Women’s Rights | IYMS

Women’s Rights

« Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights »


Image source: http://www.jobsbump.com/wp-content/gallery/default/womens-rights-division-jobs.jpg
Author: Sheyla Dostert

When it comes to women’s rights one can see that the expectations and standards differ from one continent to another. While in the North women have been fighting for this cause since the beginning of the 20th century, women in southern countries only recently got the opportunity, with international organisations at their backs, to defend their rights. This is of course not due to lack of interest on the part of the affected women, but it’s just that their totalitarian and cruel governments which keep them from speaking out. A key problem women’s rights activists are facing therefore is the absence of government support. No grassroots campaign, no consciousness-raising is going to pay dividends if there is no supportive government behind it. By supportive government I mean official laws and regulations that protect women’s rights as well as official international treaties that protect and promote women’s rights.

Image source: http://acelebrationofwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/UN_Women_English_Blue_PMS_small.png

Over the last 40 years, women’s issues have been taken really seriously and many development and humanitarian projects try to ensure women’s empowerment all over the world. And yet, even in the 21st century, women generally do not earn the same amount of money for the same work men do. The economic inequality between the sexes underlies many issues related to women rights. Why should a woman earn less when she has the same diploma as her fellow male colleagues?

Why should we accept the devaluation of a women’s worth since their jobs are as worthy as men’s? Not later than in 2011, the New Obama White House report witnesses that when it comes to women salaries in the US, a big gender gap still exists. According to a study, female employees are earning about 75 percent of what male counterparts make.

However in some parts of the world women do not even fight for wage equality with men:  they fight for their right to work. On the African continent things have changed over the last years. Whereas in the urban areas of the countries, more and more young women have the opportunities to get secondary and higher education, the rural areas still seem separated from these evolutions. This means that for now, when not fighting for the same wages, they fight to reach the capabilities of men.
Gender-based issues such as these need to be addressed if women’s rights are to be protected.

Last but definitely not least, violence against women remains a major problem which undermines women’s rights. For me, one specific issue needs much more emphasis : domestic violence! In all kind of societies, whether in developed or developing countries, domestic violence remains taboo. Domestic violence may not only involve physical violence but also psychological violence. Women do not always dare to speak up, to denounce what they undergo.  The human rights charter speaks of human dignity, but this just mentioned dignity is not given to all the women in the world. They are oppressed or denigrated and most often surrounding people look away, or really do not see it because it happens in one’s own four walls. Intimidated women don’t shout out what they have to put up with.

The British national Federation of Women’s Institutes says that domestic violence is still a hidden issue. In a recently published report they “claim more needs to be done to raise awareness” of domestic violence especially in rural areas! As this still is the case, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves if authorities do enough to help women in abusive relationships?

Here are some statistics underlining the urge of speaking up! :

* Every 9 minutes a women in the US is assaulted or beaten
* Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
*Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
*Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

As a conclusion one can say that women’s issues need much focus! In the western parts of the world I think people are conscious of this. We need targeted strategies in order for not to lose what women have been fighting for over the last decades. As for the other parts of the world, those who have learned from the past have to motivate, stimulate and activate governments on one hand, and public consciousness on the other. A great job has been done so far, but this issue needs constant attention until we reach the point where every woman in the world would be ready to sign that “ women’s rights correspond with human rights, and human rights correspond with women rights”



1. UN Women http://www.unwomen.org/
2. Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/


Progress of the World’s Women

Justice remains out of reach for millions of the world’s women, a flagship report by UN Women warns. Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice is UN Women’s first major report, following the organization’s launch in early 2011.
This volume of Progress of the World’s Women starts with a paradox: the past century has seen a transformation in women’s legal rights, with countries in every region expanding the scope of women’s legal entitlements. Nevertheless for most of the world’s women, the laws that exist on paper do not translate to equality and justice.
In 1911, just two countries in the world allowed women to vote. A century later, that right is virtually universal and women are exercising greater influence in decision-making than ever before. Alongside women’s greater political influence, there has been a growing recognition of women’s rights, not only political and civil, but also economic, social and cultural rights.
Today, 186 countries worldwide have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), signalling their commitment to meeting the human rights of women and girls, breaking down the barriers to gender equality and justice.
And yet, while examples of countries making immense strides in promoting gender equality abound, all too often women are denied control over their bodies, denied a voice in decision-making and denied protection from violence. Some 600 million women, more than half the world’s working women, are in vulnerable employment, trapped in insecure jobs, often outside the purview of labour legislation.
Despite major progress on legal frameworks, millions of women report experiencing violence in their lifetimes, usually at the hands of an intimate partner. Meanwhile, the systematic targeting of women for brutal sexual violence is a hallmark of modern conflicts. . .
Although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the Constitutions of 139 countries and territories, inadequate laws and implementation gaps make these guarantees hollow promises, having little impact on the day-to-day lives of women . . .
Progress of the World’s Women shows that well-functioning legal and justice systems can be a vital mechanism for women to achieve their rights. They can shape society by providing accountability, by stopping the abuse of power and by creating new norms. . .
This report highlights the ways in which governments and civil society are working together to reform laws and create new models for justice service delivery that meet women’s needs. It demonstrates how they have risen to the challenge of ensuring that women can access justice in the most challenging of situations, including in the context of legal pluralism and during and after conflict.
Progress of the World’s Women outlines ten recommendations to make justice systems work for women. They are proven and achievable and, if implemented, they hold enormous potential to increase women’s access to justice and advance gender equality.



Author: Paulina Matuszewska


Although some traces of women’s movement connected with emancipation we can see even in ancient times, it becomes more sharp and concrete in 17th-18th century.  It is acknowledged that the beginning of feminism itself is connected with French Revolution and Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen written by Olympe de Gouges in 1791. First women’s activism was focused on promoting basic political equality: right for voting, but that was just a first step of the way to the status quo.


Women suffragists



Nowadays, according to the Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone is entitled to all the rights and fundamental freedoms “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex”. A document extending the last issue – equality between men and women – is the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly. Both of them are valid guarantee forbidding gender-based discrimination in all its forms and manifestations. Nevertheless, after more than sixty years since UDHR and CEDAW have been announced, and thirty since the CEDAW has been announced, the problem still exists.



Rosie the Riveter Poster




Discrimination against women takes place in all societies and it concerns many different spheres of life, it can have a political, economic, social and cultural basis. The form of women’s rights abuses depends often on the culture and tradition of the society, it is connected with the woman’s age, ethnic origin, social status etc. It is not always connected with breaking the law. Some forms of discrimination against women are openly justified by governments – in the name of ideology, morality or religion.



One of the biggest and the most controversial problems of the world is gender-based violence. During a life, one out of every three women becomes victim of violence, which is understood as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’. The problem of violence concerns extremely different environments. It takes place in developing areas in circumstances of extreme poverty or conflict, as well as cultivated countries, hidden behind the walls of the family house.

Discrimination in the Working Space

Women’s rights abuses do not always take such a drastic form, and at the same time they are not always  so visible. We often do not realize that we can see it in everyday life, for instance in the working area, where women still do not have the same chances as men. In fact, the employment rate of women still remains lower than men’s, as well as their earnings, and women still rarely occupy high-ranking positions. Women’s discrimination in workplace concerns hiring and promotion, and it also includes various forms of harassment.


Sexual Harassment


Ambiguous words, embarrassing gestures or comments – sexual harassment does not have to include touch or direct contact with the perpetrator. In fact, it includes every situation when the offender, wanting to satisfy his own sexual needs, consciously harms a victim, extorts submission in sexual sphere, intimidates, blackmails, manipulates. The biggest problem in that case is that victims, mostly women, are not always aware that they are being harassed and that they have a right to oppose it. Harassment can have a form of undesirable sexual interest (personal comments with implied sexual meaning), or discrimination with regard to gender affinity (humiliation, offence against representative of opposite gender).






Many problems connected with gender-based discrimination are strongly influenced by cultural factors. They are based on generalizing and the stereotypical perception of sexuality, which exists in the social consciousness. In the traditional model of the society women are recognized as the weaker gender, and first of all they are expected to fulfill the role of a wife and a mother, and to be dominated by men. Such stereotypes are very old, they are part of the European cultural heritage, and from the Middle Ages they have been maintained, for instance through art and literature. Nowadays the huge influence of creating and strengthening these kind of images are media, which are imposing not only an ideal social role for women, but also determining desirable physical appearance.





Nowadays one of the most essential goals of women’s activism is changing a fossilized way of thinking about sexuality and trying to create a new image of women devoid of unjust generalizations. Nevertheless, fighting with stereotypes does not have to mean fighting against tradition. Differences between men and women are obvious and natural. The only possible solution seems to be to accept them, but at the same time remember that ‘different’ is not ‘better’ or ‘worse’. Women do not have to be identical as men to have equal rights and possibilities in political, cultural and social spheres of life.



Image1 Source: http://www.herstoria.com/discover/suffragists.html

Image2 Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosie_the_Riveter

Image3 Source: http://www.modelsandmoguls.net/articles/2010/03/22/dolce-gabbana-court-controversy-with-ad-campaigns/

Image4 Source: http://komunalny.blox.pl/2010/11/persil-wczoraj-i-prawie-dzis.html

Image Source: http://www.awsem.com/why-gender-equity-is-important.htm