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Women's Human Rights

Human rights can be defined as the minimum equal and inalienable rights compulsorily obtainable by every human for being a member of global human community regardless of gender, ethnicity, language, race, religion, nationality or any other ground. Women have to face discrimination, injustice and dishonor based on gender in every walk of life.. This assignment is based on secondary data, collected from various books, articles of newspaper and some reports. Keywords: Women, Discrimination, Harassment, Crimes, Human Rights, Violation.

Attaining equality between women and men and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women are fundamental human rights and United Nations values. The United Nations has a long history of addressing women's human rights and much progress has been made in securing women's rights across the world in recent decades.

Some groups of women face additional forms of discrimination based on their age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, health status, marital status, education, disability and socioeconomic status, among other grounds. These intersecting forms of discrimination must be taken into account when developing measures and responses to combat discrimination against women.

Protection Of The Human Rights Of Women Under International Law

Since the founding of the United Nations, equality between men and women has been among the most fundamental guarantees of human rights. Adopted in 1945, the Charter of the United Nations sets out as one of its goals "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, [and] in the equal rights of men and women".

Furthermore, Article 1 of the Charter stipulates that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms "without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion". This prohibition of discrimination based on sex is repeated in its Articles 13 (mandate of the General Assembly) and 55 (promotion of universal human rights).

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It, too, proclaimed the equal entitlements of women and men to the rights contained in it, "without distinction of any kind, such as ... sex, �." In drafting the Declaration, there was considerable discussion about the use of the term "all men" rather than a gender-neutral term[1]. The Declaration was eventually adopted using the terms "all human beings" and "everyone" in order to leave no doubt that the Universal Declaration was intended for everyone, men and women alike.

Vienna Declaration And Programme Of Action

In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights was held in Vienna. It sought to review the status of the human rights machinery in place at the time. Women's rights activists mobilized to ensure that women's human rights were fully on the agenda of the international community under the rallying cry "Women's Rights are Human Rights."

Particularly around the issue of violence against women, civil society activists organized tribunals to put the spotlight on violations of women's rights, previously unaddressed because they were considered part of the private sphere, taboo or simply accepted as an inevitable part of women's lives. The Conference was successful in adopting the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which stated that:
The human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights [2] and placed particularly heavy emphasis on eliminating all forms of gender-based violence.

Importantly, the Programme of Action also called for:
the eradication of any conflicts which may arise between the rights of women and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism[3]

The Commission On The Status Of Women

The Commission on the Status of Women was established by United Nations Economic and Social Council resolution 2/11 in 1946 "to prepare recommendations and reports to the [Council] on promoting women's rights in political, economic, civil, social, and educational fields".

The Commission is also mandated to make recommendations to the Council on "urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women's rights". The Commission meets once a year and issues agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year. The agreed conclusions include an assessment of progress, gaps and challenges, as well as concrete recommendations addressed to Governments, international organizations, civil society and other stakeholders. The Commission also adopts resolutions on a variety of women's rights-related issues.

Throughout its history, the Commission has played a key role in promoting women's rights, actively contributing to landmark international legal and policy instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Women's Right To An Adequate Standard Of Living

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights mentions the right to adequate food, clothing and housing, and the continuous improvement of living conditions as part of the right to an adequate standard of living for oneself and one's family[4]. Women's rights to land, property, food, water and sanitation, as well as work and social security, are intrinsically linked to the right to attain an adequate standard of living.

All these rights are guaranteed under international human rights law, including the right to enjoy these rights on an equal basis with men, without discrimination. Women's access to services, to education and to productive resources is paramount to the realization of the above-mentioned rights.

Land, property, housing Rights to land, housing and property are essential to women's equality and well-being. Women's rights in, access to and control over land, housing and property are a determining factor in their living conditions especially in rural economies, essential to women and their children's daily survival, economic security and physical safety. Despite the importance of these rights for women and female-headed households, women still disproportionally lack security of tenure[5]

This is often because property is registered in a man's name; the father, husband or brother. In the event of separation, divorce or widowhood, the man or his family often retains rights to the property or the land whereas the woman becomes homeless or will have to share the property with her in-laws without gaining control or rights over it.

Millennium Development Goals

In 2000, the international community agreed to eight time-bound development goals to be achieved by 2015, including a goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as one on the reduction of maternal mortality. Seven of the Goals have specific targets to measure progress. Although they have shortcomings from a human rights perspective, the Millennium Development Goals are an important political commitment which has galvanized international support for some of the world's most daunting problems.

With respect to women's rights, Millennium Development Goal 3 is to promote gender equality and empower women. However, its corresponding target relates only to eliminating gender disparities in education by 2015. While girls' access to education is imperative for achieving gender equality, this narrow target is insufficient for measuring progress on achieving gender equality and empowering women.

Goal 3 also includes indicators on the share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector and in national parliaments, but these do not have benchmarks or deadlines. Critical issues such as violence against women and discriminatory laws are not addressed. Millennium Development Goal 5 aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015. Unfortunately, at the 2010 High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, it was revealed to be the most off track of all of the Goals, despite the fact that the knowledge and the tools are available to make pregnancy and childbirth a safe experience for women.

In 2010, the Secretary-General launched the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, setting out key actions to improve the health of women and children worldwide. Integrating human rights and gender equality throughout the Millennium Development Goals and in the post-2015 development agenda are key to achieving meaningful progress.

Women's Human Rights Under Constitutional Framework

The Indian Constitution is the supreme law of India; all other laws get authority from the provisions of the Constitution. 'Indian constitution secures for all its citizens "Justice" - social, economic and political, "Liberty" - of thoughts, expression, belief, faith and worship, "Equality"- of status and of opportunity���and dignity of the individual and the integrity of the nation.' With such wordings, the preamble of the Indian constitution ensures the basic human rights of all men as well as women. However, a special protection has also been provided to women under the provisions of the constitution from the perspective of human rights of women.
  1. Right to Equality under Article 14:

    Article 1 of UDHR declares that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and article 7 provides for equality before law. Under the constitutional framework of India the status of women is equal to men in the eyes of law because the state cannot deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws within the territory of India.[6]
  2. Right against Discrimination:

    Article 2 of UDHR assures all the rights and freedoms without any discrimination. Article 7 also talks about equal protection against discrimination. Indian citizens can also not be discriminated on the basis of their sex by any government authority because the state cannot discriminate against any citizen on ground only of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth or any of them.[7]

    Furthermore, No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to:
    1. Assess to shops, public restriction, hotels and places public entertainment or
    2. The use of wells, tanks, bathing Ghats, roads and places of public resort maintain wholly or partly out of state funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.[8] However, state can make special provisions for women under clause (3) of the article as exceptions to the principles of non-discrimination.
  3. Right to Equal opportunity in Public Employment:

    Women are able to get equal opportunity pertaining to public employment because there is equality of opportunity for all citizens, whether males or females, in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under state and No citizen can, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for or discriminated against in respect of any employment or office under the state.[9] However, government has authority to make rules for reservation.[10]
  4. Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression:

    Everyone has right to freedom of opinion and expression under article 19 of UDHR. Women can raise their voice for any matter affecting them by using their right under Article 19 (1) (a) of Indian Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all citizens.
  5. Right to work:

    UDHR in its article 23(1) confirms right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment to everyone. Recognising such right in its structure Indian Constitution through article 19 (1) (g) provides the right to work to Indian women by ensuring freedom to all citizens for occupation, profession and business.
  6. Right to Life and Personal Liberty:

    Right to life, liberty and security of person has been recognised under article 3 of UDHR. Article 21 of Indian Constitution also provides right to live to all women and men as per their own choice by constitutional guarantee that no person shall be deprived of his/her life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
  7. Right against Exploitation:

    Article 5 of UDHR protects against torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Indian Constitution under article 23 protects against human trafficking and bonded labour, which works as a shield for women's safety and ensures their right to work. For implementing the idea of this article, Indian parliament enacted the Suppression of Immoral Trafficking in women and girls Act, 1956 which was renamed as the Immoral Trafficking (prevention) Act, 1956. Constitutional Scheme of Directive Principles of State Policy directs the state to secure the idea of women's right in the society. These are the relevant articles in this regard;
  8. Right to Livelihood:

    Article 39 (a) provides that the citizen, whether men or women, equally have the right to an adequate means to livelihood. Same right has been recognised under article 23(3) of UDHR which says that everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration.
  9. Equal Pay for Equal Work:

    Under article 39 (d), Indian Constitution ensures that the state shall, particular; direct its policy towards securing that there is equal pay for equal work for not only men but also women. UDHR under article 23(2) also provides such right.
  10. Just and Human Conditions of Work and Maternity Relief:

    Article 42 of the Constitution directs that the state shall make provision for securing just and human conditions of work and for maternity relief.
  11. Right of Constitutional Remedies:

    In case of the violation of any of these fundamental rights, the aggrieved woman can move Supreme Court and High Court and file writ petition under Article 32 & Article 226 for seeking remedy but there is no such mechanism available in case of Directive Principles of State Policy, which are not enforceable by any court under writ jurisdiction. The state is under duty to implement such principles through its policy. Hence, Directive Principles of State Policy impose a moral obligation on the state for their implementation.

Only when women and girls have full access to their rights - from equal pay and land ownership rights to sexual rights, freedom from violence, access to education, and maternal health rights - will true equality exist. Only when women have taken leadership and peacemaking roles and have an equal political voice will economies and countries be transformed. And only then will all women and girls have the self-determination they are entitled to.

  1. Johannes Morsink, "Women's rights in the Universal Declaration", Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 13, No. 2 (May 1991)
  2. para 18
  3. para 38
  4. Article 11
  5. United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, Women's Rights to Land, Housing and Property in Post-conflict Situations and During Reconstruction: A Global Overview, Land Management Series No. 9 (Nairobi, 1999), p. 12.
  6. India Const. art. 14
  7. India Const. art. 15 (1).
  8. India Const. art. 15 (2)
  9. India Const. art. 16
  10. India Const. art. 16 cl. 3 & 4

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