Women's Rights ARE Human Rights

Countless modern feminists are dedicated to the advancement of women's rights. 

Indeed, feminism is frequently connected with women's equality, with the struggle to achieve and protect reproductive rights frequently at the forefront. These rights provide women some control over when and if they get pregnant. 

With the title of her book, Are Women Human?, Catharine MacKinnon, on the other hand, urges us to return to the opening question. The essential argument here is whether women have human rights or are protected by them. Human rights are often seen as fundamental responsibilities that mankind owe to one another. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) by the United Nations is the most commonly acknowledged statement of human rights, with the first article asserting the freedom and equality of all human beings. 

Nonetheless, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be criticized for its Western bias - even the word "rights" shows a uniquely Western perspective on human responsibility. Many nations disagree with certain of the document's contents because they are incompatible with their cultural beliefs or traditions. 

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is difficult for women since women are not yet recognized as fully human or deserving of human rights protection in all countries, and they do not yet have equal political position with men everywhere. Furthermore, it does not address challenges that are unique to women. 

Women's rights infractions, according to MacKinnon, are frequently disregarded because they are considered gender-specific concerns rather than violations of women's fundamental rights. 

The problem now is to persuade the UN and the rest of the international community that gender-based concerns like rape are deserving of human rights attention. 

The UN has published a number of following papers and agreements that aim to address gender specific concerns, at the insistence of feminists and women's activists all around the world. 

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) strives to extend to women the rights outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Global feminists advance the cause of women's human rights by forming cross-border coalitions of feminist organizations and pursuing shared aims for future alliances. 

The activism around female genital cutting, also known as female circumcision or female genital mutilation depending on one's point of view, is an example of feminist attempts to secure human rights while simultaneously acknowledging the gendered dimension of a violation. 

Female genital cutting (FGC) is a term that refers to a group of activities that the World Health Organization has divided into four categories. 

  1. The first is clitoris removal, often known as clitorodectomy. 
  2. The clitoris and labia minora are removed in the second procedure (and possibly the labia majora). 
  3. These excisions are included in the third version, which additionally sews up or plugs the vaginal orifice. Infibulation is a condition in which just a tiny hole allows urine and blood to flow through. 
  4. The fourth category, according to the WHO, is a catch-all for various types of ceremonial genital cutting, such as piercings, which may or may not involve the loss of flesh. 

Female genital cutting, in all forms, is a cultural practice that takes place on females from infancy to maturity, but most typically between the ages of five and thirteen. 

Those who contend that genital cutting is a human rights violation point out that it is frequently done without the girl's or woman's permission and in unclean settings. 

They portray it as a form of violence against women that is often accompanied by a general disregard for women's human dignity, hence the term "female genital mutilation," which distinguishes it from male circumcision. 

Activists who oppose FGC see it as a blatant infringement of women's rights. 

FGC, in particular, infringes on the rights to physical integrity, sexual expression or enjoyment, and personal security

In addition to physical scars, it is reported to leave a plethora of psychological scars. 

Nonetheless, FGC remains a contentious issue within feminism. 

Some societies maintain it as a traditional ritual with important meaning, with the help of women. Some feminists even support the practice, claiming that those who oppose it are imposing their own cultural norms or human rights notions. 

Those who advocate FGC point to religious and cultural freedoms as justifications, claiming that while some female genital cutting occurs in harmful settings, the majority does not. 

This argument exemplifies some of the challenges that many women face in obtaining full human rights protections. Because the issue or act is not considered a matter for human rights talk, because women are not the subjects of human rights, or because of conflicts between cultures, traditions, and approaches to justice – the very nature of human rights is, after all, rooted in a Western ethos – efforts to bring about change can become much more complicated. 

The French prohibition on religious attire and other symbols in schools is another recent instance that has drew the attention of feminists concerned with human rights problems. 

This restriction, which the European Court of Human Rights deemed to be in conformity with human rights, is intended to promote a form of secularism that is seen to contribute to a feeling of national community. However, the restriction places an excessive hardship on Muslim girls and women who prefer to wear the head scarf as a symbol of their faith or are required to do so. 

The scarf, worn at school, has been ruled to be in breach of the prohibition, despite the fact that little Christian crosses are permitted. The reasoning is based on the perception of conspicuous religious symbols as disrupting social cohesiveness or detracting from school lectures. 

This topic raises questions of sex and gender inequality, but it may also be viewed in the context of France's colonial past. 

Human rights activists and feminists underline the intersection of problems here. On the one hand, there is the freedom to openly express one's faith in public or private as long as it does not endanger others' rights. 

The ability to openly express one's religious views does not appear to be upheld by a clothing prohibition that looks to be focused especially at Muslim girls and women. 

It also doesn't appear to treat everyone equally, considering that the effects are most noticeable among schoolgirls. On the other side, there is the right to equal protection and security in one's person (particularly in educational settings), as well as the state's responsibility to provide it. 

If France perceives religious symbols as representing a possible threat to a person or a group, and believes that prohibiting them is the best way to safeguard those persons, it may be argued that the state has every right to implement the prohibition, even if it looks to be targeting Muslim females.

Furthermore, feminists disagree on whether the head scarf and other kinds of veiling constitute signs of sexual inequity or otherwise dehumanize women. Some say that wearing a head scarf or veil is liberating because it shields women from at least some of the objectifying gaze of men. Others believe that in some cultural and religious traditions, the veil is a sign of women's servitude and lack of autonomy. 

Regardless, despite the challenges in defining what that means, feminist attempts to achieve human rights worldwide are significant extensions of feminist efforts to achieve the legal, social, political, and economic rights of women inside their own country. 

Women have made significant progress around the world, but there is still much more to be done. 

Women continue to be more likely to be victims of abuse, to care for babies and children disproportionately, and to be underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts. 

Some legislative changes now need to be accompanied with cultural shifts that impact how laws are executed. Furthermore, not all forms of oppression can be addressed by changes in laws, economic structure, or even social and political shifts. 

Internalized oppression is when oppression is ingrained in one's thoughts about oneself and others. Beyond inequality, second-wave feminism examines some of the ways oppression is constituted. 

We still need to examine how oppression impacts agency, identity, and embodiment, as well as feminist recommendations for changing how we act, think about ourselves and others, and feel our bodies in the world.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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