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The problem human rights violations against women across the world

Relevant Human Rights Watch Reports One of the greatest challenges of governments in 2001 was to make respect for women's rights a more permanent and central part of the international human rights agenda. Women's rights activists made notable progress on several fronts--leading governments to condemn sexual violence against women in armed conflict, the problem human rights violations against women across the world governments accountable for failing to protect women from domestic violence, and forcing governments to acknowledge and treat trafficking as a human rights crisis.

However, governments' reluctance to promote respect for women's rights systematically and thoroughly undercut these gains every day. Many governments' commitment to women's human rights remained at best tenuous and at worst nonexistent. The international women's rights community moved forward, pressing to protect women's bodily integrity and right to sexual autonomy, to examine the ways that race or ethnicity and gender intersect to deny women human rights, and to protect women from gender-specific violations of the laws of war.

The September 11 attacks on the U. Governments in the U. Yet, while the international community recoiled at these abuses, the women's human rights record of other governments with similar practices, such as Saudi Arabia, received minimal criticism.

Critics of the Taliban virtually ignored Saudi Arabia, where women faced systematic discrimination in all aspects of their lives: Religious police punished infractions of the dress code with public beatings. Kuwait's record on women's rights was also dismal: The international community's lack of complaint about the women's human rights records in these countries underscored a reality that women's rights activists grappled with everywhere: Many governments, through overt discrimination, attacked women's rights in ways that essentially stripped women of their legal personhood.

For example, the governments of Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and other African states denied women equal inheritance and property rights. The Thai government denied women who married non-nationals the right to buy and own property in their own names. Egypt discriminated against women who married non-nationals by refusing to allow them to transfer their nationality to their children. Syria conditioned a woman's choice in marriage on the consent of a male family member. Although having no such restriction for men, Venezuela prevented women from marrying until ten months after a divorce or annulment.

Governments that condemned some types of violence and discrimination against women often failed to prosecute others. Thus, Jordan and Pakistan condemned domestic violence but still offered reduced sentences to males who committed "honor" crimes against female family members.

South Africa condemned sexual violence broadly, but failed to take adequate steps to protect girls in school from widespread sexual violence at the hands of teachers and students. Guatemala passed sophisticated domestic violence legislation but was content to let stand discriminatory labor law provisions that denied tens of thousands of female domestic workers equality under the labor code.

  1. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.
  2. This failure to address effectively sexual violence was a result of, among other things, lack of staff awareness about sexual violence, poor training on investigating and prosecuting crimes of sexual violence, and a general attitude of according low priority to sexual violence offences. Sexual violence was a characterizing feature of the 14-year long civil war in Liberia.
  3. Experts warned that passage of the bill could take up to a year and a half.
  4. Relevant Human Rights Watch Reports.

Nigeria deplored the treatment of trafficked Nigerians abroad, but did little at home to stop domestic trafficking of Nigerians. The international women's human rights movement functioned as the antidote to government complacency and lack of commitment.

In every arena, women's rights activists challenged governments' cursory commitment to women's human rights. Toward the end of 2000, in part as a result of an ongoing campaign by women's rights and peace activists to highlight the particular insecurity of women in times of armed conflict, both the U.

Security Council and the European Parliament adopted resolutions on women and peace- building, that explicitly called on governments to ensure that women participate both in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction planning.

Women's rights activists in Peru caused the government to modify its domestic violence law in January 2001 so that conciliation sessions between abusers and victims were no longer mandatory.

Women's Human Rights

At the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance WCARthe problem human rights violations against women across the world rights activists successfully worked to have the final document reflect how sex and race intersected to render women vulnerable to sexual violence in armed conflict and to trafficking, and reinforced women's right to transfer their nationality, on an equal basis with men, to their children.

In mid-October 2001, activists rallied to press the Ethiopian government to lift a ban on the only women's rights organization advocating for women's rights in Ethiopia. As governments responded to the September 11 attacks in the U. The following section describes key developments in women's human rights spanning a dozen countries in 2001. Our monitoring showed that violence and discrimination remained pervasive components of many women's lives.

Governments both actively violated women's human rights and failed to prevent abuses by private actors. As some of the cases below illustrate, women often experienced violations of their rights based on their race or nationality as well as on their sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Women experienced racism and sexism not as separate events but as violations that were mutually reinforcing.

For example, soldiers and noncombatants subjected women to sexual violence in armed conflict not just because they were women but also because they were women of a particular race, nationality, ethnicity, or religion. Indeed, armed factions often portrayed acts of sexual violence against women in conflict zones as attacks on the entire community, a community typically identified by a shared race, religion or ethnicity.

Likewise, women were vulnerable to trafficking into forced labor, not just because they were poor and uneducated, but also because in many countries their poverty and illiteracy was a function of discrimination against women of a particular race, ethnicity, or religion. But the impact of this convergence of racism and sexism did not end with women experiencing trafficking-related human rights violations; it also affected how government officials, such as police and prosecutors, in both sending and receiving countries perceived them.

Governments treated trafficked women as illegal immigrants at best, criminals at worst. As a result, governments denied many trafficked women any meaningful access to justice or financial redress.

Women experienced widespread violations of labor rights because of their race and gender. In some cases, states created such varied categories of workers that some women were unable to prove discrimination compared to women of different races. They were also unable to prove discrimination compared to men of the same race. For example, in the U. But states did not just violate women's rights in the public sphere; they also persisted in enforcing laws and condoning practices that discriminated against women in the private sphere.

Governments defended these discriminatory laws and practices as essential to maintaining the integrity of religion and culture. Numerous governments, as in Morocco and Peru, continued to uphold laws that gave women inferior legal status within the family and that violated women's rights to change or retain their nationality. The motivation behind these discriminatory laws appeared to be to keep women from marrying men of a different nationality, ethnicity, or religion.

While the type of discrimination varied from region to region, women throughout the world found that their relationship to a male relative or husband determined their rights. Sub-Saharan African countries continued to use statutory and customary law to discriminate against women with regard to property ownership and inheritance. Although Zambia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CEDAW in the mid-1980s, and its constitution outlawed sex discrimination, the constitution itself gave primacy to customary law in matters of inheritance.

War widows in Sierra Leone faced similar prohibitions in customary law. In Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, statutory law reforms over the past twenty years gave women equal rights to inheritance but judges in these countries continued to apply customary law. In Syria, the minimum age for marriage was eighteen for boys and seventeen for girls. If a woman over the age of seventeen married without the consent of a male guardian, the guardian could demand the annulment of the marriage if the husband was not of the same social standing as the wife, and as long as the wife was not pregnant.

Further, a Muslim Syrian woman could not marry a non-Muslim, while a Muslim man had absolute freedom to choose a spouse. Syrian law also assigned different rights and responsibilities for women and men during marriage.

A wife's "disobedience" could lead the problem human rights violations against women across the world forfeiture of her husband's responsibility to provide support.

A man could legally have up to four wives simultaneously, while a woman could have only one husband. Women did not have the same rights as men to end marriage: Women's rights activists in Morocco continued their long standing campaign to eliminate discriminatory provisions in the personal status code under which Moroccan women continued to be discriminated against with respect to legal standing, marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance.

It appeared that, as was the case with the reform of the personal status code in 1993, the king would be the final arbiter on women's rights. On March 5, 2001, the King Mohammed VI formed a royal commission comprising religious scholars, judges, sociologists, and doctors to consider amending the code.

In a speech on April 27, 2001, he reiterated his commitment to improving the status of Moroccan women and eliminating discrimination against them according to the Islamic sharia and the values of justice and equality. An advisory committee appointed by Prime Minister El-Yousoufi had failed to act on the issue during 2000.

Women's rights activists welcomed a long-overdue development in Brazil: Most significant, the new code gave both women and men equal authority in the family, abolishing paternal power, the legal concept that men had total control over decision-making in the family.

Elsewhere in Latin America, however, laws governing women's roles in the family reflected entrenched beliefs within society that women are subordinate to men.

The Chilean civil code continued to grant husbands control over household decisions and their wives' property. In countries such as Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia, the civil codes established lower marriage ages for girls sixteen, fourteen, and twelve, respectively than for boys, while women in Venezuela could not remarry until ten months after divorce or annulment, unless they proved they were not pregnant.

Nationality laws in such disparate countries as Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh denied women the right to transfer citizenship to their children.

Violence against women

These laws, designed in part to curtail immigration and thus maintain the purity, loyalty, and cohesion of the nation, demonstrated the way in which discrimination on the bases of national origin and gender intersected to further entrench women's subordinate status in the family and in society. Despite years of protest and lawsuits by women's human rights groups, in May 2001 the State Consultative Council of Egypt dismissed the recent parliamentary plea to amend the 1975 Nationality Law.

Under this law, which contradicted the constitution, an Egyptian man could automatically transfer his nationality to his children while an Egyptian woman could do so only under limited circumstances: In many countries, women faced severe discrimination in employment practices and violence in the workplace, including sexual harassment, with little or no protection.

Afghanistan, Guatemala, and South Africa, among many countries, provided examples involving work and working conditions for women in factories, homes, and on farms. In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, women were not permitted to work outside the home, unless they were healthcare professionals, or widows. The latter, estimated to number 40,000 in Kabul alone, were mostly unable to obtain paid employment and were reduced to begging to support their families and faced constant harassment and violence at the hands of the religious police.

  1. Factors specifically associated with intimate partner violence include.
  2. Guinean security personnel and civilians, during the relocation of some 60,000 Liberian and Sierra Leonese refugees from the border to the interior of the country, regularly harassed refugees. Health consequences Intimate partner physical, sexual and emotional and sexual violence cause serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for women.
  3. Health effects can also include headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility and poor overall health.

In Guatemala, where domestic workers number tens of thousands and domestic labor is one of the principal forms of employment for poor, especially indigenous women, the adoption of specific legislation to protect domestic workers remained a low priority for the government. Under threat of losing its beneficiary status under the U. Generalized System of Preferences GSP trade act, Guatemala reformed its labor code with respect to freedom of association during 2001, to bring it more in line with International Labor Organization conventions.

However, the government missed an opportunity to remedy the unequal treatment of domestic workers who, under the current labor code, suffered discrimination as a group: The author of the Guatemalan labor code candidly acknowledged to Human Rights Watch that gender stereotypes and perceptions about the role of domestic workers in the family, as well as racist attitudes toward indigenous women, influenced the low priority attached to their rights when drafting Guatemala's labor legislation.

In its export-processing sector maquiladoras, assembly plants for export goodsGuatemala also systematically denied women workers the enjoyment of full labor rights, continuing to discriminate against women on the grounds of reproductive status.

  • Women and girls may also be subjected to sexual exploitation by those mandated to protect them;
  • Risk factors for both intimate partner and sexual violence include;
  • To achieve lasting change, it is important to enact and enforce legislation and develop and implement policies that promote gender equality by;
  • Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide;
  • NAO report was more than two years overdue, underscoring the inadequacy of the mechanism for addressing women's labor rights violations.

Some factories required job seekers to state whether they were pregnant, and denied full benefits to employees who became pregnant post-hire. Though aware of the problem, the government took no significant action to combating such sex discrimination in the maquila-dora sector. The exclusion of domestic workers from basic U. Around the world, women perform farm work. In post-apartheid South Africa, the government made efforts to overcome the legacy of apartheid in commercial farming areas: Yet, in practice, racist and sexist attitudes remained pervasive on farms: Women farmworkers were more likely to be seasonal or temporary workers than men, and usually did more menial, less remunerative work, such as planting or harvesting.

Employers viewed women's labor as a supplement to men's labor even in situations in which women did the same types of jobs and worked as long hours as men. Women's dependence on men for access to housing rendered them vulnerable to abuse within the workplace and home, and employers denied many women farmworkers statutory maternity benefits. Traffickers moved their human victims around the globe, held them in debt bondage, seized their passports, and threatened them or their families with harm if they resisted.

Ever-tightening border controls and the lack of legal opportunities to migrate often forced women to turn to traffickers, increasing their vulnerability to abuse. Sold as chattel and forced to work for little or no pay, trafficked persons feared local law enforcement authorities, perceiving, in many cases correctly, that an appeal to police would end in prosecution and deportation, rather than protection.

Trafficking victims from ethnic minority communities faced an even more daunting situation, including at its worst xenophobic violence, racism, and, in the case of trafficked hilltribe women and girls in Thailand, statelessness.