THE belief that burqas should be banned in order to stop suicide bombers disguising themselves is a legitimate one, according to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Hillary also described the status of women as 'one of the biggest pieces of unfinished business in this century, and said their persecution was a common factor in repressed and impoverished nations. At an ABC-organised forum at the University of Melbourne, Hillary answered around a dozen pre-selected questions from an audience of 480, mostly aged 35 and under. I know that in Pakistan, many of the men who are conducting suicide bombing missions arrive covered in a burqa, Hillary said in response to a question from a young Muslim woman. If youre a Pakistani police officer, respectful of the women of your culture and thats being abused and misused by the suicide terrorists, that causes a real dilemma. So if you are looking at other countries that are understandably nervous about extremist activity, like France and other European countries, I think its a close question. Asked what was the greatest international challenge facing people aged 21 and under, Hillary said in large swathes of the world the lot of women had not improved as it had in Australia and the US. I think that theres very clear evidence ... that societies that do not expand opportunities for women are societies that are more prone to authoritarianism, more prone to extremism, less likely to develop, more likely to be left out of the 21st centurys opportunities, she said.