Have women really progressed?

Here’s a press release from the UN discussing the status of women’s rights in the world. As Hillary Clinton has said, women’s rights are human rights. Unfortunately, they are often seen as “women’s issues” or as something that, since women tolerate the abuses, must be okay. People that work in sweat factories can be said to be working “voluntarily” or accepting their condition, but it’s a human rights abuse nonetheless. We have to stop rationalizing women’s human rights abuses and start resolving these issues.

Ms. Yade said 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the situation of women had not really improved. They had progressed, of course, but it was a path filled with obstacles, where steps backwards remained a possibility. Discrimination against women found its source in the continuance throughout the world of practices and prejudices from another time, in the persistence of both de facto and judicial discrimination. These inequalities were linked to the inferior social status which continued to be applied to women, and by the public debate that was tainted by this.

Mr. Despouy said sometimes inequality stemmed from the application of the law and not the text itself, for example in the area of property and ownership. As to administration of justice, women often had problems participating in it. Important issues were at stake for women, such as child custody among others, and therefore they needed access to the judiciary. Discrimination against women continued to be a major issue on the human rights agenda and the Human Rights Council could not turn a blind eye on it. Discrimination did not only take place in one area, women suffered discrimination everywhere.

Mr. La Rue said all human beings regardless of age, culture, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, among others, should have the right to develop their opinions and express them. It was very important to focus on freedom of expression from the point of view of women. Women had been silenced both in domestic legislation, international practice and customs in some countries around the world. It was necessary to create a safe space for freedom of expression and for the exchange of opinion, in all spheres of life: the family, society, domestic legislation and international instruments. Freedom of expression was a main instrument to halt violence against women and all forms of discrimination.

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