of reproductive health care. However, abortion is not legal or permissible in Malaysia and can only be performed on medical grounds.

Fifth, in the context of paragraph 108 (k), while agreeing that adolescent health is an area requiring attention due to the increasing problems of unwanted teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, we believe that parental guidance should not be abdicated and that sexual permissiveness and unhealthy sexual and reproductive practices by adolescents should not be condoned.

May I request that these reservations be entered into the records of this Conference.

21. The representative of Malta submitted the following written statement:

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In joining the consensus on the Platform for Action, the delegation of Malta would like to state that it reserves its position on the use of such terms as "reproductive health", "reproductive rights" and "control of fertility" as used in different parts of the document. The interpretation given by Malta is consistent with its national legislation, which considers the termination of pregnancy through induced abortion as illegal.

The delegation of Malta further reserves its position on those parts of the Platform for Action wherein reference is made to the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. In this respect the delegation of Malta reaffirms its reservations as contained in the report of that Conference (A/CONF.171/13 and Add.1).

In particular the delegation of Malta cannot accept without reservation the expression "circumstances in which abortion is not against the law", the termination of pregnancy through procedures of induced abortion being illegal in Malta.

The delegation of Malta reserves its position on the wording "such abortion should be safe" since it feels that this phrase could lend itself to multiple interpretations, implying among other things that abortion can be completely free of medical and other psychological risks while ignoring altogether the rights of the unborn.

Furthermore, the delegation of Malta reserves its position on the use of the wording "international human rights instruments" and "United Nations consensus documents" wherever used in the Platform for Action consistent with its previous acceptance or non-acceptance of them.

We request that these reservations be recorded in the report of the Conference.

22. The representative of Mauritania submitted the following writtenstatement:

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My country's delegation would like to enter reservations with regard to any matter that conflicts with the Islamic Shariah and Islamic values, especially paragraph 96 concerning sexual rights, paragraph 232 (f), paragraph 106 (j) concerning illegal abortions, and paragraph 274 (d) concerning inheritance.

23. The representative of Morocco submitted the following written statement:

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The delegation of Morocco reserves its position on paragraphs 96 and 106 (k) of the Platform for Action, whose content is in contradiction with the precepts of Islam and is not in conformity with its spiritual values and cultural traditions.

Morocco also expresses its reservations on paragraph 232 (f), which refers to paragraph 96, and on paragraph 274 (d).

The delegation of the Kingdom of Morocco requests that its reservations be included in the report of the Conference.

24. The representative of Nepal submitted the following written statement:

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The interpretation of paragraph 26 for Nepal shall preclude the freedom of conversion of one's own or someone else's religion.

25. The representative of Paraguay submitted the following written statement:

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The Government of Paraguay expresses its satisfaction that chapter IV, section C, of the Platform for Action is in conformity with the content of its National Constitution, especially article 61 thereof, which provides that "the State recognizes the right of everyone to freely and responsibly decide the number of children they plan to have, as well as the time span between one child and another. Through a coordinated effort with the appropriate organizations, they are also entitled to receive education, scientific guidance, and adequate services. Special plans will be implemented to ensure reproductive health and maternal-child health care for low-income people."

The delegation of Paraguay points out that the concept of "methods ... for regulation of fertility which are not against the law", as referred to in paragraph 94 of the Platform for Action, will be interpreted in conformity with its national legislation.

The Government of Paraguay interprets the term "gender", which is used in the documents adopted at this Conference, as referring to both sexes, man and woman, and has incorporated this term, as defined, into its national documents.

26. The representative of Peru submitted the following written statement:

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Pursuant to article 34 of the rules of procedure of the Conference, the delegation of Peru joins in the general agreement on the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, in so far as the principles and commitments established by this Conference are compatible with those embodied in the Political Constitution of Peru. However, in accordance with the position it took at the International Conference on Population and Development and reaffirmed at the World Summit for Social Development, and at the sixth session of the Regional Conference on the Integration of Women into the Economic and Social Development of Latin America and the Caribbean, the delegation of Peru wishes to express its reservation with regard to the interpretation of the following points:

The community and the State protect the family and promote marriage, recognizing them as natural and basic institutions of society. The family and marriage essentially derive from the personal relation that is established between a man and a woman.

The right to life and the consideration of a person from the moment of conception as a subject of law in every respect are fundamental human rights. Therefore, the terms "reproductive health", "reproductive rights" and "sexual or reproductive health" as used in the Platform for Action must not include abortion as a method of birth control or family planning.

The concepts referring to population policy must always be understood within the context of the protection and promotion of the family and marriage, responsible fatherhood and motherhood and the freedom of choice of the family and the individual.

It is understood that sexual rights refer solely to heterosexual relationships.

The criteria established for allocating resources can in no way be understood as restricting the right of Governments to have access to such resources.

The reference to "existing" intellectual property rights with regard to the knowledge, innovations and practices of women of indigenous and local communities, including practices relating to traditional medicines, biological diversity and indigenous technologies, may in no way be construed as restricting the rights of countries and their inhabitants under national and international law.

27. The representative of the Russian Federation submitted the following written statement:

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Paragraph 83 (p) The Russian Federation takes the word "respected" in paragraph 83 (p) to mean that gender equality and cultural, religious and other diversity should be respected in educational institutions.

Paragraph 191 (c) The Russian Federation understands paragraph 191 (c) to mean that political parties shall themselves determine the procedure for appointing women to their leadership bodies and that the State shall not put pressure on them to do so, while at the same time creating equal opportunities for the activities of political parties. Under Russian law, this provision applies not only to political parties but also to political movements.

Paragraph 204 (e) The Russian Federation understands paragraph 204 (e) regarding mandates to review policies and programmes in the context of ensuring equal rights and equal opportunities. The basic principles for implementing this policy are enshrined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Paragraph 258 (c) The delegation of the Russian Federation takes it that paragraph 258 (c) relates to no other question than the transboundary movement of hazardous and radioactive waste. The Russian Federation believes that it is necessary to aim for full compliance of Governments, international governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations with existing international principles and rules governing the transboundary movement of hazardous and radioactive waste through the adoption of special measures, including the establishment of a national legal framework and the definition of the various categories of waste. The movement of such materials should not pose a threat to public health.

28. The representative of South Africa submitted the following written statement:

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The South African delegation interprets paragraph 96, which reads, "The human rights of women include their 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", to include the right to be free from coercion, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation.

The South African delegation wants to make it very clear that it does not want to be associated with any form of discrimination.

29. The representative of Tunisia submitted the following written statement:

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The Tunisian delegation, by virtue of the powers vested in it, has the honour to confirm that Tunisia will interpret paragraphs 96, 232 (f) and 274 (d) of the Platform for Action within its fundamental laws and texts. The foregoing was stated at the meetings of the Main Committee held on 13 and 14 September 1995. Tunisia will reject any provision that is contrary to its fundamental laws and texts. T

he delegation of Tunisia requests that this reservation be included in the documents of the Conference.

30. The representative of the United States of America submitted the following written statement:

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Interpretative statement on the Beijing Declaration

The United States understands that the phrase "hereby adopt and commit ourselves as Governments to implement the ... Platform for Action" contained in the Beijing Declaration, and other similar references throughout the texts, are consistent with the fact that the Platform, Declaration and commitments made by States (unless such States indicate to the contrary) are not legally binding, and that they consist of recommendations concerning how States can and should promote the objectives of the Conference. The commitment referred to in the Declaration, therefore, constitutes a general commitment to undertake meaningful implementation of the Platform's recommendations overall, rather than a specific commitment to implement each element of the Platform. Accordingly, the United States accepts this phrase on this basis, on the understanding that it does not alter the status of the documents or the recommendations contained therein.

The United States understands that the references in the Declaration and Platform for Action to "sustainable development" are to be interpreted consistently with established principles and policies on this matter. As was recognized in Agenda 21, our long-term objective of enabling all people to achieve sustainable livelihoods involves integration simultaneously of policies related to issues of development, sustainable resource management and poverty eradication. At the World Summit for Social Development, States further acknowledged that economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development.

Reservation on paragraph 5 of the Platform for Action

As the United States has stated on a number of occasions during the Conference and in the preparations for it, as a result of domestic funding constraints it cannot agree to an increase in funding for matters dealt with in the Platform for Action other than in the context of reallocation of existing resources, or unless sources of funding other than governmental assessments are involved. Accordingly, the United States reserves on paragraph 5 of the Platform for Action. The United States fully supports the objectives of the Conference and is willing to work with others to ensure that there is a proper allocation of resources within the United Nations system and other international organizations, to address commitments made in the Platform. In this context, the United States notes as well that many of the most critical actions to be taken in accordance with the Platform do not require additional funds from the international community and can be accomplished through actions at the national and local level.

Interpretative statements on individual paragraphs in the Platform for Action

Paragraph 17 The United States understands that the phrase "radical transformation of the relationship between women and men in paragraph 17 is a reference to the realization of full equality between women and men. It is in that context that the United States accepts this paragraph.

Paragraph 26 Paragraph 26 of the Platform recognizes the important role that non-governmental organizations play and the importance of working with them for progress. The United States recognizes the need for Governments to create an enabling environment for non-governmental organizations and that such an environment is critical to the successful implementation of the Platform. The United States understands that Governments, in requesting that non-governmental organizations take action to implement the Platform, are thereby committing themselves to facilitating the efforts of such organizations in this regard.

Paragraph 46 The United States Government has a firm policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and considers that the omission of this reference in paragraph 46 and elsewhere in the Platform for Action in no way justifies such discrimination in any country.

Paragraph 96 The United States understands and accepts that paragraph 96, which concerns, inter alia, equal relationships between women and men, applies existing norms of human rights law to these important areas of the lives of women and men, and thus emphasizes the importance of freedom from coercion, discrimination and violence in relations between men and women.

Paragraph 131 While the United States recognizes that human rights violations can and do occur in situations of foreign occupation around the world, the United States continues to have reservations, as it did at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, about any implication that foreign occupation is a human rights violation per se.

Paragraph 166 (l) The United States understands the intention of the inclusion of "equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value" to be to promote pay equity between men and women and accepts the recommendation on that basis. The United States implements it by observing the principle of "equal pay for equal work".

Paragraph 206 (b), (e) and (f) With respect to paragraph 206 (b), (e) and (f), the United States will seek to develop more comprehensive knowledge as well as to improve data collection on the issue of unwaged work, to the extent that funds are available. We plan to consult, in a cooperative manner, with appropriate research and documentation organizations.

Paragraphs 234-245 A number of institutions, organizations and others have been requested to take actions to implement the Platform. Although many institutions have participated here as observers, and non-governmental organizations have provided helpful inputs into the deliberations, Governments alone will adopt the Platform. As a result, it is necessary to underscore the fact that when the Platform mentions the actions these other actors may take, it thereby invites and encourages the suggested actions; it does not, and cannot, require such actions. In this context, we understand that references to actions the media may take (such as those in chapter IV, section J, and in paragraph 33) are in the nature of suggestions and recommendations, and may not be construed to impinge on the freedom of the press, speech and expression, which are fundamental democratic freedoms.

Paragraph 247 The United States would like to underscore that it interprets the second sentence in paragraph 247 to mean that these listed occurrences can cause environmental degradation in certain circumstances but not in others. The United States also remains concerned about the reference to "the use and testing of nuclear weaponry" in this paragraph, which appears not to have been reviewed fully in the working group.

Paragraph 293 The United States understands and accepts that references to commitments in paragraph 293, references to what the Platform "requires" in paragraphs 4 and 5, and other similar references throughout the texts, including the Declaration, are consistent with the fact that the Platform, Declaration and commitments made by States (unless such States indicate to the contrary) are not legally binding, and that they consist of recommendations concerning how States can and should promote the human rights of women. Accordingly, the United States understands and accepts that such terms as used in these documents suggest practical measures to help promote the human rights of women, and do not alter the status of the documents or the recommendations contained therein.

Paragraph 353 The United States reiterates that, with respect to paragraph 353, it is not one of the countries that have accepted an "agreed target" for official development assistance or have made a commitments to fulfil such a target. We believe that national Governments, not international donors, must have primary responsibility for their country's development. Targets detract from the more important issues of the effectiveness and quality of aid and the policies of the recipient country. The United States has traditionally been one of the largest aid donors in volume terms and will continue to work with developing countries to provide aid in support of their efforts. In addition, the United States understands and accepts the reference in paragraph 353 to increasing the share of official development assistance for social development programmes to apply to only those countries that have accepted the target.

31. The representative of Vanuatu submitted the following written statement:

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The Republic of Vanuatu has come to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing for two purposes: first, to show solidarity with the world community concerning the advancement and rights of women, and second, to learn from other countries about what can be done to improve the situation of women.

In this respect, the delegation of Vanuatu has fully participated in the plenary meetings of the Conference as well as in the Main Committee and the working groups.

The delegation of Vanuatu recognizes the spirit of conciliation and compromise that has gone into the finalization of the Platform for Action. At the same time, the delegation notes that Vanuatu is a small country which has grown out of a strong fundamental traditional past and which now is changing in the midst of modern social, economic and political evolution.

While therefore endorsing the Platform for Action of this important Conference, the Vanuatu delegation wishes to state that its endorsement of the Platform is made with full respect for the constitutional, religious and traditional principles which the sovereign State has inherited and kept for the good government of our nation.

32. The representative of Venezuela submitted the following written statement:

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With a view to speeding up the general debate in order to arrive at a consensus on the Platform for Action, the official delegation of Venezuela makes the following statement of reservations and requests that it be included in full in the final report of the Conference.

The concepts of family planning, sexual health, reproductive health, maternity without risk, regulation of fertility, reproductive rights and sexual rights are acceptable provided that they do not include abortion or voluntary interruption of pregnancy.

Similarly, Venezuela expresses a reservation with regard to the concept of unwanted pregnancy, since the reference to "unwanted pregnancy" could be argued in the opposite sense, as implying acceptance of the right of a woman who has become pregnant against her will to terminate the pregnancy (by abortion), an act which is illegal in Venezuela.

Venezuela also expresses a reservation with regard to references to "unsafe abortion", because abortion under any circumstances is illegal in Venezuela, except when it is essential in order to save a woman's life.

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