by Jenna McDaniel
Everyone is entitled to equal rights under the law, and yes, that includes women. Human rights, as defined by the United Nations Human Rights website, are:
“Rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.”
In 1923, the National Women’s Party proposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). First-wave feminists viewed the acceptance of this amendment as the only definitive way to put an end to legal gender-based discrimination in the United States. Section 1 of the amendment states:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Since the 1960s and 1970s, strong organizations like the National Organization of Women (NOW) have pushed time and again for the reintroduction of the amendment after it continuously fails to receive a majority vote to pass. Sadly, receiving the majority vote is only the first step in amending the U.S. constitution. Although the bill had significant momentum in its early years, the Stop-ERA Campaign, led by a woman called Phyllis Schlafly, quickly opposed ERA supporters. Schlafly, along with all the other Stop-ERA advocates, felt that the ratification of the ERA Amendment would lead to the complete unraveling of traditional American society. What exactly is “traditional American society?” Although times have drastically changed since the ‘60s and ‘70s, great female successors in history have continuously failed to gain the equal rights and respect they deserve in trying to pave the way for the change they wanted to see in the world.
Similarly, the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international treaty proposed by the United Nations in 1979. This international agreement seeks the advancement and protection of women on a global scale. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation:
“The treaty provides a universal definition of discrimination against women so that those who would discriminate on the basis of sex can no longer claim that no clear definition exists. It also calls for action in nearly every field of human endeavor.”
To this day, the United States is one of very few countries (only 7) left worldwide that hasn’t signed off on the ratification of this treaty. The U.S. stands alongside Iran, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and two tiny Pacific Island nations – Palau and Tonga – that have not signed the CEDAW.
With almost half the world’s population being female and the weak efforts to strength women’s rights, what will it take for people to realize that the advancement and protection of women’s full equality is a requisite to any future for human rights? Jack Healey, the founder of the Human Rights Action Center, sums up his observations on this topic:
“After seeing how the world generally discriminates against and mistreats women, it is only understandable that they have their inner foundations shaken. What is to follow is often not a mere crisis of confidence, but a series of affronts against them for the simple fact that they are female in the world.”
Women are denied the right to vote, receive unequal pay, have their voices dismissed, are trafficked into numerous forms of slavery, have their experiences devalued, and are targeted by rape as a weapon of war, just to name a few of the many gender-based injustices that occur in every country in the world. Voices matter and with persistence, human rights will include women as equally as men. If we seek a world with human rights for all, we must remove the barriers to those rights for women. Both domestically and internationally, women’s equality must be addressed and recognized as an area for immediate improvement.