Women’s Human Rights in Asia, India, and in Africa

Introduction

Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of this paper are to explore the available data in secondary sources for investigating general scenarios related to women’s human rights especially in the regions of Asia, India, and Africa.

Thesis Statement

Women’s human rights including social, cultural, and economic rights, in Asia, India, and Africa continue to be neglected and violated.

Women’s Human Rights- A Prerequisite for Development

Women’s human rights, equality, and dignity as complete human beings are preserved in the fundamental instruments of the modern global community. The equal rights of women and men emphasize that women should be central to the vision of a democratic community. The international scenario of human rights for women require immediate attention at every level including government, society, international community due to specific grave reasons including; more women live in poverty than men; the majority of refugees around the world are women, and illiteracy in women is comparatively higher then illiteracy in men. Kofi Annan, the seventh secretary-general of United Nations advocated women’s human rights and said “More countries have understood that women’s equality is a prerequisite for development”.

Women in most parts of the world are treated similarly to commodities in the pornography industry and cross-border prostitution. Millions of girls around the globe are prey to genital mutilation, while females practically in every nation are victims of violence. Women in most countries lack access to health care and each day they are besieged in armed conflicts (Guichon, p. 143).

Relation of Security & Economic Progress with Women’s Human Rights

The social, cultural, and economic rights of women continue to be neglected (Guichon, p. 143). There can be no security, peace, or sustainable economic progress in societies that hinder and refute human rights in general and women’s human rights in particular. Struggle for women’s human rights is, in fact, a positive fight that highlights the qualitative aspect of contribution by women in every field of the community including; industry, education, politics, academia, commerce, and agriculture. Women are regarded as the true peace-builders and peacemakers specifically in war-torn societies everywhere. As such creative, effective, and practical measures should focus on the human rights of women- political and civil rights, cultural and community rights- and the right to progress (Bachay, p. 345).

Women’s Human Rights in Asia

Women’s Struggle against Inequality and Discrimination

Throughout Asia, women struggle against systematic abuse and discrimination with insignificant hope of any particular redress. Governments across Asia have mixed records in safeguarding the rights of women- with different governments like Pakistan- frequently flouting their primary obligations; while nations like Indonesia are not successful to support rhetoric with political will and resources, and others like India reprove themes of women’s rights to flounder against incompetence and apathy (Guichon, p. 143).

Despite constant violations of women’s rights, some governments like Nepal should be given due credit for implementing significant legal reforms and also devoting available resources to grave concerns such as human trafficking (Wollstonecraft, p.238).

A shared phenomenon in most Asian countries is the unequal status of women in the eyes of law and also unsuccessful measures of the government to prevent as well as punish violations against women’s human rights. Asian women mostly confront safeguarding their economic and social rights but the current system is often not successful in providing them equality with their male counterparts (Bachay, p. 345).

 Laws and their Implementation

Although effective laws are present in almost every country these are often voided by the improper implementation. To address the grave scenario of women’s human rights in Asia, few women in Asian nations gathered in Bangkok in 1986 and established ‘Asian Women’s Human Rights Council’. The women in the convention sought to develop a new cognizance of human rights, articulating the women’s power in the Asia-Pacific region. They also sought to confront and challenge the viewpoint of the dominant world proffering altogether new visions towards equality and justice both for men and women. (Asian Women’ Human Rights Council)

In Asia, violence against women is not only dangerous but uncontrollable. Different types of violence against Asian women include; marital rape, trafficking, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and forced marriage. There are certain countries like India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan where grave offenses are observed in the case of women. Some of these offenses are so-called dignity murders and acid attacks. In these offenses mostly women are murdered even for such insignificant moral and so-called disobedience like talking to a male in public or getting married without the consent of their parental family. Most Asian governments are not successful in responding to the desired level for preventing violence and aggression. (Guichon 143)

Significance of Supportive Measures

Counseling services and different other supportive measures are mostly not successful due to a shortage of funding in organizations working in this field and also non-cooperation by the government. Moreover, women who sought legal help mostly are deprived of the required support. Prosecutions and laws for killings made in the name of so-called dignity, self-esteem, and honor often receive no response from the law authorities. (Guichon 143)

Decisions made by females are often overruled by male family members. The right of abortion, except where it saves the life, is not allowed in certain Asian countries including Indonesia, Burma, and Bangladesh. Young women, in South Asia, mostly remain under strict observation by their families. Their movements are restricted and supervised to avoid any unwanted sexual activity. In some countries, such as China and Korea, the desire for boys often results in complicated health problems and premature abortions. Another significant violation of human rights is the inequality in education. The literacy rate of girls particularly in South Asia is low than boys. (Bachay 345)

Women’s Human Rights in India

Women’s Human Rights and Indian Constitution

India has a progressive constitution that highlights and acknowledges equality to women’s rights as a justifiable and acceptable fundamental right and comprises various provisions for ensuring women’s human rights in India. The track record of India on the legislative front is quite remarkable as it has brought significant changes in the law focusing on abolishing discrimination against females in specific matters such as inheritance, employment, marriage, and divorce. There have been different movements in the country that have raised voices and provided space to the segment of the poorest women. (Bachay 345)

It is without any doubt that guarantees ensured by the constitution combined with better employment as well as educational opportunities have provided enhanced visibility to women as compared with the past. However, the other side of the story is not exemplary. It is argued by many that the enactment of constitutional provisions as well as laws has not been successful in ensuring the necessary social change.

Women have discovered that although such laws are effective instruments in eliminating their legal inferiority, protection by law alone cannot provide desired results. Moreover, they cannot along alter well-entrenched behaviors, and as such patriarchal conventions continue to thrive. Kofi Annan highlights that “when women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.”

Past and Future of Women’s Human Rights in India

In the past Indian women, for thousands of years, were considered inferior to such extent that they were not numbered in the four Hinduism castes. They were never permitted to live within an area of caste people. Moreover, they were forced to live in homes that were located outside the villages and denied all types of access including pure drinking water. Even today, women in many places of India are not enjoying equal human rights; an untouchable female is not permitted to marry anyone but only an untouchable. Moreover, untouchables are not allowed to make a contact with any vessel or plate belonging to a person of higher caste without contaminating it. (Leavitt, 251)

Women’s Human Rights in Africa

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Women’s human rights in Africa are subject to huge violations and inequality. It is pertinent to mention that ‘The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ which was adopted in the year 1986, highlights many stresses between people or groups’ rights and individual human rights. Following the example set by the ‘United Nations Human Rights Conference’ in 1993 at Vienna, a resolution was adopted by the ‘Organization of African Unity in June 1995.

Protocol on Women’s Human Rights

The primary purpose was to elaborate a Protocol on women’s human rights in Africa. The protocol was elaborated due to improper addressing of human rights issues, specifically about women, by the African Charter. In 2003, the African Heads of State adopted a Protocol to safeguard African women’s human rights (Bachay, p. 345).

The protocol has been ratified and different strategies have been designed to address the issue of women’s human rights in Africa. These strategies focus on specific areas including; analysis of domestication along with certain implementation processes throughout African countries particularly around the Protocol; analysis of the policy and institutional changes; experiential case studies that generate demand for women’s human rights in Africa as set out in the Protocol (Mohammed, p. 12).

Conclusion

Investigation of the data, especially in India, Asia, and Africa, reveals that women’s human rights continue to be neglected and violated. Although significant developments have been made in some countries and certain laws and regulations have been implemented, for example in India, the overall condition is not praiseworthy and commendable. It is therefore concluded, based on the arguments presented in the paper, that effective measures are required to ensure women’s human rights, equality, and dignity. More efforts at a national and international level are also needed to address the grave scenario.

Works Cited

  1. “Asian Women’ Human Rights Council”. Canadian Woman Studies. 17(2), p.142, 1997
  2. Bachay, Judith “Women Moving Forward: Justice, Toward a System of Right Relationship: 3, Booksurge Llc, 2008, p. 345
  3. Guichon, Audrey & Anker, Christien & Novikova, Irina, “Women’s Social Rights and Entitlements,” Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p.143
  4. Leavitt, June, “To marry a dog,” Journal of International Women’s Studies, 7(4), p251, 2006
  5. Mohammed, Faiza “Mobilizing for women’s rights in Africa.” Sister Namibia. 17(4) p.12, 2005
  6. Wollstonecraft, Mary, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”, Penguin Books, 2006, p. 238
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