U.N. Conference May Attract 20,000 Women to China in 1995

Article excerpt

Women around the globe are planning for the Fourth World Conference of Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace, to be convened by the United Nations Sept. 4-15, 1995, in Beijing, China.

Wait a minute -- travel to Beijing for women's rights?

Pictures flash before my mind. Of Tiananmen Square just five years ago. Of the torture instruments smuggled out of Tibet that Amnesty International displayed in the National Press Club, proof of the persistence of torture in China and Tibet. Of President Clinton's decision to renew China's most-favored-nation trade status over loud protests from human rights activists. Of dissidents still in prison.

China seems like the last place in the world to go to discuss human rights. Especially equal rights for women.

In China, where sons are still valued more highly than daughters, medical technology has provided a modern alternative to infanticide in the form of sex selective abortions. And where most of the workers in the sweatshops that are helping China's economy to grow at a double-digit clip are women.

So why China for the women's conference? A typical U.N. reason is that these international conferences rotate to different regions of the world: Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1980, and Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985. Asia seemed the next region to target. When China offered, the United Nations accepted. No other Asian country extended an invitation.

The Chinese government said it would welcome the estimated 20,000 women delegates and nongovernmental representatives who will participate. The government promises to follow U.N. rules -- even receiving Tibetan women "as sisters."

That's a hopeful sign. Come to think of it, it really didn't matter where the conferences over the past two decades were being held. Actually, it's hard to name a country where women don't suffer from violence. The end result of achieving equality is the major concern.

At previous world conferences, women who didn't look alike, speak alike, dress alike, worship alike or work alike were able to agree on the fundamental awareness that they are not being treated properly in their own countries. As they gathered around a global table, they said, "Things do not have to be the way they are. We can make a difference."

They have made a difference and continue to make a difference. …