Beijing, China. Tuesday, September 5, 1995. Beijing International Conference Center (BICC). The afternoon plenary of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women: Equality, Peace, Development is about to start in a hall too small to seat everyone who wants to be there. Other than places for some of the delegates from each attending State, space is limited and in high demand. A lucky few lined up for hours to get a ticket; many ended up negotiating prime space in front of one of several TV screens strategically located throughout the building. A hushed silence fell in the hall and in the areas surrounding the TV screens. The introduction: Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady of the United States of America. She speaks on women, children, poverty, education, health, and economic and political participation. She gets into a rhythm as she softly makes her point: "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, it is that human rights are women's rights-And women's rights are human rights." Emphasizing her message, she gives detailed examples--"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." She continues - "it is a violation of human rights" when women and girls are subject to: violence, even in their own homes; female genital mutilation; bride-burning; girl-killing; rape, sometimes as a tactic or prize of war; forced abortion; forced sterilization and the usual litany of abuses that are, regrettably, all too common and all too well known. The silence is broken, first by nervous and gradually empowered applause which fills the building-inside and outside the hall.
Berta E. Hernández-Truyol, Women's Rights as Human Rights - Rules, Realities and the Role of Culture: A Formula for Reform, 21 Brook. J. Int'l L. 605 (1996), available at: http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/511