BLog by Georgina Howard, Communications Assistant at The Circle
Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights; it’s a truth that feminists have been shouting for at least twenty-five years and will probably continue to shout for the next twenty-five years. While some may grow tired of hearing this phrase over and over, as global feminists we will continue until we see equality manifested. Right now, women’s rights are too often treated as secondary to human rights with gender-based violence, abuse and discrimination against women rife.
When Hilary Clinton brought this phrase into the mainstream in 1995, it was simultaneously a revelation and a statement of the obvious. Of course, women’s rights are human rights but then why are they not treated as such? Women’s rights for too long have been seen as lesser, allowing terrible human rights abuses to go without consequence. The core principle of the United Declaration of Human rights is that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” – the key phrase being all human beings. By this declaration, no factor of identity is cause for exemption.
However, the truth of the matter is that many factors of identity – race, gender, sexuality, class and more – affect someone’s treatment by state and society. For much of human history there has been hierarchies of identity promoting the fortunate and oppressing the ‘othered’. Even in the international declaration itself the language is gender biased favouring a male hierarchy, such as “act in the spirit of brotherhood” or “wellbeing for himself and his family”. Human rights are not just for ‘him’ but for all. In this detail, gender-bias is enforced which generates the horrific reality millions of women face:
While we must celebrate the march of progress, made possible by the campaigning trailblazers before us, with more girls educated, more women in positions of leadership and legal reform. Still, some progress has been halted and even reversed. Take Afghanistan, where the Taliban have withdrawn women’s rights and freedoms including access to education. Even in the U.S., women’s reproductive rights have been set back with the overturning of Roe v Wade.
Therefore, the phrase “women’s rights are human rights” must not remain a slogan, it must urge us to action. The terrifying truth is that around the world our gender often determines the rights we do or do not have access to. It is not a catchy phrase for a placard. It is a plea to halt the imminent threat to millions of women’s lives. As global feminists we will always amplify the importance of women’s lived experience and work to create long-lasting transformation. We call out human rights abuses of women around the world and we call for better protection of women’s rights both de facto and de jure.
Join us in this fight to make change happen and end the dismantling of human rights.
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