Examining Women’s Rights (2)

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Examining Women’s Rights

Women play a central role in the world, yet many of them do not enjoy the same rights as everyone else. Universal human rights should apply to women equally, but this is often not the case. Women and girls across the world continue to face discrimination based on their gender, a situation which needs to be addressed. Women’s rights include the right to education, to vote, to own property, to earn equal and fair wages, and to live free from violence and discrimination. Women’s’ rights are usually enshrined in important documents such as government constitutions, the United Nations declarations and other global bodies. Significant progress has been made to protect women’s rights over the years, but there is still much to be done to protect and promote women’s rights.

The fight for women’s rights began decades ago. In the nineteenth century, women enjoyed few rights. Their main role was staying at home to care for their families. Women were not educated, they were not allowed to vote and generally could not offer their opinion on important matters in society. The fights for women’s rights and equality began in the 19th century. One of the earliest examples of this is the 1848 women’s rights convention that resulted in the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments. The meeting was held in Seneca Falls, New York, where women convened to demand their rights with regard to their social, civil and religious lives (Parker 345). This event marked the beginning of the fight for women’s rights, and inspired women for generations to come.

Over the years, women gained victory in their demand for equal rights. The 1848 convention marked the start of the fights for women’s suffrage, efforts led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton. Women won the fight in 1920 with the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment (Porter & Munn 251). However, one issue emerged in the fight for women’s suffrage. Slavery played a significant role in women’s suffrage, as black women were kept out of the fight. Educated white women pushed for their own rights, which created a divide between women along racial lines. When the fight for women’s suffrage was won, women were emboldened to fight for other rights such as employment, education, fair wages, and reproductive rights. The Equal Pay Act signed by President Kennedy in 1963 (Rubery & Grimshaw 321) abolished wage discrimination based on gender.

Aside from individual governments, The United Nations has been an important part of promoting women’s rights under various declarations and charters. The 1962 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the one of the most important documents in women’s rights, having been ratified by 185 countries. CEDAW protects women’s health, social and economic welfare (Cole 2). Other UN documents on women’s rights include the Beijing Platform for Action, The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, The United Nations Declaration on Violence Against Women, The Convention on the Rights of the Child and Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development goals. The United Nations is a crucial organization in promoting women’s rights as the body relies on the contribution of member states to create laws that protect women, and the cooperation of these countries as well. Its international reach ensures that women everywhere enjoy equal rights.

Several women and organizations played an important role in the fight for women’s rights in history. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are widely recognized as the founders of women’s suffrage efforts. The women created the National Woman Suffrage Association in1868 to push for women’s right to vote, which was eventually achieved in the early twentieth century. Other notable figures who fought for women’s rights include Alice Paul who advocated for equality under the Lucretia Moll Amendment, Maud Wood Park who fought for maternal healthcare, and Rose Schneiderman who fought for fair wages for women in low-income positions such as waitresses, hotel maids and beauty parlor workers (DuBois 215). African-American women lagged behind their white counterparts, and they needed black women advocates like Mary McLeod Bethune who fought for equality of African-American women in voting. Margaret Sanger made history in the fight for women’s rights over their own bodies, lobbying for birth control survives for women. These women changed the landscape of women’s rights in the twentieth century, and since then these rights have been greatly expanded.

Status of Women’s Rights

Although all women across the world should enjoy the same rights, there is significant disparity on the status of women’s rights across the world. Developed countries have made the most progress in protecting women’s rights. Globally, women have achieved an 82% literacy rate, with developed nations at 99.2% literacy (The World Bank). Women in developed nations have adequate access to healthcare services including reproductive health, employment opportunities and higher pay. Despite the advanced rights that women enjoy in these countries, there are still disparities between men and women. For example, the European Union reports that women earn 15% less than their male counterparts for the same job, and 33% of European women have experienced some type of violence (Fahndrich 1). These statistics show that even countries with the most advanced women’s rights still have a ways to go.

Developing countries still face major hurdles with regard to women’s rights. Women in these countries still lag in critical areas such as education, employment, healthcare, wages, and other areas of life. The World Bank compiled statistics on the literacy rates of women across the world, and the result paint a dismal picture for women in developing countries. These numbers apply to women aged 15 and above in individual countries. Examples include Benin at 31%, Chad at 14%, Mali at 26%, and Somalia at 4% (The World Bank). The sad state of affairs in education is reflected in other areas of life where women experience a lot of challenges. For instance, women in developing countries encounter a lot of violence and do not get justice due to the neglect of their rights in such countries.

One major setback to women’s rights has been ongoing violence in different countries across the world. During these breakouts of violence that have lasted years in some cases, women and girls have had their rights violated in many ways. An example of this is the sexual, emotional and physical violence that women experience during war. Rape has been widely used as a weapon of war, with women and girls being the main victims. Enemy militants attack communities and use sexual violence as way to coerce these communities to do what they want. The Democratic Republic of Congo is an ideal example of this situation. The country continues to experience civil war that started decades ago. Sexual violence is a widely acknowledged problem in this war (Aroussi 491). War also leads to other forms of violation of women’s rights. Women lose their right to education, the right to vote and the right to live free from violence. During ongoing armed conflict, women are usually the first targets as they are deemed to be physically weak and easier to attack. In addressing the issue of women’s rights, armed conflict should be of significant concern.

Overview

In the remainder of the paper, I plan to examine the state of women’s rights in countries with the worst track record in this area. Examples of these countries include Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. I also plan to examine the examples of women’s rights violations such as domestic abuse, rape, lack of access to health services, human trafficking, workplace inequality, illiteracy among others. I will also propose some of the measures that can be implemented to protect and promote women’s rights.

Remaining Research

I will look into additional sources to find out the state of women’s rights across the world. Possible sources include the United Nations and other global bodies, mainstream media outlets for case studies and published scholarly journals that have previously examined the issues.

Works Cited

“Literacy rate, adult female, (% of females aged 15 and above)” The World Bank. September 2020. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ADT.LITR.FE.ZSAroussi, Sahla. “Women, peace, and security and the DRC: time to rethink wartime sexual violence as gender-based violence?” Politics & Gender 13.3 (2017): 488-515.

Cole, Wade M. “Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW).” The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies (2016): 1-3.

DuBois, Ellen C. “9 Making Women’s History: Activist Historians of Women’s Rights, 1880—1940.” Intellectuals and Public Life. Cornell University Press, 2019. 214-235.

Fahndrich, Elyssa. “Women’s rights: is gender equality a reality in Europe?” European Union. 21 September 2020. https://europa.eu/youth/get-involved/your%20rights%20and%20inclusion/womens-rights-gender-equality-reality-europe_enParker, Alison M. “The Seneca Falls convention of 1848: A pivotal moment in nineteenth-century America.” Reviews in American History 36.3 (2008): 341-348.

Porter, Corinne, and Kathleen Munn. “Forging a Path to the 19th Amendment: Understanding Women’s Suffrage.” Social Education 83.5 (2019): 248-255.

Rubery, Jill, and Damian Grimshaw. “The 40-year pursuit of equal pay: a case of constantly moving goalposts.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 39.2 (2015): 319-343.