Role of United Nations in the Protection of Women’s Human Rights

The major human rights instruments recognize the rights of women along with men since the establishment of the United NationsCharter itself which reaffirms faith in fundamental human rights inequal rights of men and women. Human rights discourse may be regarded as a proper type of rhetorical expression which is exemplified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 which defined human rights and fundamental freedoms, the governments have agreed to protect. In the history of humankind, this Declaration represents a milestone, a veritable Magna Carta which spells out precise civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. These rights are valid for all member of the international community and cover the whole range of activities right from the rights of indigenous people to economic and social rights which also includes rights of woman. This Declaration also deals with the mechanism available to ensure these rights are respected and fulfilled. Under this Declaration, Article 1 guarantees the right to equality in dignity and the right to freedom. Article 2 guarantees everyone all rights and freedoms in this Declaration without distinction of sex. Article 3 guarantees life, liberty, and security. Article 5 guarantees the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment. Article 6 gives the right to recognition as a person. Article 7 guarantees equality before the law, equal protection of laws, and equal protection against any discrimination. Article 8 and Article 10 grant women, the right to an effective remedy and fair trial. Article 13 guaranteeing the right to freedom of movement. Article 19 grants women, right to freedom of opinion and expression. Article 20 gives the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and all these provisions can be indirectly used as a tool to protect victims of domestic violence in terms of human rights.

Under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, Article 6 guarantees to women the right to life; Article 7 gives the right not to be subjected to torture, to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; Article 9 grants the right to liberty and security to women; Article 10 gives right to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person to women; Article 12 gives right to liberty of movement; Article 16 gives right to recognition as a person to all including women and lastly Article 19 gives women the right to hold opinions and all these can be effectively used to protect the victims of domestic violence.

However, it is the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted by the General Assembly in 1979, which is a significant platform to protect women against domestic violence in terms of human rights. Article 2 of this convention makes it obligatory for the state parties to condemn discrimination against women in all its forms by all appropriate means. Since the creation of this convention, the United Nations Committee that monitors it has recognized the serious global impact of domestic violence. Through the committee’s recommendation now, a number of activities are being carried out so as to focus attention on all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence. In 1992 the recommendation of the committee during its EleventhSession specifically noted that states may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violation of human rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence.

Therefore, State parties to the Convention are bound to take all the necessary legislative, judicial, administrative, or other appropriate measures to guarantee women the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of equality of men. The strategic actions to be taken by the Governments for this purpose are-

  • Work actively towards ratification of or accession to and implement international and regional human rights treaties.
  • Ratify and accede to and ensure implementation of the Convention on “the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, so that universal ratification of the Convention can be achieved by the year 2000.
  • Consider drawing up national action plans identifying steps to improve the promotion and protection of human rights including the human rights of women, as recommended by the World Conference on Human Rights.
  • Create or strengthen independent national institutions for the protection and promotion of these rights, including the human rights of women, as recommended by the World Conference on Human Rights.
  • Address the acute problems of children, inter alia, by supporting efforts in the context of the United Nations system aimed at adopting efficient international measures for the prevention and eradication of female infanticide, harmful child labor, the sale of children and their organs, child prostitution, child pornography and other forms of sexual abuse and consider contributing to the drafting of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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