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Attacks on women's rights are unacceptable, says Bachelet

06/21/2012 - 13h24

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DENISE MENCHEN
FROM RIO

The face of U.N. Women, the branch of the United Nations for gender equality, the former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet considers the attacks on women's rights that are already ratified in international agreements to be unacceptable.

The final document of Rio+20 does not include the expression "reproductive rights," which designates the autonomy of the woman to decide when she wants to have children-the text just mentions "reproductive health."

Bachelet defends the use of 'affirmative policies' to increase the presence of women in economics and politics and says that violence and poverty are among the main problems that women face.

Beginning today, she will be the host of the summit for female heads of state.

Folha - What is your opinion about the pressure from the Vatican to exclude specific reference to the reproductive rights of women in the final declaration?
Michelle Bachelet - Of course there are always countries that have their own vision about the rights of women. But a woman cannot be divided. You cannot divide her rights into economic and political rights and not guarantee sexual and reproductive health. A woman needs to have the ability to decide and to plan her own family.

To what would you attribute the opposition to women's rights in existing international agreements?
There could be different political, religious or economic reasons, but this is not acceptable. We have to move forward, not backwards, relative to agreements that have already been signed.

Does the right to sexual and reproductive health include the right to have a safe abortion?
The agreement that was signed in Cairo says that each country has to sovereign right to define their own politics surrounding this issue. But if abortion is permitted by law, then it has to be safe.

Why should we discuss the future that women want in a specific forum at Rio+20?
We want the conference to result in better commitments to recognize that women are a vital piece of sustainable development. We also want this to be a call to action.

What are some other problems that affect women?
There is no country in the world where the issue of gender equality and the empowerment of women is fully resolved. Even in the most developed countries, there is still a problem with wage inequality between men and women. But there are some places where these are life or death issues, especially related to pregnancy, poverty, hunger and violence.

What do you think about quotas to guarantee that women have the same access to leadership positions in companies?
Some affirmative action is necessary when there is discrimination. On the day when this is no longer necessary, it can be revisited, but we are going to need a fair amount of time until then.

Translated by ANNA EDGERTON

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