What needed to be in the Inaugural Address

January 21, 2008

This is what was missing in the Inaugural Address and here are some of the words I would have liked to have heard. Words that should have been written. Words to reach the women in the world who hold the power of peace in their hands and wombs. We heard about race – we heard nothing about women.

What would Mrs Parks have wanted to hear?

Women were no more included in the Constitution than black men. There is not a single black man alive who was born without the right to vote – but there are black women. Black men have been voting since 1870. More black men – former slaves – held office immediately after they got the right to vote than do so now. But it took anther fifty years for women’s suffrage.

Do you know how many people do not know that?

Excerpt from Senator Clinton Madame Secretary Clinton’s speech spoken as First Lady on September 5, 1995 in Beijing, China, during the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women.

They are just as imperative as they were then. Though it seems not to Mr President. Fortunately for the women of the world, Madame Secretary will be carrying on her mission of true equality – women’s equality.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

…These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loudly and clearly:

It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed — and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire, and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely — and the right to be heard.

Women must enjoy the rights to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries, if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure. It is indefensible that many women in nongovernmental organizations who wished to participate in this conference have not been able to attend — or have been prohibited from fully taking part.

Let me be clear. Freedom means the right of people to assemble, organize, and debate openly. It means respecting the views of those who may disagree with the views of their governments. It means not taking citizens away from their loved ones and jailing them, mistreating them, or denying them their freedom or dignity because of the peaceful expression of their ideas and opinions.

Amen.

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