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Power Dynamics in Beijing

In this step you will watch third clip from the documentary and explore how the polarization unfolded in the negotiations over the Joint Declaration.
0
SPEAKER 1: We would like to emphasise our reservation.
2.5
ENGLISH TO FRENCH INTERPRETER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
3.7
SPEAKER 1: Madam chairperson.
4.4
ENGLISH TO FRENCH INTERPRETER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
5.4
SPEAKER 1: Do you recall that yesterday my delegation–
7.3
ENGLISH TO FRENCH INTERPRETER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
9.5
SPEAKER 1: –twice–
10.7
ENGLISH TO FRENCH INTERPRETER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
11.8
SPEAKER 1: –asked you–
12.4
ENGLISH TO FRENCH INTERPRETER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
13.4
SPEAKER 1: –to decide.
15.2
SPEAKER 2: The paragraph has lost its previous clear message.
19.3
SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
21.6
INTERPRETER: I would like to express reservations on subparagraph D. - Beijing mattered because people could point to these texts and argue their case wherever they were around the world to push for change.
35.4
SPEAKER 3: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
36.5
FRENCH TO ENGLISH INTERPRETER: My delegation would not want this conference to go down in history as a conference on the sexual revolution.
42.5
GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND: It’s important globally. And so, during the negotiations, there has been a big fight about the words of the Beijing Declaration.
50.9
SPEAKER 6: Those two words should be removed altogether.
55
SPEAKER 5: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
56.6
INTERPRETER: This expression should not appear in the text. - Governments were fighting at two o’clock in the morning. I mean, there was vitriolic and heated discussion.
66.7
SPEAKER 8: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
69
INTERPRETER: This reference is against our ethics and our morals.
73.4
SPEAKER 9: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
75.2
INTERPRETER: It is completely against our religious and social values.
80.1
SPEAKER 9: This will open the floodgate of many other behaviour which we cannot accept.
86.9
ROLA DASHTI: I remember there were certain controversial issues, very polarising, that the conference were going around.
93.9
SPEAKER 10: –against morality.
95.2
SPEAKER 11: It is not moral.
96.5
SPEAKER 12: Totally unacceptable.
99.9
WANDA NOWICKA: Of course, as always at those conferences is the case, the most difficult parts were decided in the last minute.
111.4
ADRIENNE GERMAIN: These conference documents were hundreds of pages long. Governments would struggle over each and every word on every page. And if we couldn’t get an agreement, then we would put square brackets around the clause or the entire paragraph. And then working groups are set up to negotiate for as long as it takes on that particular issue. Any language about access to safe abortion, or even reference to unsafe abortion, was in brackets. Any language about the full equality of girls and women was in brackets. Language about human rights, such as the right to decide when and whom they will marry, were in brackets. Contraception, reproductive health, reproductive rights– brackets. Anything to do with sexual rights– brackets.
169
FELICE GAER: Just a huge portion was bracketed. Everybody understood that there was a real risk of coming out of this conference worse than going in.
181
SPEAKER 13: In this draft, we feel this is only a new kind of spreading poisons that would allow perversity, promiscuity, and also the corruption of children, the corruption of youth.
196.8
LYDIA ALPIZAR DURAN: A lot of the conservative pushback is very centred on how women control our bodies and our sexuality. And therefore, also our reproduction. And the Vatican was blocking, blocking, blocking.
210.2
SPEAKER 14: The Holy Sea delegation would be remiss in its duty to women if it did not indicate several critical areas where it strongly disagrees with the text.
220.9
ROBIN MORGAN: There were basically three sets of fundamentalists– the Islamists, the Christian evangelicals from the United States, and the Vatican. This was the unholy alliance.
230.1
SPEAKER 12: Madam Chair, we appeal to delete all mentions of this term.
236.7
SPEAKER 15: [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]
238.3
INTERPRETER: It’s impossible for there to be a consensus.
241.3
SPEAKER 16: May I just observe that I have 35 more speakers on the list? So, I–
246.9
HILLARY CLINTON: There were those who were willing to say, look, let’s get people to agree on what they’re comfortable agreeing on and go from there. But thankfully, we had Bella Abzug with her hat on, beating the sides of her wheelchair, saying, “We have to get these people to agree!” - Well, you look sweet.
262.7
ROBIN MORGAN: Bella Abzug was rolling around, stirring up controversy. - –to suggest that it’s being dictated to by A, either Western nations or Western feminists is an insult to all those governments and the millions of people they represent.
277.6
HILLARY CLINTON: Our position was we want to go as far as we can. So we can’t get discouraged. We can’t give up. We have to keep negotiating.
286.6
MAHBOUBEH ABBASGHOLIZADEN: It was about the fighting between Islam and West. Always, white people want to say that this is right, this education that we are saying is right, this women’s right that we are saying is right. But we say, no. You colonised us by your culture and your economy, and right now you want to impose your attitude in this Beijing Declaration? No.
322.6
GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND: You can’t have a standard unless you have countries sign up to the standard. You could have said, forget about that country, but the women there should also have the right to have a declaration that applies to them. That their own government has stood behind. - If even one country were to say, we’ve had it, we’re leaving– then not only they, but other governments who may be on the fence a little bit can say, OK, well we failed. We don’t have a consensus. We’re all going to go home without a document. So you can’t let a bunch of countries just leave the room.
360.8
RACHEL KYTE: What became paragraph 96, it was probably the biggest negotiation around language,
382.9
ADRIENNE GERMAIN: Sexual rights are encompassing of early and forced marriage, sexual and other forms of violence against women, the right to information and comprehensive sexuality education, all of these are encompassed under sexual rights.
400.6
RACHEL KYTE: Sexual rights also included the notion of a woman’s expression of her sexual rights in a same sex relationship so it included the idea that lesbians had sexual rights.
417.5
ADRIENNE GERMAIN: The NGO community, including my own organisation, desperately wanted the term sexual rights.
427.7
And right away that term was simply giving a platform for a small group of countries to make a very loud noise.
439.6
KRISTEN TIMOTHY: I remember going into that room and there were people sitting on the floor and there was one individual from Saudi Arabia or Syria– from an Arab country– and I just can see him in my mind, and he was adamant. Every two or three minutes he would get up and say, no, we can’t accept this language.
463.5
ADRIENNE GERMAIN: We could see clearly, this is going nowhere. Now when governments take that position in the UN, you are at a standstill. And you either decide you’re going to walk away from the table, which nobody was going to do in Beijing, or you’re going to work toward compromise. So basically, we knew we would not be able to keep the phrase sexual rights.
489.2
GERALDINE FRASER-MOLOKETI: Eventually, we changed sexual rights to say human rights.
498.4
And I think that was quite far reaching. - Sexual rights is a phrase. It means nothing. In the UN system, there’s no sexual rights treaty. However, governments cannot be members of the United Nations if they have not ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
520.7
LYDIA ALPIZAR DURAN: In paragraph 96, women were defined as human. And as humans we are entitled to all of those rights in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
536.3
ADRIENNE GERMAIN: So the exact wording of Beijing is an enormous win. I can’t tell you how big this win is. It’s just enormous. - It was quite groundbreaking. I don’t think we have such progressive language in almost any document after that. [GAVEL BANGING]
556
CHAIRWOMAN: I call to order–
557.2
RACHEL KYTE: Then came the last night of negotiations–
559.7
CHAIRWOMAN: –to consider the remaining sections of the draft platform–
563.5
RACHEL KYTE: The room is full. We are a hair’s breadth away from agreeing a historic document. I remember a couple of people sort of being curled up on the floor at the back of the room. People were exhausted. And the last sort of remaining bracket was in the preambular language that basically said this would apply to all women, no matter, and then you have the long list– no matter race, ethnicity, you know, etc., etc., etc. And in there was sexual orientation.
596.5
SPEAKER 17: The United States would submit that any form of discrimination is an abridgement of human rights. We support the inclusion of the term sexual orientation in the platform. Thank you.
613.3
SPEAKER 18: New Zealand supports the retention of the word sexual orientation in the platform for action. Thank you, Madam.
619.6
SPEAKER 19: After the long history of discrimination in South Africa–
623.6
GERALDINE FRASER-MOLOKETI: As South Africans we know what it means when discrimination has been in your laws. And we will not discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation, because we reject all forms of discrimination.
641.6
SPEAKER 19: We shall not discriminate in South Africa against any human being so my delegation will support the retention of the word sexual orientation. Thank you.
655.1
SPEAKER 18: Thank you. Sudan, please.
657.4
SPEAKER 20: I’m really finding it very difficult–
659.5
GERALDINE FRASER-MOLOKETI: You thought, but, why don’t they just see it, you know?
663.3
SPEAKER 20: There is no hope that we can agree. - And one Islamic delegate after another, as I recall, supported by the Holy See, raised their flag to speak. - Unnatural behaviour is repugnant to the very spirit of my religion. - And they just started in with their homophobic stuff again. - That these were unnatural acts, that these women didn’t exist in their countries. - This is culturally imperialistic and we can’t possibly agree and– - Suggesting that we were trying to legislate bestiality– - And this conference is a disaster and we’re going to leave. - Sexual orientation– we object. It is a refusal, a rejection, and not a reservation. Thank you very much.
708.7
That was into the early hours of the morning. I think that may have been, what, three? Later– four or five o’clock? That was the whole night.
724.4
SPEAKER 18: It is clear there is no possibility of consensus. So I will have to do the difficult task of making a judgement.
732.5
RACHEL KYTE: At the end, the chair decided basically to gavel it down.
737.3
SPEAKER 18: For the time being, I believe that I have no other alternative. So we are removing the term sexual orientation from the platform.
745.9
RACHEL KYTE: And the gavel came down.
751.4
Everybody was applauding because basically that meant we’d got a document.

In this step you will watch third clip from the documentary and explore how the polarization unfolded in the negotiations over the Joint Declaration. You will see the characteristics of this dynamic explained in the previous step, that polarization often happens through and over language and that strong opposition between two groups emerges.

Watch another part of the documentary and note down your answers to the following questions:

  1. Around which themes did polarization emerge?
  2. Which actors contributed to the polarizing dynamic?
  3. Which terms and themes remained controversial?
  4. How was the controversy ‘solved’ in order to realize a joint Declaration?

When you have noted down your own answers, move on to the next step that unpacks the power dynamics between religious and secular actors in Beijing.

References:

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Religion and Sexual Wellbeing: Pleasure, Piety, and Reproductive Rights

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