Women’s rights have received distinctively different treatment from human rights in general. Many international human rights documents have been criticized because of their lack of attention to women’s issues. This, in turn, created blind spots in the international human rights regime. By ignoring these issues, the world was turning a blind-eye to issues that adversely affect half of the world’s population. Furthermore, women’s circumstances in the world are highly interconnected to social, economic and political issues; therefore, without recognizing the special needs of women certain injustices will never be rectified. When one focuses on the interrelatedness of women’s issues with other social issues it becomes obvious that the problem is systemic and special measures are needed to address it. In 1981 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was made effective to directly address the plight of women worldwide.
According to indicators of social well-being and status such as political participation, legal capacity, access to economic resources and employment, wage differentials, levels of education and health care, women fare significantly and sometimes dramatically worse than men. The following statistics reveal the magnitude of the problem:
Women around the world also are held to separate and arbitrary sexual standards. They face shame, ridicule and sometimes harsh physical punishment if they admit to being raped. In some places such as Brazil, rape is defined as a crime against custom, not against the individual. Female genital mutilation also haunts women in some parts of the Middle East and areas of Africa. Women are also most frequently the victims of physical domestic abuse.
The trouble for women continues with practices such as bride burning,
aborting female fetuses, and female infanticide. Women suffer from what
is widely known as the “feminization of poverty.” It is the
result of disproportionate regard for women. On average women have significantly
less access to food, resources, legal recourse, and political rights.
All these things continue to perpetuate the disenfranchisement of women.
*Steiner, Henry J. & Philip Alston. International Human Rights In Context: Law, Politics and Morals. Oxford Press. 2000.
Copyright © Laura Rowe.