Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Women’s rights a part of human rights

If women adhere to the legislative and executive mechanism, they will be able to understand their rights and obligations 

Human rights is an issue that concerns us all. And despite the instinctive interest in defending one’s rights, just protecting them and preserving human dignity is not enough. That is why multiple legislations were brought about to criminalise forbidden conduct. This went hand-in-hand with issuing laws against every criminal conduct. Then, there were legislations designed to monitor, hold accountable and punish those who break the laws.
However, the most important lines of defence are embodied in human beings themselves, who have always stood up to protect their rights and dignity. The establishment of states based on the rule of law, which protect rights ensured that people were — safeguarded against discrimination. If the state fails in this respect, or violates the rights of people deliberately, the regional system will stand up to defend these rights, on the grounds that the state has failed to carry out its obligations.
If the regional system fails — or if it has not been established in the first place due to incompetence of — some regional regimes — then the international system for human rights has to step in to protect people’s rights and integrity and to safeguard people of all genders, colours, religions, and ethnicities. This duty will no longer be optional. In fact, it is one of the most important duties. Failing to protect human rights is akin to betraying the responsibility that the international community was tasked with. Women’s rights are an integral part of human rights, which is why, every human right is in turn a right for women as well. Hence, some consider it futile to give women special rights, considering it discrimination and not equality, but this argument is not reasonable.
Women do have special rights. Scaling down these rights falls under the category of discrimination and is the result of wrong practices and behaviours in different societies that look down on women, degrade them, do not treat them on an equal footing with men. Hence, women in such societies are not treated fairly even if they resort to legal measures. These practices have become deep-rooted in many traditions and customs, to the extent that some of them have become a part of man-made laws. And although wise people and intellectuals have worked to combat this type of behaviour, societies have not been able to strengthen such legislations. As a result, the international community in the early 20th Century rose to the task by coming up with a number of agreements, such as the agreement on national laws relating to marriage, divorce, separation and the custody of children, the agreement to protect motherhood, the agreement on women working during the night and the agreement on women working underground.

All that was to further protect working women’s rights and secure legislations for working mothers so that work conditions do not to affect women’s natural duties of raising their children. The two World Wars had a negative impact on family life in the West. The two wars also killed millions of people, most of them men, especially those who were part of the young work force. That is why western societies were obliged to let women enter the workforce to compensate for the loss of men. However, these societies foresaw the challenges they would face as a result. Hence they started enacting laws to protect women’s rights and the right of societies and the natural rights of families. International legislation began with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the announcement concerned with family rights — considering it the natural cell leading to the human society
Other doctrines and agreements included women’s political rights of 1967 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 1981 — the clearest mechanism protecting women’s rights. If women adhere to the legislative and executive mechanism, they will be able to understand their rights and obligations. And be able to choose what suits them best.
Dr Khalifa Rashid Al Shaali is an Emirati writer who specialises in legal affairs.


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