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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 11, 1998


|----------------------------------------------------------------------| | | | "We cannot advance our ideals and interests unless we focus more |

|    attention on the fundamental human rights...of women and          |
|    girls...We are putting our efforts to protect and advance         |
|    women's rights where they belong -- in the mainstream of          |
|    American foreign policy."                                         |
|                               - President Bill Clinton               |
|                                 Human Rights Day - December 10, 1996 |


Today, the President will celebrate International Women's Day by highlighting the Administration's commitment to fighting human rights abuses against women around the world; announcing several new initiatives to prevent violence against women; and re-affirming commitment to Senate ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Violence Against Women - At today's event, the President will announce that the United States Government is committing an additional $10 million in FY98 and FY99 to combat violence against women which remains a widespread violation of human rights around the world. USAID will expand its efforts to assist victims through crisis centers and hotlines and strengthen efforts toward legislative reform, legal training and advocacy. The State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) will work with local communities in Russia and the former Soviet Union to carry out training for police, doctors, social workers, judges, prosecutors and crisis center personnel.

Trafficking of Women - The trafficking of women and girls, for forced labor or sexual exploitation purposes, has become one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world. An estimated one to two million girls are trafficked annually around the world, with some 10,000-100,000 women trafficked for sexual exploitation. Women caught in these trafficking rings are victims forced into virtual bondage in illegal and often unsafe working conditions. The United States has worked to combat the trafficking of women through both prevention (public awareness campaigns and programs to encourage new work opporunities) as well as enforcement measures (stronger penalties for trafficking and training of law enforcement officials) and victim services and protection. At today's event, the President will announce further steps the United States Government is taking to combat this fundamental human rights violation, including a Department of Justice initiative to enhance the capability of law enforcement officials to combat this problem, the convening of an international conference on the prevention of trafficking and a joint project with the Government of Ukraine to develop and implement a comprehensive and integrated strategy to combat trafficking of women and girls into and out of Ukraine.

CEDAW - At today's event, the President will once again call on the United States Senate to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the most comprehensive international treaty to date that addresses the rights of women. 161 countries have ratified CEDAW since its adoption by the UN in 1979, including all our European allies and most of our important trading partners.

Afghanistan - Since the movement known as the Taliban became a military and political force in late 1994, women and girls in Afghanistan have been forced to become virtually invisible. The Taliban has issued edicts forbidding women from working outside the home, prohibiting girls from attending school, restricting women's access to medical treatment, and imposing other restrictions on dress and movement. The United States has repeatedly condemned Taliban human rights violations, particularly against women and girls. Today, the President will announce a new initiative to increase funding for support of Afghan women's grass-roots organizations and to provide more funds for support of training and technical assistance to improve the skills of women in Afghanistan, particularly in the areas of health care and development projects.