Peru's leader defies Vatican

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 September, 1995, 12:00am

PERU's President Alberto Fujimori has arrived for the last few days of the UN World Conference on Women to back the lobby against the Vatican's opposition to contraception.

Mr Fujimori made the trip to Beijing despite opposition from his largely Catholic population for his more liberal views on family planning and women's health.

'It's a delicate issue in my country and the Catholic hierarchy has support among the public,' he said.

But family planning was important and he hoped the conference would help the people of Latin America.

He is currently working to break the stronghold the Vatican has over the 250 million Catholics there. His presence has been welcomed by many at the conference, where the Vatican appears to be losing a battle over reproductive health rights.

The language in Platform for Action, the document now being debated at the conference, will not be binding on governments, but Mr Fujimori hopes it will be influential in his part of the world and he says leaders should give it their support.

'As the head of state in a developing country, I think I must show solidarity for the work of the women at the conference,' he said.

'In a country like Peru, where abortion is limited by the Constitution, this document could help to change or improve the situation.' Mr Fujimori also echoed the concerns of many delegates who feared implementing the platform would be difficult and that the plethora of words might be wasted if governments failed to take greater responsibility for women's rights.

'I will increase support for women's organisations in my country,' he said, 'but I must say that my goals, although less ambitious than some others, can be a reality.' Mr Fujimori said Peru had strong economic ties with China and sound diplomatic relations. It was a busy day for other members of the Latin American delegation.

The co-ordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean NGO delegation, Virginia Vargas, also from Peru, was forced to stop speaking after reading only three paragraphs of her speech at a morning session.

Ms Vargas used her speech to call for more action and fewer words, a dominant theme in the closing days of the Beijing conference.

She also violated UN regulations by unfurling a banner during her address that read, 'Justice Mechanism and Resources'.

'We are seeking results commensurate with the expectations this conference has awakened in us,' she said before she was forced to stop speaking.