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Global struggle for women's rights spotlighted at New York meeting
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A handful of nations have not only failed to make significant progress on women's rights, they are trying to undo progress that has been made, rights activists and officials said during a symposium in New York sponsored by Rutgers University's Center for Global Women's Leadership.
States such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Vatican were criticized on those grounds during the symposium Sunday in New York.
"They do not change their legislation," said Pierre Sane, secretary-general of Amnesty International. "They do not change their discriminatory practices that exist, they do not bring an end to violence against women. They do not hold states' agencies accountable when they commit human rights violations."
The symposium drew from around the world women campaigning for an end to domestic violence, genital circumcision, bride burning and other abuses of women's rights.
"Women have a lot to say about how to advance women's rights, and governments need to learn from that, listen to the movement and respond," said Charlotte Bunch of the Rutgers center.
Lack of political will blamed
The symposium came just as world leaders gathered for a special session of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss progress made since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 laid out a platform on female equality.
Theo-Ben Giurab, president of the U.N. General Assembly, said the global drive toward female equality has not progressed as far as it should have.
"If there had been political will, we would have gone a long way toward meeting the goals and objectives set in Beijing," he said.
Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, says recalcitrant countries may yet reverse what progress women have made there.
"The few that don't want progress are very effective, and that's a problem," she said. "A problem because the gains made are still fragile."
U.N. officials say women have nevertheless made gains worldwide in areas such as education and health. But the biggest achievement, many leaders say, has been a strengthening of the global women's movement and a greater sense of female empowerment.
"Women themselves have organized and mobilized, so it's not only waiting for the state to deliver or the international community, but the women through this empowerment have taken their future into their own hands," said Sunila Abeysekera, executiver director of the organization Inform.
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