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Is Gender Pay Parity a Human Rights Issue?

Is this the acceptable face of a human rights violation?

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Photo-by-Maria-Oswalt-on-Unsplash
Photo-by-Maria-Oswalt-on-Unsplash

Do you ever sit at your desk merrily typing away without a thought to the fact that you are depriving someone of their human rights? Next time you pick up your pay cheque, that is exactly what you could be doing.

Human Rights are just that; rights. They are not gifts given to us by a higher body or some lofty person in the sky. They are rights that we are born with.

Human rights are not something that any man or any person has given to us. We have it by virtue of being human. Women should therefore not have to be, or feel, grateful for being treated equally. It is our right as women, and as humans to be treated fairly; and we should not be embarrassed to insist on being treated equally.

We have all heard of the Human Rights Act. What is not so well appreciated is that most countries have also signed up to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved 53 years ago on the 16 December 1966.

There are 31 articles in total in the Covenant but I am going to pull out only two: Articles 7 and 10.

Article 7(a)(i) 

Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work; 

Gender pay parity anyone? Our countries signed up to this 53 years ago and we are still chasing league tables and naming shaming to try and force the issue? Why isn’t it taken for granted that a man and woman doing the same job will get paid the same amount?

Most corporate organisations are hold themselves to a high standard and will be mortified if they thought they were depriving someone of their basic human rights. We will go to quite some lengths to boycott consumer goods if we thought they had been made in a sweat shop but no man bats an eyelid when they know for a fact that they earn more than the woman sitting next to them doing the same job. That is the acceptable face of human rights violation. They don’t think it is their problem, it is after all up to HR to ensure that equal pay is implemented. Will they feel the same if they thought they were depriving a woman of her basic human right? I think not.

Article 10(2) 

Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits. 

There are ‘developed’ countries that do not pay maternity leave (would you believe!). I am not sure where they think the next generation are going to come from to pay for our pensions. How can a civilised society not support the family which according to this covenant ‘is the natural and fundamental group unit of society… responsible for the care and education of dependent children’? Where are our next inventions going to come from if someone is not taking the time out of their lives to have children and make sure that they are not just feral but cared for and educated?

53 years ago the countries of the world agreed that women and mothers must be entitled to equal treatment in the workplace, and that mothers (from whom all workers come) should be afforded special protection.

Advances have been made, lip service has been paid, but we are by no means there yet. The forecasts for gender parity currently stand are 200 years from now. Seriously? Can we really drag our feet that long and deprive ourselves of all the benefits that will accrue to our society?

Today is Human Rights Day, remember that women are human too and should not have to ask for equality and fairness; it is a right we were born with and are entitled to in the same way as we are entitled to breath.

Happy Human Rights day!

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