LETTER: Questioning the values of the UN Conference on Women

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The Independent Online
From Ms Parasathi Teare

Sir: As an Asian woman, I am fed up with the discussions at the UN World Conference on Women in Peking and it is not just the anti-Chinese sentiments that sicken me.

Why is it that traditional practices like female circumcision, which have been carried out for centuries and which in some societies signify girls entering womanhood, have suddenly become a major concern of Western governments and charitable organisations? For every woman who dies from "mutilation" there are many more who die of poverty and malnourishment. But economic development which will eradicate poverty is not the main debate at Peking.

Why is it that the only health care available in many Third World countries is to do with family planning? Why does reproductive choice mean adopting the Western model of 2.5 children? Surely choice is about having the right to have as many children as you like. I fear that there is another agenda being set here. The language is about women's rights but the agenda is about fertility control, which is about population control.

It is interesting that Western women, especially the well-to-do, are being encouraged to have more children. We in the Third World, however, have to stop breeding and cease any practices that Western agencies identify as a problem. Words like racism may not be used any more but I am not going to kid myself that Baroness Chalker or Hillary Clinton really care about us women of the Third World.

Yours faithfully,

Parasathi Teare

London, E17

8 September