In planning to make her speech, the 47-year-old Clinton defied both internal administration pressure and external Chinese pressure to soften her remarks. The U.S. State Department and the National Security Agency both tried to dissuade her on the grounds that it would irritate the Chinese. While Pre
Publish Date: May 19, 2017
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In planning to make her speech, the 47-year-old Clinton defied both internal administration pressure and external Chinese pressure to soften her remarks. The U.S. State Department and the National Security Agency both tried to dissuade her on the grounds that it would irritate the Chinese. While President Bill Clinton had seen the speech in advance, his aides had not, and White House Chief of Staff Thomas McLarty was under the impression that it would not say anything new or controversial. Some human rights campaigners also objected to Clinton speaking in China, fearing it would legitimize that government, and a State Department condition was that Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu be released before she would appear, which he was. Some vocal Catholic groups criticized the gathering as "anti-family" while some ideological conservatives said that Clinton was clearly going to push a "radical feminist agenda" while there.
Once it happened on 5 September 1995, Clinton's speech was delivered in a large hall at the conference. In it, she argued against practices abusing women around the world and in China itself. Targeting governments and organizations as well as individual females, she stated her belief that the issues facing women and girls are often either ignored or "silenced" and thus go unresolved. Elements brought up in the speech include dowry deaths and China's one-child policy.
Clinton declared "that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights". Delegates from over 180 countries heard her say:
“ "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all."
She followed this by saying, "As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace everywhere in the world, as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled, subjected to violence in and outside their homes—the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realized." A number of the women delegates at the conference pounded on tables and cheered as she spoke.
China's citizenry was not allowed to attend the speech, and it was blacked out on Chinese radio and television.
The speech received prominent media attention at the time. NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw said, “In her own way, she made a direct hit on the Chinese," while reporter Andrea Mitchell said it was “highly unusual” for a U.S. first lady to engage in this kind of significant diplomatic activity. The New York Times said that Clinton spoke "more forcefully on human rights than any American dignitary has on Chinese soil."
The speech is considered to be influential in the women's rights movement. Specifically, it became a key moment in the empowerment of women, and years later women around the world would recite Clinton's key phrases.
The international community has long acknowledged and recently reaffirmed at Vienna that both women and men are entitled to a range of protections and personal freedoms, from the right of personal security to the right to determine freely the number and spacing of the Children they bear. No one, the No. One should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or political persecution, arrest, abuse or torture. Tragically, women are most often the ones whose human rights are violated. Even now, in the late 20th century, the rape of women continues to be used as an instrument of armed conflict. Women and Children make up a large majority of the world's refugees, and when women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse. I believe that now, on the eve of a new millennium, it is time to break the silence. It is time for us to say here in Beijing and for the world to hear that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights. These abuses have continued because for too long the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. But the voices of this conference and of the women at Cairo must be heard loudly and clearly. It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food or drowned or suffocated or their spines broken simply because they are born girls. It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed, and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated. It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small. It it is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war. It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives. It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation. It it is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will. It all it all. If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights once and for all.