Why are we talking about women’s rights? When we talk about human rights, do we not mean women’s rights? Does not everyone – and therefore every woman – have them? – has the same rights from birth?
In principle yes – in reality unfortunately no. All over the world women and girls suffer human rights violations because they are women and girls.
According to estimates, around 100 million women in the world are “missing” because they have been aborted before birth or killed as babies. Thousands of women are raped in wars. Every fifth woman is threatened, beaten or sexually abused by her husband. About 3 million women are mutilated at the genitals every year.
All these human rights violations have to do with the roles and duties assigned to women in society – and with the fact that human rights are insufficiently protected in the “private sphere” and that those who cause them usually go unpunished.
The demands of Amnesty International
Governments are obliged under international law to prevent violence against women, to prosecute appropriate crimes and to punish the perpetrators. In war as in peace, in “public” as in “private”.
Amnesty International exerts pressure on states to comply with this duty and
- abolish laws that discriminate against women,
- Protect women from violence,
- Punish violent acts and prevent violence against women,
- investigate gender-specific acts of violence and punish the perpetrators
- Give women access to justice and legal remedies,
- establish structures for the protection and support of women affected by violence and support existing structures in this area
- protect and support human rights campaigners and organizations.
Amnesty is also committed to ensuring that non-state actors, such as religious or community bodies, take an active role in combating everyday violence against women.
“Women’s rights are human rights”
…I’m afraid that was never as natural as it sounds. The authors of the “Declaration of Human and Civil Rights” in the French Revolution of 1789 understood only men as legal subjects. For almost 700 years Switzerland was able to call itself the oldest democracy in the world without women having equal political rights. Although the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights promised all people that they could exercise their rights without discrimination, it did not guarantee them equal rights. In practice, however, the international and human rights system continued to be shaped primarily by men who had little regard for the realities of women’s lives.
In particular, the separation between the “public” and “private” spheres excluded women from exercising their human rights for decades. Human rights violations against women happen above all in the “private” sphere. It was not until the 1980s that a serious international discussion began about the fact that the state also has obligations with regard to human rights violations by private individuals. And it was only in the wake of the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights that these obligations with regard to violence against women were clarified in international declarations and agreements.
In 1793, the women’s rights defender and French revolutionary Olympe de Gouges had to atone with her life for the fact that in her “Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Citizen” she called for the extension of human rights to the “private sphere” and the equality of women in public.
But even today, in many places women still risk their lives when they stand up for their rights. They need our support – for the rights of women worldwide!