Human Rights and Gender Justice
Human beings are rational beings and they possess certain basic rights which are known as human rights. These are rights which are essential for the protection and maintenance of dignity of individuals. It can be said that the rights that all people have by virtue of their being human are human rights. These rights belong to them because of their very existence and they come into operation with their birth. As they have an immense significance for human beings these rights are also known by some other names like birth rights, natural rights, fundamental rights. Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings. Article 2 of the declaration of Human Rights specifically mentions that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without any sort of discrimination. These rights are very necessary as they are for the social and moral welfare of the people and also very essential for all the individuals as they provide them with freedom and dignity. These basic rights are accepted universally. They are fundamental to both men and women. The basic idea of human rights is to give respect to individuals and to provide equality amongst one another. Human rights give life a meaning as they are essential for the all round development of individuals.
Gender justice is a human right. Gender justice refers to a world where everybody, women and men, boys and girls are valued equally, and are able to share equitably in the distribution of power, knowledge and resources. Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development.
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- 2 Women
- 3 Violence Against Women
- 4 Types
- 5 Steps Taken
- 5.1 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- 5.2 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- 5.3 Declaration On the Elimination Of Violence Against Women, 1993
- 5.4 Convention On The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Womenonvention on The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
- 5.5 Position Of Women in India
- 6 Transgenders
- 7 Conclusion
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Certain groups of human beings have always been vulnerable and deprived of their rights. One such group is of ‘women’. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and so, also half of its potential. Women have their basic fundamental rights but these rights have always been violated by the dominant section of the society. Discrimination against women starts at birth. From the moment they are conceived they face discrimination in the form abortions and later female infanticide. Gender lines are drawn at an early age and these continue throughout their lifetime. “Discrimination against women, denying or limiting as it does their equality of rights with men, is fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offence against human dignity.” Discrimination against women happens everywhere, in every society. Irony is, the birth giver of man has always been exploited by man. All over the world women are at inferior status than men. They are excluded from participation in many spheres of activities on the basis of gender. Gender inequality violates the human rights of women and girls. The wage gap still persists. Women earn less because they are paid less. A gender wage gap for full-time workers in the year 2017 is 19.5 percent. If the pace of change in the annual earnings ratio continues at the same rate as it has since 1960, it will take another 41 years, until 2059, for men and women to reach parity.
Women face discrimination in every sphere of life, be it public or private. In many countries women are not allowed to take part in athelets and sports. It was only in 2015 that Saudi Arabia grant voting rights to women and in 2017 that women were allowed to drive a car! Not only this women face harassment even on online platforms. Broadband Commission released a report that claimed that almost 75% of women online have encountered harassment and threats of violence. They are considered to be the properties of their husbands. All their lives they are tortured by their husbands. Even after the death of their husbands they face several evils such as Sati, mostly prevalent in the early years in India. Also, Widows are considered to be impure and derogatory.
In this world ‘gender justice’ seems to be a utopian idea. The UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres has stated that achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.
Violence Against Women
Violence against women is violent acts done against women and girls because of their gender. According to United Nations ‘violence against women’ means “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.” Violence against them is violation of their human rights as well as fundamental rights. Violence against women does not let them enjoy the freedoms guaranteed to them and is an obstacle in the way of providing equality to them. Women around the globe, irrespective of their status, age, caste or religion, face violence in all spheres of life, whether in the home, the school, at work, on the street, or in times of conflicts. Women experience violence in many forms like physical abuse, sexual assault, financial abuse, sexual harassment, trafficking, rapes, forced pregnancy, female genital mutilation, dowry deaths, honor killings, domestic abuse, female infanticide, acid attacks etc. Violence against women and girls is a major health and human rights issue. At least one in five of the world’s female population has been physically or sexually abused by a man or men at some time in their life. Many, including pregnant women and young girls, are subject to severe, sustained or repeated attacks. According to the UN, “there is no region of the world, no country and no culture in which women’s freedom from violence has been secured.
Women face several kinds of discrimination and violence. Some of them are-
Rape is a type of sexual assault which involves forced sexual intercourse or it is sexual penetration against a person without her consent. Usually rape is done by males against females. Boys do also face rape assault but women and girls are more prone to it. International Crime on Statistics and Justice by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) find that worldwide, most victims of rape are women and most perpetrators male. Rape has been used as a weapon to punish women during wars. These practices are derogatory to women and are crime against them. Due to rapes and sexual abuse women face several consequences like Gynecological disorders, Reproductive disorders, Sexual disorders, Infertility, Pregnancy complications, Acquiring sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, Mortality from injuries, Increased risk of suicide, Depression, Chronic pain, Psychosomatic disorders, Unsafe abortion, Unwanted pregnancy etc.
Trafficking In Women
Trafficking involves sexual as well as labor exploitation. Both men and women can be the victims of trafficking but primary victims are women and girls. Women are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Under International law, it is the duty of governments to protect their citizens from being trafficked, through programs that aim at prevention of human trafficking.
Honor killings are done against women by their family members in the name of protecting and restoring the honor of the family. If a woman is seen hampering the reputation of the family by doing certain acts which are against the traditions and culture of the family, she is killed by her family members. She is killed for reasons like not getting into an arranged marriage, having an affair, loving someone outside their caste or religion. Honor killings have become common form of violence against women.
Dowry system is prevalent in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal. Dowry death refers to the killing of women or even committing suicide by her due to problems and disputes regarding dowry. Brides are burnt if their husbands or husband’s family are not satisfied with the amount of dowry given to them at the time of their marriage.
Female Genitle Mutilation (FGM)
Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is a violation of the human rights of women and girls. It is an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minor girls. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. In 1997 WHO issued a joint statement against the practice of FGM together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Some of the major steps taken towards ensuring Gender Equality or Gender Justice are-
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. In its preamble, governments commit themselves and their people to take measures that secure the the human rights set out in the Declaration.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Globally, many steps have been taken to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence. In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“Agenda 2030”).’
It speaks about achieving gender equality and to empower all women and girls, “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres” and “ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices.”
Declaration On the Elimination Of Violence Against Women, 1993
According to Article 3 of Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women 1993, women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. These rights are:
- The right to life;
- The right to equality
- The right to liberty and security of person;
- The right to equal protection under the law;
- The right to be free from all forms of discrimination;
- The right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health;
- The right to just and favourable conditions of work;
- The right not to be subjected to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Also, this declaration made it a duty on states to adopt measures and policies to eliminate violence against women.
Convention On The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Womenonvention on The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. It defines what is discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. The Convention provides for equality between women and men by ensuring women’s equal access to resources and equal opportunities in political and public life, including the right to vote and to stand for election, as well as education, health and employment. It obliges the duty on the states to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Position Of Women in India
Women have always faced atrocities all over the world and India is no exception. In India, on one hand women are given status of Durga, Shakti, Laxmi, Saraswati, and on the other hand they are treated as a sex object for males. Theoretically, they enjoy the status of Devi or goddess but in practice she is considered as a property of men and that too with no rights. This is the harsh reality of this country. Women are deprived of opportunities and resources and are mainly dependent on their male counterparts. Despite of doing large amount of work, supporting their families, women’s rights and opinions are not acknowledged. They suffer discrimination on gender basis. Even they get paid less than men for the same amount of work they do. Not only discrimination but they also face oppression and violence. One of the reasons for such situations is traditions. Women are denied opportunities in the name of social restrictions. This prevailing patriarchal society always considers women as second individuals and hinders their growth. However, from the last few decades the status of women has been improved. Women are coming out of their houses and joining different platforms. They are getting their rights. In rural areas, poverty and lack of information are real barriers to women’s independence and empowerment.
How ironical is this, that, where we give women the status of Saraswati, we do not even let them read! Most of the Indian women are uneducated. The country’s Constitution says women have equal status to men but still women are powerless and are mistreated inside as well as outside their houses. There is a considerable gap between male and female literacy rates in India. As per the census of 2011, literacy rate for men was 82.14% whereas for women it was 65.46%. Women are thought to be dependent from their childhood, first, as daughter, then as wife and then as mother. Generally, the family do not invest in the education of their daughters as they think a girl’s to be more important than her education. She is confined to domestic chores.
The incidences of rape have risen significantly in India. According to National Crimes Record Bureau, registered rape cases in India have increased by 900 percent in past forty years. Offences of cruelty and violence by the husband and his family against the wife (for dowry or otherwise) constituted over 3% of the total number of crimes against women in 2006-2007.
To curb these prevailing atrocities against women, the legislature took efficient steps. The constitution makers of India left no stone unturned in making the constitution women friendly. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution ensures that the State shall not deny to any person the equality before the law and equal protection of laws within the territory of India. Article 15(1) prohibits the State to discriminate against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. Article 15(3) allows the State to make special provisions for women and children. Article 16 provides for equality of opportunity in matters of public employment regardless of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them. Article 39 laid down certain principles of policy to be followed by state in which Article 39(a) says that the state shall direct its policy towards securing that the citizen, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. Article 39(e) of the Constitution provides that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength. Article 51(A)(e) of the Constitution provides that it will be the duty of every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
Apart from these there are several other Acts and Provisions ensuring equality and protection to women such as provisions in IPC, CrPC, Acts such as Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Pensions Act ,1987, Sexual harassment Act 2013, etc. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, as well as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, were enacted in India to prevent and remedy the occurrence of dowry and domestic violence in Indian society.
The Indian judiciary from time to time has also taken steps to curb away the injustice happening against women. The recent judgements on Triple Talaq and Sabrimala Temple are some of the glorious examples. However, these legislative steps have not been very effective because women are not fully aware of the measures adopted by the State for their upliftment or they do not use them because of the still persisting old social barriers. It is unfortunate that even after 71 years of independence, women in India are being exploited in the name of social barriers, customs and traditions.
Despite much progress made by countries there is one other group of people who is still deprived of their human rights or even basic rights i.e. Transgenders. Articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights address, the rights to equality; freedom from discrimination, life, liberty, and personal security; freedom from torture and degrading treatment; recognition as a person before the law; equality before the law; and the rights to marry and have a family to every human being but Transgenders have always been in denial of these rights. Transgender people experience discrimination in many areas of life: employment, housing, public accommodations etc. The community has always faced hatred and violence because of their gender identity. They are beaten or even executed. They are not given equal opportunities to work. Despite being humans they are not given such status. They are considered to be sinisters and are not easily accepted in society and all this is because they are different from the majority of population. Trans-genders continue to face violence in the United States. More than 20 transgender people were killed in 2018. According to Transgender Europe, almost 2,500 Trans people were murdered in dozens of countries between 2008 and 2016. A survey of transgender people found that 47 percent had faced discrimination in hiring, promotion, or job retention, and 78 percent experienced at least one form of harassment or mistreatment at work because of their gender identity. In education also, transgender individuals face discrimination from peers. Transgender youth are three times more likely to be excluded by peers because of them being “different”.
We are all born free and equal. These lines have their meanings confined to texts only. It is not into practice. Time to time steps have been taken to ensure equality to women and the LGBTQ community but despite all the steps taken, Women, Trans-genders, Gays, Lesbians and people of Gender-Queer community are still ill treated. They still face discrimination and violence which is increasing day by day. Regardless of many acts, conventions and laws the issue of violence still remains one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations. We have come a long way but we still have a very long way ahead. Gender equality is a fundamental right which contributes to a healthy society filled with respectful relationships between one another. Women and every other human being have every right in the world to do what they want to do but it is the society that always stops them. We are all humans and we must understand that we must empower, support and love each other. Without this we can’t move forward in society. We all must work towards gender equality. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice.