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Women´s Issues After Beijing
Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Positions - Networks - Results


Chapter III

The Twelve Critical Areas of Concern of the Beijing Platform for Action: A Women´s Agenda for the Twenty-first Century

9 Human rights of women: codified in binding form and disregarded every day
Analysis

"Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments". The Platform incorporates the exact wording of the Vienna Declaration, adopted on July 12th, 1993 by the World Conference on Human Rights, in its own text. In line with the Vienna text, it continues "that the human rights of women and the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights".

Human rights of women are the concern of the international community

Both documents declare the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms to be a priority concern of Governments and the UN.
All core statements of the Vienna Conference, without reservations, have been taken up in the Beijing Platform for Action. Reservations on the grounds of culture or traditions are expressly rejected. The Vienna Declaration strongly emphasized the close link between all international human rights instruments and their binding nature under international law; the Beijing Platform for Action reaffirms this.

Vienna and Cairo: human rights of women apply without any reservations.

Both documents equally condemn any form of violence against women in armed conflicts and demand punishment for war crimes against women. Governments and the UN are both called upon to take urgent action to protect the human rights of women.
The Platform talks of "lack of commitment by Governments" as the cause of the gap between the existence of rights and their effective enjoyment in public and private life. It places much more emphasis on the private sphere as a source of violence against women and demands protection from it. Prevention of discrimination in the case of public rights of participation is not enough.

Lack of commitment causes gap between norms and reality

Unless the human rights of women, as defined by international conventions, "are fully recognized and effectively protected, applied, implemented and enforced in national law as well as in national practice,..., they will exist in name only".

Protection of the human rights of women inadequate

Discrimination and social exclusion will persist as long as a lack of awareness within the judicial system and under-representation of women in the justice and legislative systems continue, as long as violations of the human rights of women are not taken seriously, education about existing rights is insufficient and traditional attitudes remain unchanged.This will in turn perpetuate lack of enforcement of full legal rights because of their normative nature.

Strategies and actions to be taken

The Platform demands in its strategic objectives "the full implementation of all human rights instruments, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women". It demands not only equality under the law, but equality in practice and education with the aim of achieving legal literacy. All forms of gender-specific violence constitute a violation of human rights. The Governments are urged to take actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women in private and public life, "whether perpetrated or tolerated by the State or private persons". The commitments entered into in the catalogue of fifty-two actions to be taken are directed against the widening gap between documented rights and increasing violence against women, "resulting from harmful traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and extremism".

Violence against women is the crucial problem

The United Nations must intensify their efforts to implement de facto human rights of women and the girl-child, in particular because of the "systematic and systemic nature" of the violations. "The human rights of all women and the girl-child must form an integral part of United Nations human rights activities". In order for the human rights of women to be genuinely implemented at the international level, the United Nations must be reformed.

Reform of the United Nations

The Platform wishes to close the still-existing gaps in the human rights instruments by the turn of the century. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women should be universally signed and ratified by the year 2000. States which have ratified the Convention should review procedures to ensure that they fulfil all the obligations set out in it (by the end of ´95 149 States had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), five more States had signed it. The Federal Republic of Germany ratified the Convention in ´85).

Anti-discrimination Convention to apply universally by the turn of the century

International cooperation must be extended, including prosecution and punishment of those profiting from organized exploitation of women and children, with the aim of eradicating trafficking in women and children, prostitution and sex tourism. All States are strongly urged to accede to the Convention on the Rights of the Child of November 1989 in order to provide for equal rights for girls and boys world-wide (by the end of ´95 187 States ratified the Convention, two more States have signed it. The Federal Republic of Germany put it in force in 1992).

Combat trafficking in women and children

The Governments have declared their willingness to strengthen the United Nations with the aim of preventing female infanticide, of abolishing child labour and of stopping trade in children and human organs and child prostitution.
Comprehensive human rights education programmes should raise awareness of their human rights among women and make men more aware of them. The Platform states that women are, in fact, making increasing use of the legal system to exercise their rights, whilst it also assumes that in many countries lack of awareness of the existence of these rights is an obstacle that prevents women from exercising them. Such education should increase women´s awareness of their rights, encourage them to exercise them and be willing to fight for them. Knowledge of recourse mechanisms to redress violations must also be disseminated. The international human rights documents should be translated into alternative formats to ensure that knowledge of their rights is also accessible to persons with disabilities or at lower levels of literacy.

Education on human rights to counteract ignorance and helplessness

Women engaged in the defence of human rights in women´s organizations and feminist groups must be particularly protected and supported.They are playing "a catalytic role" with their grass-roots activities, networking and advocacy of women´s human rights. The Governments are called upon to support them and enable them to continue their work. Human rights education must start at school. The Platform demands that appropriate programmes and school curricula should be designed to this end. Human rights education is also applicable to members of the armed forces.

Exiled Tibetan women: silent protest at the NGO Forum in Huairou

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© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | Net Edition mv&ola | Oktober 1997