Are Women’s Rights More Theoretical Than They Are As An Applicable Concept In Everyday Life?
The concept of ‘women’s rights’ works to finish off the exclusion that women suffer. Women’s rights can be related to feminism as a cultural and political force. Feminism seeks to protect and promote the interests of women. Feminists actively link women’s rights to the eradication of poverty – a factor that increasingly drives forward the rights agenda.
Talking about working women, their working hours are often longer than men. Almost half of the time women spend working goes unremunerated. This makes women ‘invisible’ thus resulting in lower social entitlements as compared to men. This inequity and inequality creates a gap in accessing even basic resources. Specific health issues also adversely affect women. Infections like AIDS/HIV are often found more in women than in men.
The most fundamental international human rights instrument in this respect is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of which Pakistan became a signatory in 1996. The membership, primarily due to the pressure from women’s rights organizations, was felt necessary for the progress and development of women generally in Pakistan. Despite the ratification, there still remain areas where it is not being implemented.
CEDAW is the most important human rights document for women. The parties to the Convention are under a legal obligation to eliminate discrimination of all sorts against women in the different spheres of life. The Convention is important to ensure full involvement of women in order to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms as men do. CEDAW Committee will have the implied permission to scrutinize the efforts of the state party to implement the treaty. CEDAW also creates a rights framework for the application of a quota system in order to maintain gender balance in public and political life.
The need to combat practices, such as the silence on the condemnation of violence against women, led in 1993 to the General Assembly Resolution namely the ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women’.
The declaration stressed that violence against women was a traditional presentation of imbalance of power relations between men and women, and one of the main social channels by which women are forced into an inferior position when compared to men. Violence against women is omnipresent. Certain groups of women may be more vulnerable to violence, but the issue of violence against women is all pervasive, disregarding lines of income, class and culture.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights authorized a Special Rapporteur on violence against women in 1994. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur allows for receiving individual complaints, make country visits and submit annual thematic reports to the Commission on Human Rights.
Women’s subordination to a supposedly universal idea of human rights is one of the most defining features of their rights. Accounting for this takes us to the core of the problem. Why is it that the International Bill of Human Rights is relatively reserved on the infringement of women’s’ rights? It is true that the importance of women’s rights has been played down in the UN and even though this is changing, the enforcement mechanisms remain weaker in relation to women’s rights and patriarchal cultural attitudes remain entrenched and resistant to change.
The human rights relating to freedom of association and freedom of speech are critical for the women’s human rights agenda in order to strengthen their involvement meaningfully in the decisions that affect the enjoyment of all their basic freedoms. Women’s groups need to link with human rights groups in order to connect both human rights and the development process. Linkages such as these impact the capacity of women’s groups to engage in order to realize gender equality as a rights issue. The activism of international NGOs networking with local NGOs helps to promote and domesticate international human rights norms into local law, political policies and into social debates.
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