In 1995, world leaders adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which promises to protect and promote the rights of women and girls everywhere. Twenty years later, full gender equality has yet to be achieved in a single country — a U.N. secretary-general report reviewing the implementation of the Beijing platform noted “unacceptably slow” overall progress, with “stagnation” and even “regression” in some contexts.
Despite efforts to realize gender equality, advocacy groups often encounter resistance not just from men but even from some women as well. While pushback has generally stemmed from deeply entrenched practices and cultural norms, the resurgence of fundamentalism is threatening to reverse progress that has been achieved thus far. Further, some governments continue to attempt to water down previously agreed international obligations, particularly in the area of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, under the guise of so-called traditional values or protection of the family.