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Human rights as an issue occupies centre stage in contemporary public debate. Part of the debate on Human rights is about the origin and significance of the notion itself. Changes in a society demand changes in the way of maintaining social order. The techniques of social control are also adjusted to changed situations, as no system of social control works perfectly. People often deviate from social and legal norms, although non-conformity varies greatly in form and frequency. Though deviation is perceived as a threat to social stability yet attitude towards deviants keeps on changing with change in beliefs in the causes of deviant behavior in general and crime in particular.
Almost every day there are chilling instances of violence, ethnic cleansing, heinous torture, child abuse, man slaughter and several other human rights violations. Despite the adoption of the Universal Declaration Human Rights (1948) and special covenants provided for the rights of children, women and disabled, crimes continue unhindered and unabated.
Subjugation of women
Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, in all socio-economic and educational classes. It cuts across cultural and religious barriers, impeding the right of women to participate fully in society. Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. All are violations of the most fundamental human rights.
In India women constitute nearly fifty percent of our population. Women are denied human rights from the cradle to the grave. Infanticide is rampant in certain parts of the country where the birth of a girl child is not welcome. Nearly forty-one percent of the women abroad play an active role in the production process. In India the situation leaves much to be desired. Sexual abuse and flesh trade are gnawing evils, which threaten the existence of women as independent entities.
Kinds of Violence against Women· Domestic violence:
Violence against women in the family occurs in developed and developing countries alike. It has long been considered a private matter by bystanders -- including neighbors’, the community and government. But such private matters have a tendency to become public tragedies.
· Traditional practices:
In many countries, women fall victim to traditional practices that violate their human rights. The persistence of the problem has much to do with the fact that most of these physically and psychologically harmful customs are deeply rooted in the tradition and culture of society.
· Female genital mutilation:According to the World Health Organization, 85 million to 115 million girls and women in the population have undergone some form of female genital mutilation and suffer from its adverse health effects.
· Son preference:
Son preference affects women in many countries, particularly in Asia. Its consequences can be anything from foetal or female infanticide to neglect of the girl child over her brother in terms of such essential needs as nutrition, basic health care and education. In India, some women choose to terminate their pregnancies when expecting daughters but carry their pregnancies to term when expecting sons. According to reports from India, genetic testing for sex selection has become a booming business, especially in the country's northern regions. Indian gender-detection clinics drew protests from women's groups after the appearance of advertisements suggesting that it was better to spend $38 now to terminate a female foetus than $3,800 later on her dowry. A study of amniocentesis procedures conducted in a large Bombay hospital found that 95.5 per cent of foetuses identified as female were aborted compared with a far smaller percentage of male foetuses.
· Dowry-related violence and early marriage:Dowry is the greatest crime against women. 'Are our daughters and sisters for sale? Women are virtually sold into the marriage market. Huge dowries are still demanded even when the girl can supplement the man's income. In such a milieu, a woman enjoys no rights because she is a woman. In some countries, weddings are preceded by the payment of an agreed-upon dowry by the bride's family. Failure to pay the dowry can lead to violence. In India, an average of five women a day is burned in dowry-related disputes -- and many more cases are never reported. Early marriage, especially without the consent of the girl, is another form of human rights violation. Early marriage followed by multiple pregnancies can affect the health of women for life.
Violence in the community
RapeRape is a weapon to subjugate women. The woman is safe nowhere. Justice prides herself on being blind to everything but the truth - yet as far as rape is concerned; the facts paint a different picture. Rape can occur anywhere, even in the family, where it can take the form of marital rape or incest. It occurs in the community, where a woman can fall prey to any abuser. It also occurs in situations of armed conflict and in refugee camps.
· Sexual assault within marriage:In many countries sexual assault by a husband on his wife is not considered to be a crime: a wife is expected to submit. It is thus very difficult in practice for a woman to prove that sexual assault has occurred unless she can demonstrate serious injury.
· Sexual harassment:Sexual harassment in the workplace is a growing concern for women. Employers abuse their authority to seek sexual favours from their female co-workers or subordinates, sometimes promising promotions or other forms of career advancement or simply creating an untenable and hostile work environment. Women who refuse to give in to such unwanted sexual advances often run the risk of anything from demotion to dismissal.
But in recent years more women have been coming forward to report such practices --
Some taking their cases to court. In a significant judgment of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court laid down exhaustive guidelines for preventing sexual Harassment of working women in their place of work until legislation is enacted for this Purpose.
· Prostitution and trafficking:Many women are forced into prostitution either by their parents, husbands or boyfriends -- or as a result of the difficult economic and social conditions in which they find themselves. They are also lured into prostitution, sometimes by "mail-order bride" agencies that promise to find them a husband or a job in a foreign country. As a result, they very often find themselves illegally confined in brothels in slavery-like conditions where they are physically abused and their passports withheld. Most women initially victimized by sexual traffickers have little inkling of what awaits them. They generally get a very small percentage of what the customer pays to the pimp or the brothel owner. Once they are caught up in the system there is practically no way out, and they find themselves in a very vulnerable situation. Since prostitution is illegal in many countries, it is difficult for prostitutes to come forward and ask for protection if they become victims of rape or want to escape from brothels. Customers, on the other hand, are rarely the object of penal laws.
Violence against women migrant workersFemale migrant workers typically leave their countries for better living conditions and better pay -- but the real benefits accrue to both the host countries and the countries of origin. For home countries, money sent home by migrant workers is an important source of hard currency, while receiving countries are able to find workers for low-paying jobs that might otherwise go unfilled. But migrant workers themselves fare badly, and sometimes tragically. Many become virtual slaves, subject to abuse and rape by their employers.
· Pornography:Another concern highlighted is pornography, which represents a form of violence against women that "glamorizes the degradation and maltreatment of women and asserts their subordinate function as mere receptacles for male lust".
Violence perpetrated or condoned by States
· Custodial violence against women:Violence against women by the very people who are supposed to protect them -- members of the law enforcement and criminal justice systems -- is widespread. Women are physically or verbally abused; they also suffer sexual and physical torture. According to Amnesty International, thousands of women held in custody are routinely raped in police detention centre worldwide. In the Mathura Case. - The judgment did not distinguish between consent and forcible submission. Correspondingly the judgments in Bhanwari Devi and a few other cases were unjust and in favor of the accused.
Governments agreed to adopt and implement national legislation to end violence against women and to work actively to ratify all international agreements that relate to violence against women. They agreed that there should be shelters, legal aid and other services for girls and women at risk, and counseling and rehabilitation for perpetrators. Governments also pledged to adopt appropriate measures in the field of education to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women. And the Platform called on media professionals to develop self-regulatory guidelines to address violent, degrading and pornographic materials while encouraging non-stereotyped, balanced and diverse images of women.
The meaning of gender and sexuality and the balance of power between women and men at all levels of society must be reviewed. Combating violence against women requires challenging the way that gender roles and power relations are articulated in society. In many countries women have a low status. They are considered as inferior and there is a strong belief that men are superior to them and even own them.
changing people's attitude and mentality towards women will take a long time -- at least a generation, many believe, and perhaps longer. Nevertheless, raising awareness of the issue of violence against women, and educating boys and men to view women as valuable partners in life, in the development of a society and in the attainment of peace are just as important as taking legal steps to protect women's human rights.
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org / Print This Article
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