June 6, 2019 / 11:24 PM / 11 days ago

Are women's rights under attack?

VANCOUVER, Canada (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thousands of delegates, from world leaders to activists, gathered this week at Women Deliver, the world’s largest conference on gender equality, to discuss everything from education to health, violence and the power of social movements.

A leading topic was the recent moves in the United States to restrict access to abortion.

Here are some quotes from participants at the Vancouver conference on whether women’s rights are under attack:

KATJA IVERSEN, PRESIDENT, WOMEN DELIVER

“We’re in a time of push-back against women’s rights all over the world. But we stand up and we stand strong. We have the power of many and of justice, and we will not go backwards.”

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINSTER, CANADA

“Progress can backslide. We’re seeing it happen .... I can only imagine how hard it is to be a feminist on the front lines.”

KATE GILMORE, UNITED NATIONS DEPUTY HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

“They do hunt down the truthtellers, they bar the law-loving lawyers, they threaten the life-giving, life-protecting midwife, the clinically loyal doctor, and they may even again torch every book, char every page of reason and turn every loving and tolerant word into ash.

“They can’t and they will not command our silence. We will speak of the unspeakable. We will insist those stories be told. For we are offended, so we will be offensive.”

MABEL VAN ORANJE, BOARD CHAIRWOMAN, GIRLS NOT BRIDES

“Don’t ask me if women’s rights are at risk. Ask the 12 million girls that are married off every year, depriving them of their fundamental human rights and ability to decide their futures.”

TINA TCHEN, LAWYER, TIME’S UP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, UNITED STATES

“Here I am from the United States where we’ve just seen this state by state attack on what is essentially a fundamental constitutional right for women, which is the ability to make decisions for themselves around their bodies.

“Progress which we think we have made is under attack and is just a lesson to all of us that nothing is a given, and nothing is certain, and you must constantly be vigilant around things that are important.”

ALAA MURABIT, U.N. HIGH-LEVEL COMMISSIONER, HEALTH AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

“The hard-fought progress on women’s rights is under attack. We must now stand firm in our values to fight for gender equality. We need to end the systemic, violent exclusion of women from power and draw a red line around non-debatable issues, most importantly the control of women over their own bodies!”

NANCY NORTHUP, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

“In the past 25 years there has been an overwhelming global trend toward the liberalization of abortion laws. During this same time period, only a handful of countries have reduced the grounds under which abortion is legal.

“Despite the progress of the past 25 years, 41% of women of reproductive age still live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. This means that nearly 700 million women cannot exercise their fundamental right to bodily autonomy and personal agency.”

AILBHE SMYTH, FORMER DIRECTOR, TOGETHER FOR YES, IRELAND

“In Ireland we have very obviously and very significantly bucked the trend, which obviously pertains in the U.S. but also to a very large extent now extends elsewhere in the world whether it’s in Europe, whether it’s in South America, whether it’s in India, wherever, of extreme right-wing forces or forces of reaction are taking hold.

“I do think that we should be very careful not to read every part of the world in absolutely identical ways.”

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. WOMEN

“They are absolutely under attack. The responsibility for those of us who are protecting and promoting women’s rights is really to unite in pushing back against the push-back.

“The other responsibility that we have is to make sure that young people, men and women, do not accept this push-back – that their focus is on making sure that the very big and loud noises against women’s rights do not drown the cause for progress.”

Reporting by Emma Batha and Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Emma Batha. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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