- About IHEU
- Human rights
- Upcoming Conferences
- World Humanist Congress 2011
- World Humanist Congress 2008
- World Humanist Congress 2005
- World Humanist Congress 2002
- World Humanist Congress 1999
- Other Conferences
- Australasia & South East Asia
- Former Soviet States
- Indian States
- Islamic States
- Latin America
- North America
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Contact us
You are here
The UN and rights for women
Submitted by admin on 21 August, 2009 - 11:47
From its very beginning, the UN has had a commitment to the equality of women. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Nevertheless, one often finds gaps between theory and practice, and hardly anywhere more than in dealing with the human rights of women. In theory, all UN organisations are supposed to address gender and women's rights, but most largely ignore their obligations.
One of the problems seems to be that there has been no single UN agency charged with monitoring and redressing discrimination against women.
In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), sometimes described as “an international bill of rights for women”. Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. However, despite the accession of a majority of member states of the UN (unfortunately, not including Iran), most Islamic countries acceded with reservations based on the supremacy of Shari’a law, which is well known to treat men and women unequally, thus effectively invalidating any meaningful support for CEDAW.
A further weakness of the UN programme to improve the position of women has been the division of efforts among a number of different agencies. UNIFEM, DAW, OSAGI and INSTRAW separately deal with different facets of the problem.
So we have four different agencies, with no real weight and derisory funding. They have such low profiles that most people have never heard of them. For many years, activists in the field have pressed for the creation of a single, integrated UN agency devoted to all aspects of women’s advancement. Now at last, there is a glimmer of hope. In November 2006, a high-level UN panel recommended the establishment of such an agency led by a new Under-Secretary General to ensure appropriate influence at the highest levels of the UN. The panel said that the agency should be “fully and ambitiously funded”. This autumn, a proposal to set up such an agency and give it an initial annual budget of $1 billion will be put to the General Assembly.
Among the agency’s priorities will be increased income for women, improved educational opportunities, access to health care and a bigger voice in the issues that affect them and their families.