Piyasha Das

BA.LLB.(H)

4th Year

Amity University, Kolkata

Women’s Human Rights and Gender equality on Global basis.

Abstract:

Every human being is entitled to human rights including every women, who has the same equal human rights attached to them for being a human. This includes the rights to live from violence and discrimination, to enjoy a decent standard of physical and mental health and live with dignity and safety. As a particular vulnerable group, women over the ages have been facing discrimination on the basis of sex and gender. Women have been constant subject to domestic and sexual violence’s, lack of access to education, lower pay rate, lack of proper decent jobs, and inadequate healthcare. For many years women’s right movements, have been fighting, protesting to address the inequality and demand the rights and respect of women. Despite great efforts made by the international forums and activists, women and girls all over the world are still being victims of sexual violence, being trafficked into forced labor and sex slavery and being deprived of their basic rights to live with dignity. Around the world, deaths related to pregnancy and childbirths are high and women are prevented from making personal choices in their lives. Heinous crimes like Female Genital Mutilation are still prevailing with a latest surveyed rate of 38.4% all around the world. The United Nation Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the most international comprehensive treaty on the rights of Women. It discourages and condemns any form of discrimination against women. The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the body under United Nations, is inter governmental and is exclusively dedicated for the purpose of safeguarding women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world and setting standards on gender equality and women empowerment. This paper critically analyses the current prevailing issues of women’s right exploitation. The measures and law under the United Nations commission for women, there approach towards safeguarding women’s human rights and gender equality. The paper also highlights the condition of women’s human rights in India.                     

Key words- Human rights, Gender inequality, Violence, United Nation, Women’s rights

Content:

  1. Introduction

  2. United Nation and Women’s human rights

  3. Women’s right issues-  Violence against women

  • Political and civil role

  • Sexual violence against women

  • Marriage, family and property issues

  1. Gender inequality and discrimination

  2. Global commitments and legal protections

  3. Conclusion

Introduction:

In 1945, the UN charter afforded that human rights and fundamental rights should be enjoyed by everyone without discrimination as to …sex[1], even then women have been overly excluded from the concept of human rights, and they have traditionally gained a subordinate status in society and have been generally excluded from basic human rights. Women rights that were enshrined by the United Nations nearly 70 years ago included right to live, free from violence, slavery and discrimination, right to be educated, right to vote, share of property and earn a fair and equal wage. Considerable work has been undertaken by various UN bodies to promote women’s rights. The UN General Assembly (GA), former Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Commission on Status of Women (CSW), and many other organs and conventions are actively involved in promotion of the integration of women’s rights. [2]Recognition of women’s rights began with the country evolving from feudal to representative form of government. Women’s human rights only emerged as a global movement during the United Nation’s decade for women, 1976 to 1985. During this time women from different countries, different geographical, cultural, religion, racial and class backgrounds came together and organized to improve the status of women. And during this time, the United Nation financed and promoted several women’s conferences-Mexico city 1975, Third World Conference of Women 1985 for evaluating the status of women and to formulate strategies for improving women’s condition. The new era of human rights have promised women, the full recognition of their humanity, recognizing the immediate need for empowering and educating women and proving proper laws for safeguarding their rights on a universal level. Significantly the promise of equality also extended to the realms of family, marriage issues[3]. Yet, there prevails widespread resistance to talking this obligations and law seriously for a significant amount of change. The Convention on Elimination of Discrimination (CEDAW) vey evidently evidenced the still prevailing poor conditions of women’s rights all over the world. This convention was adopted in 1979 to draw attention to the existing nature of women’s inequality and the need for significant measures to eliminate it. The harsh reality is that women’s condition is considerably worse than men in almost all aspects of social well being despite the recognition by almost all states of atleast some international legal obligation to promote their equal enjoyment of human rights. Cruel practices like Female genital mutilation, female feticide, breast ironing still remain in many countries. Mostly in the under developed countries and the developing countries. In countries like South Africa, women are treated as second class citizens and with an extremely high rate of rape and sexual violence. South Africa has a rate of 132.4 numbers of incidents per 100,000 citizens[4]. As per the United Nations sustainable human development means expanding people’s choices and creating the conditions for equality so that people realize their full potential. The United Nation’s millennium development goals are specific targets to reduce gender inequality. The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) have specific goal for gender equality, and includes targets on ending gender based violence, eliminating child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation and protection to sexual and reproductive health.[5]

United Nation’s and Women’s Human Rights:

The charter of the United Nations was adopted in 1945 by 51 states[6], provided the foundation of the international human rights system. The United Nations have developed a comprehensive programme by means of various conventions to uplift and develop the status of women in the field of education, politics, social life with the formation of the commission of Human rights and the commission on the status of women in 1946 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. As a result the UN has incorporated a series of treaties and conventions to achieve the equal legal and political rights of women worldwide.[7]

 Under Article 68[8] of the UN charter, the Commission of Status of Women was established and in July 2010, United Nations Women was created. The creation of UN Women came about aspart of the UN reform agenda which focused exclusively on gender equality and Women’s empowerment, also certain functions and bodies were instituted under it[9].

The international covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR) refers explicitly to the principal of non discrimination and equality and all the treaties holds that the parties shall respect and ensure the rights laid down without any form of discrimination.

The Commission on the Status of Women in 1949 expressed the concern regarding the determination of nationality of married women in the light of marriage. Consequently, commission prepares the draft of the Convention in 1957, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN. And was called the, Convention of the Nationality of Women, 1957[10].

On 7th December, 1967, THE General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on Elimination of Discrimination against Women and on 1979 the Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted. It stated that discrimination against women is an offence against human dignity and demands nations to abolish the existing laws, customs and practices which are discriminatory against women. CEDAW, 1979 states that all adequate measures shall be undertaken to ensure equality of married or unmarried women with men in the social and economic fields[11].

The convention also specifies the different ways that countries are to undertake through appropriate legislations to prohibit discrimination. The convention adds substantive provisions in order to recognize women’s legal equality. The declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 1993 was the first of its kind which exclusively dealt with the Elimination of Violence against Women and intended to protect the Fundamental rights of freedom of Women. The declaration is not only about protecting physical or sexual harm but also psychological harm caused on women. In 1946, the Economic and Social Council established its functional commission to be known as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), it is an inter governmental body dedicated for women empowerment. The commission covens in New York each year and is the largest gatherings of Governments, NGOS’s and civil bodies. Almost 4000 NGO’s and their representative participates each year. The main function of this commission is – to prepare report and recommendations as to measures that are to be taken in promotion of the rights of women. - To make recommendations on the matter this is urgent in nature in the fields of women’s rights. At present the commission consists of 45 members whears at its inception there was only 15 members. The commission is duty bound to submit its report of each session to the economic and social council, with its recommendations to solving the prevailing problems.

Women’s right issues:

  • Violence against women – Violence against women is a major human rights issue. The abuse of women has been effectively recorded in almost every society of the world, at least one in every three women in the worlds population women have been physically or sexually abused at some time in their life.the result from the World Health Organisation study on womens healthand domestic violence against women one third and three quarters of women has been physically and sexually assaulted by someone since the age of 15. Australia[12] and India has the highest rate of violence ranging from 68% to 67%. Developing and under developed countries despite having laws keeps on increasing the rate of violence day by day. Crimes like wife beating is generally high in Africa, Asia and Australia and lower in latin America and the Caribbean and developed countries. In 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the practice is concentrated, more than 125 million women have been subject to Female Genital Mutilation.At least 119 countries have passed laws in domestic violence, 125 countries have laws on sexual harassment and 52 have laws on marital rape. Many local and national Organizations are existing to combat with violence against women and to promote gender equality and these efforts needs support at an international level. WHO campaign  for the prevention of violence aims to increase awareness about the condition of violence against women around the world and the effect of such violence on physical and mental health of the women.

 

  • Political and civil role-  The role of Women participation have come a long way since the end of World War II and with the advent of United Nations but it still seems not enough when it comes on a global basis. Though Women empowerment is given a lot of importance still the participation of women in the politics and governmental levels of operation remains low where it is supposed to be in equal with men. In countries like India the participation of Women n politics have been very low and not embowering enough to contribute to the development of the country from a legislative prospective. In many countries, public institution continues to be male dominated and sometimes violent behaviors and practices. The recent data shows the shares of women in administrative areas are lowest in the Arab states of about 35.9%. even though there has been noticeable progress the progress is slow and uneven, women make up to 23% of parliamentary position while men makes 77%. They continue to face academic, social, governmental, institutional and cultural barriers.

 

  • Sexual violence against women- Sexual violence against women is rooted in centuries of male dominant society. The secretary general of United Nations in his speech on international day for Elimination of Violence against Women in 2019[13] stated than violence against women is a terrible violation of Human rights, he spotlighted the various ways women are being sexually and mentally being tortured.[14] Around the world rape and sexual offences are everyday violent occurrences with half of the cases not being filed or coming in light at all. According to UNICEF[15] .Rape of women by her husband is expressly legal in at least 10 countries and there is no law on marital rape. In at least 9 jurisdictions it is possible to avoid the law ad punishments by perpetrators of rape by marrying their victims, countries like Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Tajikistan have been practicing such kind of degrading law[16]. Women trafficking and leading them to sex slavery has been such a heinous practice since centuries back but even with the current prevailing laws adopted by many countries the numbers of trafficked women for use in sex markets are not reducing. Based on data gathered from 155 countries many nations are still in denial that there is neglect when it comes to reporting or prosecuting cases and providing proper justice in cases of human trafficking. The most common form of human trafficking is for sexual exploitation about 79% and the second most common form is for forced labor 18%.

 

  • Marriage, family and property issues-  Women have been facing inequality and submissive roles when it came to rights of property and rights of inheritance of property since time immemorial and even with new laws coming up the general status continues to remain comparatively low than that of men. Women are still in many countries not allowed to make very personal decisions in cases of marriage, there are countries where children are being forced to marriage and victims of rape are lawfully forced to get married to their perpetrators. Women in rural areas of India are forced to get married to older men’s against their wishes.

 

Gender discrimination and violation of human rights:

The United Nations has laid down for the promotion of a system based on the rule of law at the international level, anchored in the Charter and framed on the strategies of international treaties and justice mechanisms have been developed under its conditions. In the context of human rights law, the rule of law requires that legal frameworks, institutions and substantive norms are in consistent with human rights policies and agendas, including the core principles of non-discrimination under the law. Gender equality is at the very heart of human rights and the values that United Nations stands for Protection of women’s rights and taking measure for non discrimination of women should be the responsibility of every country to make proper laws to eradicate such prevailing discrimination in the society. Yet, women around the world continue to experience discrimination in many forms:

  • Discrimination on the basis of economic and social conditions;

  • Laws and policies prohibiting women from equal access to land, property, and housing and inheritance;

  • Violence based on gender;

  • Denial of sexual and reproductive rights;

Discrimination based on sex has been prohibited under almost every human rights treaty made under the United Nations. Treaties like International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have been giving immense highlight on removing the discrimination of women on the basis of gender and have been supporting agendas like equal pay for equal work, rights to vote and democracy and removing violence in discrimination of women. In addition, the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women is dedicated just for realizing and protecting and of women’s human rights. Though laws are in existence for avoiding discrimination but it still persists and the states should take urgent effective measures to curb such practices[17]. By means of the convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against women in 1979, it was registered the state parties to the international covenants on human rights are under obligation to provide equal rights to men and women in political, economic, civil and cultural fields. The specialized agencies have to be established in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of the conventions.

Global commitments and legal protections:

Issues of Women’s rights have been a matter of core discussion in a series of international conferences starting from 1975 and also before. The year 1975 was also celebrated as International Women’s Year, the conference in Mexico city resulted in the World Plan Action and the year 1975-1985 was declared as the United Nations decade for women. Much before this the Geneva Convention adopted in 12yh august 1949, provided special protections for Women who are civilians and of armed forces were to be treated without any discrimination founded on …sex[18] was obligated on the states. The Geneva Convention also required the protection of women from rape, enforced prostitution or any other form of indecent assault. In 1980, a conference on women was held in Copenhagen and the CEDAW was opened for signature, the third world conference was held in Nairobi and the committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women..It started functioning in 1982. The three world conference witnessed extraordinary activism and the groundwork for the world’s conference in 1990s was laid down to address women rights. In 1993, conference on Human Rights was held in Vienna, the conference was successful in adopting the Vienna Declaration of programme of action[19].

Women’s activists ensured that women’s human rights were fully in the agenda of the programme of action. The conference placed heavy emphasis on elimination of all forms of gender based violence, and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and religious extremism resulting in crime against women. The international conference on Population and Development in 1994 focused on gender equality, family planning concept, and reproductive health and birth control measures. The education of women in order to control of birth rate and improving women’s health was given much importance. The conference stated the rights to attain reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence. The programme of action states targets for family planning, prevention of sexually transmitted infections, universal education and access to reproductive healthcare. During the fourth world conference in September 1995, the Beijing declaration and platform for action[20] was undertaken to set out agenda for women’s empowerment. It was built on the basis on the result and reports of the previous three world conferences on women.

Amnesty International which was founded in July 1961, Is one of the largest nongovernmental organization with its headquarter in United Kingdom, has made the biggest and strongest effort to better the position of women’s human rights globally. The organization at present has more than eight million members and supporters all around the world[21]. Amnesty International has over the years been a part of women’s rights activism and now it has focused on right of women in certain countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and has been bringing some sustainable changes. Amnesty International is focused on a number of Human Rights issues including Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage. Amnesty has made elusive plans and actions for future and upcoming programmes[22].

In 2000 Millennium Developmental Goals were set down, eight time bound developmental goals contained specific targets to measure progress. The goal 3 is for the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment[23]. The RIO+20 in Brazil in 2012, the United Nation conference on Sustainable Development, under this the conference reaffirmed the commitment of states to women’s equal rights and opportunities in the economic, social and political level. Some other international human rights instrument have been established to specifically address to women’s rights all over the world.[24]

Conclusion:

Women have always been excluded from the right to vote and from political life and decision making processes. Even in 1945, when United Nations was established, more than half of 51 nations still did not allow women the right to vote or only restricted voting rights. Now according to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women of  ever country has the right to vote. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women builds on previous conventions and its article 7 guarantees the right of women to vote in all elections . Though the voting process has been secured obstacles like stereotyping and traditional perceptions of men’s and women’s roles in society, as well as lack of access to relevant information and resources, also inhibit women’s possibilities or willingness to exercise their right to vote fully keeps on coming in the way of the voting rights. Women now are being able to take part in parliamentary decision making but not as enough and equal in comparative to men. Women largely are holding activist meetings and protests. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s [25]clarifies that the term special measures will include a wide variety of legislative, executive, administrative and other regulatory instruments. Such as supporting or outreaching programmes, allocation or reallocation of resources, preferential treatment, hiring and promotion, numerical goals connected with quota systems, should be adopted with a view to achieving substantive gender equality. There are also laws and steps taken for increasing education of women and their legal position in nations worldwide byt it seems all this has affected the world only till a certain point. There are still women who are being victims of Domestic abuses and sexual violence’s, sometimes the violence comes out of some old and strict religious beliefs which are based on superstitions. The very first way in which people will come up and actively participate in women’s empowerment is when each and every human being will be educated and not just women. Feminist approaches should be inbuilt in human beings as a very normal and obvious form of approach and not something that people will have to decide whether to accept it or not. The states should take responsibility for providing more proper and safe job opportunities for women as that of men in the economic sectors so that women gets to become more independent of themselves and have the means to make decisions independently. Laws on issues like marital rape and domestic abuses should be taken very seriously be every government and made sufficient laws on them. People should be educated ageist crimes like Female Genital Mutilation, breast ironing and Female feticide to know the absolute harm created for such practices which are baseless and completely based on wrong religious beliefs. Under developed countries should be helped by the developed countries in achieving the worldwide goal of empowering women and safeguarding their lives in the planet and for the effective development of the sustainable goals taken by the United Nations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] UN CHARTER, Article 1 (3)  To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

 

[2] Example  Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Art 2; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Arts 2(2) and 3; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Arts 2(1) and 3; Implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, 9 February 1995.

 

[3] Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) Article16(1)

[4] Rape statistics by countries 2020 , (Sep.26-2020, 1.37am)

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/rape-statistics-by-country

 

[5] UN Sustainable Development Goals 2015, Goal 5-Gender equality-achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

 

[6] The UN Charter was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the UN Conference

on International Organization, and came into force on 24 October 1945.

[7] - Universal Declaration on, Human Rights, 1948

- Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1953

- Convention on the Nationality of Married Women 1957

- Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against women 1993

- Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women 1979

- Commission on Status of Women 

[8] Article 68 The Economic and Social Council shall set up commissions in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights, and such other commissions as may be required for the performance of its functions

 

  • [9] Division for the Advancement of Women(DAW)

  • United Nations Development Fund for Women(UNIFEM)

  • Office of the Special Advisor, on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women(OSAGI)

  • International Research, and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women(INSTRAW)

 

[10]   Convention on the Nationality of Married Women,1957

  Article 1-Each Contracting State agrees that neither the celebration nor the dissolution of a marriage between one of its nationals and an alien, nor the change of nationality by the husband during marriage, shall automatically affect the nationality of the wife.

Article 2-Each Contracting State agrees that neither the voluntary acquisition of the nationality of another State nor the renunciation of its nationality by one of its nationals shall prevent the retention of its nationality by the wife of such national.

Article 3-1. Each Contracting State agrees that the alien wife of one of its nationals may, at her request, acquire the nationality of her husband through specially privileged naturalization procedures; the grant of such nationality may be subject to such limitations as may be imposed in the interests of national security or public policy.

2. Each Contracting State agrees that the present Convention shall not be construed as affecting any legislation or judicial practice by which the alien wife of one of its nationals may, at her request, acquire her husband's nationality as a matter of right.

                                                                      

[11] Dr. S.R. Myneni, Women and Law; Asia Law house, Hyderabad, 2002

  1. The right without discrimination on grounds of marital status

  2. The right to equal pay/salary with men

  3. The right to equal treatment relating to work of similar nature

  4.  The right to receive family allowance on equal terms with men

[12]  Frances Mao  BBC News, Sydney, How dangerous is Australia for women?

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-46913913, (Sep.27-2020, 7.29Pm)

 

[13] Secretary-General on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November) 2019

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXuAyCqGZrA (Sep.27-2020, 929Pm)

 

  • [14] intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, feticide);

  • sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment);

  • human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation);

  • female genital mutilation

  • child marriage.

 

[15] around 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forms of forced sexual acts.

[16] Which Countries Have 'Marry-Your-Rapist' Laws? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A41XXPtl1XM , (Sep.27-2020, 929Pm)

 

[17] Globally, laws that discriminate against women remain a significant problem, and even when there are laws in place that guarantee gender equality they are not yet being put into practice- United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), Progress of the World’s Women 2011–2012: In Pursuit of Justice (2011)  

 

[18]  Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Geneva, 12 August 1949.

 

[19] Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, A/CONF.157/24 (Part I), chap. III.

 

[20] Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4–15 September 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.13), chap. I, resolution 1, annexes I and II

[21] ) “Who we are". Amnesty International.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/who-we-are/ (28-sept., 11.56am)

 

[22] The bold fight for women’s rights https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=54&v=Ak8KjZ7o59g&feature=emb_logo, / (28-sept., 12.56am)

 

[23] DG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Some of the achievements of MDG 3 include:

  • An increase in the number of girls in school in 2015 compared to 2000. The developing world as a whole has achieved the goal of eliminating gender disparity in all levels of education, including primary, secondary, and tertiary.

  • In Southern Asia, the number of girls enrolled in primary school was 74 for every 100 boys in 1990. By 2015, there were 103 girls enrolled for every 100 boys.

  • The proportion of women in vulnerable employment compared to total female employment has reduced by 13 percent in the period between 1991 and 2015, compared to a 9 percent decrease for men.

  • Significant gains in women’s parliamentary representation in nearly 90 percent of 174 countries for which data has been available in the past two decades. At the very least, the average proportion of women in parliament has increased by nearly 100 percent during the last 20 years, yet this still translates to one woman for every five men

 

[25] general recommendation No. 25 (2004)

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