I am the only ‘guy’ in the class of about 22 who have opted for this course on "Human Rights of Women". And while other guys in the batch are a bit jealous, I feel defensive attending the class as if I am the epitome of all the ills that a man is! And it is turning out to be an eye opener.
I was rather surprised when informed that it was as late as in 1993 that Women’s’ rights were equated with human Rights during the Vienna convention ( The World Conference on Human Rights). Some 7,000 participants, including delegations from 171 States and representatives of more than 840 non-governmental organizations, gathered for two weeks to set out a revitalized programme for global human rights action. There was broad consensus that, with fundamental rights codified and the essential machinery in place, it was time to implement the established human rights standards and norms with greater vigilance. The Vienna Declaration, inter alia, included:
Part I, Paragraph 18
18. The human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights . . . Gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including those resulting from cultural prejudice
and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human
person, and must be eliminated.
Part II, Paragraph 38
38. In particular, the World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance of
working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life . . . and the eradication of any conflicts which may arise between the rights of women
and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural
prejudices and religious extremism.
I also realize that the concept of gender neutrality cant be applied to domestic violence. The victims in 95% of the cases are women, the fact that 5% of the victim of domestic violence are men may imply that focus will ultimately shift on men while ignoring 95% of women when its converted into a gender neutral subject.
We don’t realize but the fact remains that the State has a patriarchal structure. The women’s point of view that ‘we inherit a world in which men of all nations have used the statist system to establish economic and nationalist priorities to serve male elites while basic human, social, and economic needs are not met’ (Charlesworth, Chinkin and Wright) may sound feminist but is not too far from truth.
Among the Feminist legal theories, there is a considerable debate between the “equal treatment theory – liberal or sameness feminism “ and “difference theory – cultural feminism” (Gilligan). There are occasions when treating people differently emphasize their differences and stigmatize and hinder them on that basis and likewise, there are moments when treating people the same become insensitive to their differences and likely to stigmatize them on that basis.
What’s crucial is who makes the law and who implements and it’s turning out to be a man’s world yet again. And how easy it is for us to have a condescending attitude while giving small leeway here and there to women in the name of ‘gender equality’!