Women Rights in International law
The list of international documents dedicated to the protection of women’s rights that have been adopted since 1945 is impressive. According to Article 1 (3) of the UN Charter, one of the UN’s goals is “to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian nature, and to promote and respect a person’s rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of race, gender, nationality, or religion.”
The most significant step so far has been the adoption on December 18, 1979 by the General Assembly of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Women’s Convention) in the framework of the UN Decade of Women (1975-1985). The main objective of the Convention, which was drafted by the Commission on Women’s Rights, is to achieve equality for women based on the recognition that global development, prosperity, the establishment of a just world economic order, international peace and security require the maximum participation of women on an equal basis with men in all spheres. This task is the link between the protection and promotion of women’s rights and other fundamental tasks of the world community. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was created not as a convention on the rights of women, but as an international prohibition on discrimination on the basis of gender. The fundamental principle of this Convention is equality, according to which women should be treated in the same way as men. In general, it does not guarantee protection against specific types of harassment that men do not suffer.
While the comprehensive implementation of this Convention would significantly improve the lives of women in the participating countries, it still will not provide women with the same security that the effective application of other human rights conventions could provide for men. In addition, the Convention had a detrimental effect in that it isolated women’s rights and removed them from the elaboration of other human rights bodies. In turn, these bodies do not pay attention to the discriminatory nature of other treaties, or else they interpret them in such a way that they have nothing to do with women. As an example, we can take the right to life, the prohibition of torture and other types of cruel treatment of women.
The principle of the prohibition of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex, is also at the heart of Articles 1 and 2 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in both 1966 UN International Covenants – documents that form the so-called International Bill of Rights. The rights recognized in these documents apply to everyone, regardless of gender. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in article 26 also contains a general binding clause on the prohibition of discrimination. In addition to general human rights instruments, the special needs of women were recognized in special human rights treaties both before and after the adoption of the UN Charter, as well as in humanitarian law in force in international and internal armed conflicts, especially in the Fourth Geneva convention and in the First Protocol.
The international conventions on humanitarian law deserve special mention in connection with the protection of women’s rights. We are talking about the four Geneva Conventions adopted at the Diplomatic Conference in Geneva on the same day – August 12, 1949. These Conventions bear the names “On the improvement of the condition of the wounded and sick in active armies”, “On the improvement of the condition of the wounded, sick and persons shipwrecked from the armed forces at sea ”,“ On the treatment of prisoners of war ”and“ On the protection of civilians in time of war ”. A considerable number of the norms of the last two Conventions are specifically devoted to the protection of the rights of women in times of armed conflict. The conventions prohibit any discrimination based on gender and oblige ratifying States to apply equal treatment without any disadvantageous distinction based on sex. At the same time, the Conventions also contain some special norms aimed at protecting women, as well as children. These norms relate to interrogations, placement in special rooms, etc. The last of the named Conventions contains special rules on the protection of women from any attempt on their honor, in particular from rape, forced prostitution and obscene assault. Particular attention is paid to the Geneva Conventions for the protection of pregnant women, women in labor and mothers of young children. They are provided with special benefits in detention, arrest and internment, they must be provided with additional food, treatment, medical assistance, etc.
Despite the emergence of instruments guaranteeing the equality of women and the special advantages of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, women’s rights remain outside the mainstream of international protection of rights. The rejection of international obligations has had a negative impact on the protection of women under domestic law. In real life, women’s rights are neglected, and often very rudely. Unfortunately, the list of crimes against women is endless: physical and sexual violence, intimidation, economic oppression, lack of control over the health of women, harmful religious and traditional practices, shorter training periods compared to men and boys, restrictions on property ownership, inaccessibility of some forms of labor activity. All of these violations occur daily and everywhere. They are not exceptional. It’s just a matter of gender relationship. They have not received widespread condemnation and are often not even perceived as violations of international human rights law. The reason for the lack of recognition of the rights of women lies both in the shortcomings of the Convention on the Rights of Women itself, and in the lack of a broader understanding of international law. It also becomes necessary to take into account such a serious aspect of the work under study, which is both an issue and an integral part of the fulfilment of an international obligation.
Despite many international conventions, women around the world continue to suffer from social, economic and political injustices. The way forward to uplift women and ensure their protection in international law is awareness about the lead role of women in struggling for their own rights. Civil society organizations are playing an important role in the awareness programs and lobbying for women rights but this needs countries support to further expedite the process.