Women’s health from Cairo to
Beijing and beyond
Beijing’s strategic objectives The Platform agreed on the need to: increase women’s access throughout the life cycle to free or affordable, good quality health care;
difficult debate before tI conference accepted that "The human tions to the UN Fourth World Conference the r of women include their right to on Women, held in Beijing on Sept 4-15, : rights h have control over and decide freely and hoped at most to maintain earlier achiever on matters related to the sexuments. Of particular concern was conservresponsibly a including sexual and reproductive ing advances in protection of women’s ality, r free of coercion, discrimination reproductive health made at the 1994 UN health, International Conference on Population aand violence". The Cairo mandate and Development, held in Cairo. To much aaddressed health impacts of unsafe abort but the Beijing Platform also requires tion, surprise, hard negotiations in produced a Platform for Action that tthat countries review punitive legal meas advanced beyond Cairo’s achievements. against women who have undergone sures abortions. The principal achievement of Cairo was illegal i : that women’s A critical area of concern at Beijing was recognition empowerment: in their families, communities, and (continuing vulnerability of girls. Girls the historic onus of discrimination nations would go far to improve their inherit i health. The confer! reproductive Beijing against women in their cultures, such as ence reaffirmed that a critical component Idenials of health services, nutrition, eduof human rights is protection of women’s cation, and socioeconomic opportunities. :, and in their socithe Cairo Women’s status commit: developed unequal rights, ment beyond reproduction to socioeties jeopardises their health and welleconomic and related factors in women’s being. The Cairo conference recognised that reproductive health would equip health. The resulting Beijing Platform for women to achieve their full capacities as Action identifies a number of critical areas human beings, but the Beijing Platform of concern, including women’s health, and reciprocally recognises that respect for specifies strategic remedial objectives and women’s human rights would advance their interests, including health. Women’s actions. The document proposes institutional and financial arrangements to socioeconomic inequality was recognised implement the Platform : to compromise women’s health. Accepting The most gross violations of women’s the emotional, social, and physical dimenintegrity endangering health, particularly sions of health, the conference required violence against women and outrages national and international protection of women’s rights in order to afford women during armed conflict, were the least contentious. Language was quickly accepted means to protect and advance their health reaffirming domestic violence against interests. Health and wellbeing have eludwomen, rape in war, and female genital ed the majority of women in the world mutilation as human rights violations. because of discrimination and related vioMore contentious were women’s rights to lations of human rights that women have express sexuality without endangering. suffered.: h There Many of the 189 governmental delega- health.
strengthen preventative programmes directed against threats to women’s health; undertake widespread initiatives to reduce sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection and AIDS; promote research and dissemination of information; and increase resources and monitor
The Platform denies states the power to invoke customs, traditions, or religion to avoid obligations to eliminate violence against women, and recognises violations of rights through denial of justice. The Platform condemns tolerance of abuse of women’s rights through deployment of forces that have historically caused and justified women’s subordination and compromised their health. The Preamble to the Platform states that "While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious background must be borne in mind, it is the duty of states, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms".
Rebecca J Cook
A running start in this task could be obtained by examining relations between regional climate changes over the past two Participants at the conference on the in regional productivity of agriculture and decades and selected health outcomes. potential health impacts of global climate fisheries. The development of The meeting heard preliminary evidence change sponsored by the US White modelling for making quantitative predicof associations between recent changes in House’s National Science and Technology tions of these health outcomes is still at an the inter-annual pattern of "El Niho" Council and the Institute of Medicine and early stage. This underscores the continclimate events and regional outbreaks of held in Washington, DC, Sept 11-12, gent nature of health-impact modelling, cholera, dengue, and malaria. Several recognised that this topic presents an which is several steps "downstream" of described research showing how unusual challenge to conventional science. scientists addressing antecedent questions speakers the warming of coastal waters and the It poses fundamental differences of scale about climate change and its effects on algal blooms potentiate the (regional and global), context (entailing those natural systems that then affect consequent dissemination of cholera. Perhaps this the disturbance of complex systems such human health. helped account for the rapid spread of as weather systems, oceanic There was some divergence of views as processes, cholera along the coasts of Ecuador and ecological relationships, food-system to how sensitive certain vector organisms Peru in the early 1990s? productivity, and human demography), would be to climate change-and how this Unlike the complexities of infectious and uncertainty (reflecting the complex might in turn influence the probability of disease, the recent death toll in Chicago’s non-linear processes involved in these distransmission. (For example, the dengue heatwave afforded ready turbances and the fact that future climate vectors Aedes aegypti and A albopictus now mid-July evidence of a more direct potential impact scenarios are the starting point for healthcoexist in the southeastern USA, and they of climate change. Climatologists forecast impact predictions)-hence the need to vary in their vectorial efficiency and their that warming will lead to a generdevelop different research methods. : sensitivity to external climatic change.) alisedglobal increase in the frequency of such Considerable attention was directed to Workshop sessions stressed the need for events. two of the most predictable indirect health more information about how vector-borne and other infectious diseases respond to impacts-changes in vector : A J McMichael habitat and parasite transmissibility, andchanges in climatic variables.
change and health