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Women's Human Rights

Women's Human Rights: The International and Comparative Law Casebook

Susan Deller Ross
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 704
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  • Book Info
    Women's Human Rights
    Book Description:

    According to Susan Deller Ross, many human rights advocates still do not see women's rights as human rights. Yet women in many countries suffer from laws, practices, customs, and cultural and religious norms that consign them to a deeply inferior status. Advocates might conceive of human rights as involving torture, extrajudicial killings, or cruel and degrading treatment-all clearly in violation of international human rights-and think those issues irrelevant to women. Yet is female genital mutilation, practiced on millions of young girls and even infants, not a gross violation of human rights? When a family decides to murder a daughter in the name of "honor," is that not an extrajudicial killing? When a husband rapes or savagely beats his wife, knowing the legal authorities will take no action on her behalf, is that not cruel and degrading treatment? Women's Human Rights is the first human rights casebook to focus specifically on women's human rights. Rich with interdisciplinary material, the book advances the study of the deprivation and violence women suffer due to discriminatory laws, religions, and customs that deny them their most fundamental freedoms. It also provides present and future lawyers the legal tools for change, demonstrating how human rights treaties can be used to obtain new laws and court decisions that protect women against discrimination with respect to employment, land ownership, inheritance, subordination in marriage, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, and the denial of reproductive rights. Ross examines international and regional human rights treaties in depth, including treaty language and the jurisprudence and general interpretive guidelines developed by human rights bodies. By studying how international human rights law has been and can be implemented at the domestic level through local courts and legislatures, readers will understand how to call upon these newly articulated human rights to help bring about legislation, court decisions, and executive action that protect women from human rights violations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0002-7
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xxviii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xxix-xxxii)
  4. Using This Book
    (pp. xxxiii-xxxiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxv-xxxvi)
  6. Chapter 1 Women’s Status and CEDAW
    (pp. 1-53)

    Throughout human history women have faced discrimination and violence and, despite significant progress, still do. But today, it is possible to help change that reality through the international human rights system that arose from the ashes of World War II. Lawyers can use international treaties and lessons from comparative law to create new domestic legal structures to advance women’s rights in every country around the globe. To do so, they must understand the interlocked elements of women’s subordination and the ways that law can be used either to deny or grant women equality and freedom from violence.

    This chapter will...

  7. Chapter 2 Equality Doctrines and Gender Discrimination: The Evolving Jurisprudence of the UN Human Rights Committee and the U.S. Supreme Court
    (pp. 54-90)

    This chapter begins an examination of the way different state courts and international and regional human rights bodies decide whether a statute treating women and men differently violates provisions guaranteeing women equal rights and equal protection of the law. Many state constitutions and international and regional treaties make these guarantees. Advocates can turn to those bodies in seeking to invalidate sex-discriminatory laws. In doing so, they need to know which body is most likely to rule in their favor and how to argue that the body should adopt a more probing review if it is overly deferential to the state...

  8. Chapter 3 The Interrelationship of the ICCPR and the ICESCR; and the Human Rights Committee’s Evolving Equal Protection Doctrine
    (pp. 91-114)

    The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) shares many features with the ICCPR. Both entered into force in 1976. As of August 7, 2007, the ICESCR had 156 States Parties, while the ICCPR had 160. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESC Committee) monitors state compliance with the treaty through a reporting process, as does the Human Rights Committee (and the CEDAW Committee). Each body issues General Comments which provide States Parties with detailed guidance on the meaning of the treaty articles, recommendations for further action, and guidelines for preparing state reports.A

    The reporting mechanism...

  9. Chapter 4 Conflicting Human Rights Under International Law: Freedom of Religion Versus Women’s Equality Rights
    (pp. 115-152)

    When freedom of religion conflicts with women’s right to equality and the question is which should take precedence, many would intuitively respond that the right to religious freedom should prevail. Perhaps this is because religion is seen as “sacred” and therefore something that cannot be questioned under international law. We have already seen how Islamic beliefs shaped Afghanistan law both before the Taliban and during its rule. Similarly, we have seen how Catholic beliefs shaped Spanish law which then influenced laws in the Philippines and Peru. This chapter explores the role of these religions and others—Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism...

  10. Chapter 5 Enforcing Women’s International Human Rights Under Regional Treaties: The American Convention on Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
    (pp. 153-197)

    We have examined women’s rights using both domestic and international law. In this chapter, we will look to regional human rights systems and their effects on women’s rights. Both the American States and the African States have created regional human rights treaties. What rights do these treaties create for women in each region and how effective is each in enforcing such rights? Consider both the content of the substantive rights and the procedures for asserting the rights. How many steps must a victim take? Can she take the case all the way to the top? Can NGOs file suits on...

  11. Chapter 6 Enforcing Women’s International Human Rights Under Regional Treaties: The [European] Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
    (pp. 198-243)

    In 1949, ten European countries—Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom—established the Council of Europe through a new treaty, the Statute of the Council of Europe. The new body had many purposes, among them the “further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” This led the Council to adopt the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“European Convention”) in November 1950. It entered into force on September 3, 1953.

    By May 11, 2007, the Council had expanded to 47 member states with a population of more than...

  12. Chapter 7 Economic Empowerment and Employment Discrimination: Europe and the United States Compared
    (pp. 244-284)

    We have seen many laws that directly cause women’s economic subordination. In Afghanistan, inheritance law decrees that a female relative receive only half of the comparable male relative’s share. The Taliban prohibited women from working for pay. Peruvian law did not allow a married woman professor to manage and control her own property. Dutch law granted married men unemployment benefits it denied married women, and forced a widowed woman to forego higher disability benefits that a widowed man would have received. In the United States, both federal and state laws ordered that a married woman employee would receive less economic...

  13. Chapter 8 The Special Treatment Versus Equal Treatment Debate
    (pp. 285-325)

    The International Labour Organization (ILO) was the first specialized agency associated with the United Nations. A universal organization devoted to the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights, the ILO has its roots in nineteenth-century labor and social movements demanding social justice and higher living standards for the world’s working people. Originally created in 1919, by Part XIII of the Versailles Peace Treaty ending World War I, the organization lived through the Great Depression, the collapse of the League of Nations, and World War II. In the process it has grown from an original membership of...

  14. Chapter 9 CEDAW in Practice
    (pp. 326-368)

    The constitution provides for equality of the sexes ...; however, aspects of the law and many traditional practices discriminated against women....

    The law does not prohibit spousal abuse; however, provisions of law relating to assault in general are applied. Domestic violence against women was a significant problem and was reflected in press accounts of specific incidents. According to a 2003 survey by the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Affairs, an estimated 67 percent of women in urban areas and 30 percent in rural areas had been involved in some form of domestic violence at least once between 2002 and 2003....

  15. Chapter 10 Enforcing Women’s International Rights at Home: International Law in Domestic Courts
    (pp. 369-408)

    Since 1948, the world has developed a comprehensive regional and international human rights system. Many nations have begun to implement these norms at the domestic level by passing and enforcing new laws. But many more states comply in name only. They ratify human rights treaties and conventions without reservations yet leave grossly discriminatory laws on the books. In those countries, women’s legal status remains deeply subordinate to that of men.

    Human rights litigation in domestic courts could make a dent if courts strike down statutes that condemn women to a lesser position as a violation of their equality rights. But...

  16. Chapter 11 Strategies to Combat Domestic Violence
    (pp. 409-460)

    Women activists around the globe united to campaign against domestic violence starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were successful in many ways. They forced the international community to acknowledge violence against women as a human rights issue. They persuaded international, regional, and state authorities to change the law. Yet women everywhere remain vulnerable to violence.

    This Chapter addresses that reality. It provides an overview of the problem (Part I), the international law justifying holding states responsible for the actions of non-state actors (Part II), the international and regional human rights law on violence against women (Part III),...

  17. Chapter 12 Strategies for Ending Female Genital Mutilation and Footbinding: Western Cultural Imperialism or Women’s Human Rights?
    (pp. 461-511)

    Cultural relativism is a doctrine holding that at least some cultural moral rules and social institutions are exempt from outsider criticism. It evolved as a reaction against cultural evolutionism, a Eurocentric view that human societies tend to progress from “primitive” or “savage” to modern. In essence, cultural relativists state that moral principles are not necessarily self-evident to or shared by all. It stresses the need for tolerance and respect for all customs.

    Jack Donnelly, a Western political scientist, proposed that the theory of cultural relativism can be conceptualized as a series of points on a continuum, with radical relativism on...

  18. Chapter 13 Gender and Polygyny: Religion, Culture, and Equality in Marriage
    (pp. 512-570)

    Polygamy raises the most intractable of conflicts—that between women’s right to equality in marriage and the rights to freedom of religion and culture. Polygyny means a marriage system under which a man may be simultaneously married to several women. Under state laws in many countries, men in specific religions or ethnic groups are permitted to practice polygyny. Polygyny is just one form of polygamy, the other being polyandry—multiple husbands for one woman. Although anthropologists sometimes list remote areas of the world where polyandry is practiced, no state law permits it.

    Many different countries and points of view are...

  19. Chapter 14 Women’s Reproductive Rights
    (pp. 571-638)

    Reproductive rights are the most controversial of all women’s rights. Impassioned defenders of women’s autonomy rights argue with equally impassioned defenders of fetal rights. The former contend that women can never be free to determine their own destiny in life if they cannot decide when and whether to bear children, a right ultimately guaranteed only by the right to choose abortion at any time. The latter contend that a fertilized cell (zygote), an embryo, or a fetus is an “unborn baby” whose innocent life must always take precedence over the rights of the pregnant woman, even if she must die...

  20. Table of Cases
    (pp. 639-640)
  21. Glossary
    (pp. 641-642)
  22. Acronyms and Short Forms
    (pp. 643-644)
  23. Credits and Permissions
    (pp. 645-648)
  24. Index
    (pp. 649-665)