ARE YOU feeling the tilt of that ramp to Hillary in 2016 yet? The announcement that Hillary will lead the “Beijing Plus 20” review, reported in the Washington Post, is going to make the chatter grow even louder, the anticipation of the moment seen through her historic 1995 Beijing speech.
The speech Hillary gave when she was first lady ricocheted around the world and cemented her life’s work that had begun when she was first lady of Arkansas. People not paying attention at the time don’t remember the explosion of press and the squealing of right-wing radio over what they saw as audacity of a feminist “nag,” standing for “National Association of Gals,” speaking out on the world stage.
What gave First Lady Hillary Clinton the right to walk into China and confront the female genocide and human rights violations against, specifically, women? As if being the First Lady of America isn’t enough, confronting human rights crimes against girls and women should be the duty of all females, all people.
I’ll never forget Hillary’s speech in Beijing. It begins the book I wrote about the 2008 election season, The Hillary Effect, and inspired me to get more serious about taking notes on Mrs. Clinton’s work, which I’ve done for over 20 years. The book I wrote two years ago now the history of her rise in national politics, which some would content began with her historic speech in Beijing.
Being reminded of Hillary’s Beijing speech as she prepares the “Beijing Plus 20” review on women’s progress, her work will include advances, as well as sobering failures for women around the world especially in pay equity, but also in that many of the misogynistic forces against women, like genital mutilation, still exist.
For people expecting another run for the presidency by Hillary, even invoking Beijing, the cause of women’s rights as human rights, reminds people of the seminal focus of Hillary’s life’s work.
As for American feminists, our job of electing the first female president remains undone.
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 Huairou 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 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 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.
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. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely — and the right to be heard.