- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2000

The U.S. delegation to a United Nations Women's Conference is leading efforts to avoid condemning prostitution as a "form of abuse" of women and is attempting to weaken anti-pornography provisions.
A leading U.S. negotiator, Sharon Kotok, confirmed reports from closed-door negotiating sessions on a U.N. report being drafted this week that the Clinton administration spearheaded the move for wealthy, developed nations.
Poorer, undeveloped nations in Africa, the Middle East and South America have strongly objected to the U.S.-European moves because of strong religious traditions.
"We [the caucus of developed nations] had agreed to drop all of these phrases," Ms. Kotok said of the anti-prostitution provision. She attributed the move to "cleaning up" the report to avoid listing specific abuses that could be broadly labeled "sexual exploitation."
The United States wants to drop an attack on the pornography industry as an exploiter of women and simply label pornographic and obscene material as an "obstacle" to women's dignity and rights.
The provisions are part of a draft report at a conference of 10,000 female delegates from throughout the world, five years after the 1995 Beijing women's conference. The delegates are mapping an agenda for women's advancement and empowerment over the next five years.
The United States, the European Union and wealthy, developed countries Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea are trying to use the report to expand homosexual rights, create new sexual rights for adolescent girls starting at age 10 and require abortion training for all health care workers.
Poorer undeveloped countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America want stronger pro-family provisions and condemnation of sexual exploitation of women through sexual promiscuity, prostitution, pornography and other abuses.
Participants in the closed-door sessions said the United States made the move to strike the prostitution provision in a section on women's migration after the Philippines delegation tried to strengthen it.
As written, the draft report noted that while global migration of women increases their earning opportunities and self-reliance, it also exposes women and children, especially girls, to inadequate working conditions, increased health risks, the risk of trafficking, economic and sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, racism, xenophobia and other forms of abuse.
The Philippine delegation moved to drop the word "forced" so that all prostitution was labeled as an exploitative abuse. At that point, delegates said, Ms. Kotok jumped up and moved to strike any reference to prostitution, racism and xenophobia.
This was not a paragraph calling for criminalization of prostitution, thus the Clinton administration cannot contend that it was trying to protect women from prosecution for a crime in which men go unpunished, said Kathryn Balmforth, a nongovernment organization (NGO) delegate representing Family Voice of Utah.
The maneuver was simply designed to prevent voluntary prostitution from being included in a negative context.
Ms. Kotok said the United States and other countries in its caucus had agreed before the conference to push to delete the prostitution references.
"I suggested dropping this entire phrase," she said. "We were just trying to clean it up. That was a balanced sentence. We thought it [prostitution] was covered [as sexual exploitation]."
However, U.S. NGOs supporting positions of the Holy See, the Vatican's delegation to the U.N., and the undeveloped nations' caucus called the Group of 77, or G-77, said the administration has opposed U.N. references condemning prostitution in other negotiations.
According to published reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, in negotiations involving the U.N. Convention on Transnational Organized Crime in Vienna, the administration has supported using the phrase "forced prostitution" rather than simply "prostitution," thus placing women in the position of having to prove whether their prostitution was coerced or not.
The administration's position in Vienna this year was spearheaded by the President's Interagency Council on Women, whose honorary chairman is first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the reports said. The President's Interagency Council on Women also is directing the U.S. delegation's positions at the U.N. women's conference, officials said.
"I am not involved in Vienna," Ms. Kotok, a State Department official assisting the U.S. delegation, said yesterday.
"It's all in brackets," she said of the prostitution section and the pornography section that the administration wants to have modified, meaning the two sections have not been agreed to and are still under discussion.
"We are trying to condemn the entire pornography industry as an abuse; it is one of the obstacles we are dealing with," said T. Malek-Ebrahimi, a delegate for Islamic Women Institute of Iran, an NGO group.
The U.S. words referring only to pornographic materials are diluting the actual language because it does not encompass filmmakers who exploit women and children in making pornographic movies, or other aspects of the pornography trade, she said.
Pornography is the whole institution: filmmakers, magazines, sex shops and so forth. Pornographic and obscene materials are only one part of it.
Ms. Kotok says the U.S. proposal talks about products in a section dealing with women and media. "We thought it made more sense. We thought 'pornographic materials' was more appropriate," she said.
E.J. Suh, a University of Illinois college student representing World Youth Alliance, a major youth NGO group at the conference with members on five continents, said she was disappointed in the U.S.-led action.
"It doesn't make sense to me that the U.S. would loosen regulations on issues of prostitution, pornography and abortion," she said. "It is something very damaging to women physically, mentally and emotionally. As an American, I know how our society holds very dear freedom, but not freedom to do anything and everything."

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