This month, our main topic is “Human rights for women”. Why? Because 10 December is Human Rights day – in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed on that day!
We hope you enjoyed our last month’s blog posts, and we are excited to offer you more interesting reads. If you wonder how we chose our themes, that’s simple: we got inspired by the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. In 1995, the Platform raised 12 key issues where action was – and still is – needed to ensure better equality between women and men. One of these issues is human rights for women.
Eleanor Roosevelt & the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Human Rights Day was chosen to celebrate, every year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was signed in Paris on the 10th of December 1948. This fundamental text was seen and conceived as a legal obstacle to the repetition of the horrors of World War II. Indeed, it stipulates that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights. Of course, international law instruments, including human rights conventions, have their limitations. Not all states of the world have signed them and they do not all have the same binding power. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, does not create a legal obligation for states to protect the rights included in the text.
However, the Declaration remains a milestone in the history of human rights. And it is a woman, known for her dedication to women’s rights and social justice, who is at the origin of the text that is meant to protect the human rights of all.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the President of the UN Commission for Human Rights and therefore played a leading role in the drafting of the Declaration – something even more rare back then than now (if you did not do so already, you may now add her to your list of feminist heroes – you know, for the next time someone tells you that “History was made by men”).
Furthermore, the ‘International Bill of Human Rights’ declares that human beings are equal, and does not specify their gender. It is one of the first international legal instruments to – even though unfortunately only in its preamble – reaffirm “the equal rights of men and women”.
So, you may ask, why do we need to talk about women’s human rights?
Women’s rights are human rights: because a text is not enough
Even though human rights instruments – such as the UDHR and the human rights conventions that followed it – are supposed to protect the rights of all, it soon turned out that some were less protected than others. From the 1960s, feminist activists raised their voice in the international scene to remind the world that women were humans too. Indeed, women had been clearly forgotten from discussions on human rights and the discrimination they faced across the globe was completely overlooked.
With the slogan “women’s rights are human rights”, feminist and women’s rights activists started a discussion on violence against women, which they framed as a human rights violation, at the international level. A UN Decade for Women was declared in 1976, and from 1985, World Women Conferences were organised every five years – the most famous being the Beijing Conference of 1995 which led to the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Since 1995, states have continued to meet every five years to follow-up on the issues raised in Beijing and assess progress in the protection of women’s human rights. In 2015, in the “Beijing 20+” session, states concluded that needed to recommit to women and girls. Today, the UN and the parties to the Beijing Platform “envisage a world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030”. You read well: we are now hoping for equal human rights for women and men by close to 100 years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
There is definitely a lot of work to do, still.
This month’s contributions on women’s human rights
And this is what our contributors do this month: they demonstrate the relevance and importance of discussions on women’s rights for women. They also show how, clearly, women are still victims of grave human rights violations worldwide – something that remains too often ignored, unrecognised, or unaddressed. This month you can learn about:
- the backlash against abortion rights in Latvia
- the situation of migrant domestic workers in the UK
- women refugees and why we need to understand human rights from a women’s rights perspective
- Ireland’s niggling Human Rights issue: abortion
- potential future dangers for abortion rights in Croatia