World leaders, philanthropists and other organizations have pledged to provide at least $40 billion at an international conference in Paris to boost gender equality, as women across the world have been deeply affected by the consequences of the pandemicBy SYLVIE CORBETJune 30, 2021, 6:26 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePARIS — World leaders, philanthropists and organizations have pledged at least $40 billion at an international conference in Paris to boost gender equality, as women and girls worldwide have been deeply affected by the consequences of the pandemic.U.N. Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the pledges at the three-day Generation Equality Forum that started Wednesday.The summit “is about change. It is about moving from making promises to telling us what you are going to do for the situation of women to change,” she said.French President Emmanuel Macron said that over the past year and half, an extra 47 million women fell into poverty amid the pandemic, and millions of others were deprived of treatment, contraception and the possibility of choosing for themselves. “While they were on the frontline of the fight against COVID, women are the first victims of this health crisis,” he said.The conference aims at tackling and funding all issues that impede women’s rights — forced marriage, gender-based violence, leaving school, work inequality, losing out on innovation and technology — and ensuring their sexual and reproductive rights and health.Bill and Melinda Gates’ namesake foundation announced it will spend $2.1 billion in the next five years on health and family planning programs, economic empowerment projects and other initiatives.The Ford Foundation announced a $420 million investment to tackle threats to women’s rights caused by COVID-19. The World Bank committed to funding programs in 12 African states.The conference, co-organized by the U.N., France and Mexico, is mostly held virtually, but some heads of state, U.N. officials and women’s right activists were also attending in person in Paris.Meant to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women, during which nations made major commitments to achieve gender equality, it was delayed from last year because of the coronavirus.Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who famously said in Beijing that “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights,” came to Paris to encourage younger generations to continue fighting.“Now looking back, I believe we have made progress not near enough, and that we have to recommit ourselves to going even further. But we also need the power to claim the rights,” she said. “Rights without power adds up to very little.”U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking via videoconference, highlighted threats to democracy around the world.“Democracy is in peril. Strongmen have become stronger. Human rights abuses have multiplied,” she said. “And who gets hurt when democracies fall? When democracies falter? … Well, women and girls are among those who suffer.”Harris previewed US commitments to “reinforce our institutions” in ways that will create “tangible results that improve the lives of women in the United States and women around the world,” without providing details.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced what he described as a current “pushback” from some world leaders, political, economic and religious movements across the world.“We must push back against the pushback”, he said. “We must win that ideological battle against conservative forces.”
France’s lower house of parliament has approved a law that will allow single women and lesbians access to medically assisted reproduction for the first timeBy SYLVIE CORBETJune 29, 2021, 6:30 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePARIS — France’s lower house of parliament adopted a law Tuesday that will allow single women and lesbians access to medically assisted reproduction for the first time.The wide-ranging bioethics law, presented by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, was approved by the National Assembly in a 326-115 vote.The measure had been much awaited by LGBT rights groups, who had pushed for the reproduction measure since France legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.The new law will expand access to fertility treatments such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF), currently reserved only for infertile heterosexual couples.In France, fertility treatments are free — and this would now also include lesbian couples and single women.Armêl Balogog, a journalist who describes herself as bisexual and in a relationship with another woman, welcomed the new law.“Let me tell you how much it means for me to live in a country where I can legally have a child with the woman I love,” Balogog tweeted after the vote. She said only regrets that transgender people were “forgotten” by the law.The law did not meet demands that transgender women be allowed to donate sperm for use in fertility procedures before their gender reassignment.Health Minister Olivier Veran said French authorities are getting ready to apply the new law as quickly as possible, so that the first children could be conceived by the end of the year.The vote marks the end of a protracted, two-year debate in parliament. The conservative majority in the Senate repeatedly rejected the measure, but the lower house of parliament, where Macron’s centrist party has a majority, has the final say.French LGBT rights groups lobbied for the measure after France legalized same-sex marriage under then-President Francois Hollande, following months of mass protests by conservative and Catholic groups.“Finally,” Matthieu Gatipon, spokesperson of the Inter-LGBT association said, welcoming a “long-awaited progress.”“We are satisfied that this is getting done … but this has been a painful birth,” he said, expressing frustration that it took so long to get to the final vote of the law.Gatipon said it has been hard on French women who had to delay for years their plans to have a baby, and others who had to pay expensive fees to go abroad to countries where such procedures are available, such as Spain and Belgium.The new law does not address France’s ban on surrogacy arrangements in which a woman carries and delivers a baby for someone else.