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NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Sen. Clinton Pledges To Champion International Women's Rights as Secretary of State

NATIONAL POLITICS & POLICY | Sen. Clinton Pledges To Champion International Women's Rights as Secretary of State
[Jan. 14, 2009]

During her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Secretary of State nominee Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) "laid out an ambitious agenda" for improving women's health worldwide as part of her comments on foreign policy, the New York Times reports (Landler, New York Times, 1/14). Clinton said that U.S. foreign policy "must reflect our deep commitment to the cause of making human rights a reality for millions of oppressed people around the world" (Hearing Transcript, NPR.org, 1/14). She added, "Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world's unhealthy, unschooled, unfed and unpaid" (Landler, New York Times, 1/14). Clinton continued, "If half the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity will remain in serious jeopardy. We still have a long way to go, and the United States must remain an unambiguous and unequivocal voice in support of women's rights in every country, every region, on every continent." Clinton said she also plans to support microloans, which can allow "poor women to start small businesses" and "raise standards of living and transform local economies" (NPR.org, 1/14).

Clinton also discussed women's rights in an exchange with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who cited recent articles by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on violence against women and sex trafficking. Boxer said that she planned to introduce several pieces of legislation related to women's rights and asked Clinton to "commit to help us work on legislation to fight this immorality." Clinton said that as Secretary of State, she would "view these issues as central to our foreign policy -- not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser than all of the other issues we have to confront." In reference to sex trafficking and forced prostitution, Clinton said, "I take very seriously the function of the State Department to lead our government, through the Office on Human Trafficking, to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery; we have wage slavery. And it is primar[ily] a slavery of girls and women." She added that the State Department would have "a very active Women's Office, a very active Office on Trafficking." She said she would be "speaking out consistently and strongly against discrimination and oppression of women and slavery." According to Clinton, speaking out against such practices is "in keeping not only with American values ... but American national security interests as well" (Sweet, "The Scoop from Washington," Chicago Sun-Times, 1/13).

Kristof Blog

In a blog entry on the confirmation hearing, Kristof writes that Clinton "has indeed been far-sighted on this issue, and I think she gets it. Rumor has it that she's going to appoint a senior aide for these matters to sit on the seventh floor along with her." He adds, "One of the problems in the State Department has been that the serious issues are perceived as those relating to nuclear warheads, trade or Middle East peace, and the rest is fluff. In fact, we're seeing the rise of a new foreign policy agenda -- side by side with the old one -- consisting of issues like human trafficking, the environment, genocide." Kristof continues that these issues "are every bit as important as the traditional agenda," concluding that if Clinton "embraces this new agenda (without, of course, dumping the old one), then I'll take off my hat and cheer" (Kristof, "On the Ground," nytimes.com, 1/14).

Clinton Foundation

A Merck spokesperson said that the company, which manufactures the human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil, is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative -- part of the Clinton Foundation founded by former President Bill Clinton, the AP/Indianapolis Star reports. Sen. Clinton in a November 2005 letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt urged the approval of Gardasil, the AP/Star reports. Merck spokesperson Amy Rose said that the company did not communicate with Sen. Clinton or her office regarding Gardasil -- which Merck submitted for approval in December 2005 -- and was not aware of her letter before it was sent. An aide to Clinton said that her involvement in many government issues regarding companies and others who contribute to her husband's foundation had never been a secret. The AP/Star reports that the ties between the foundation's donors and the issues Clinton has advocated for "raise new questions about potential ethics conflicts between her official actions and her husband's fundraising" (Theimer, AP/Indianapolis Star, 1/14).