The protection of women’s fundamental rights especially minority women’s

The primary exploratory aim of the discussion in this essay is to critically discuss the effectiveness of current international law standards at protecting the rights of minority women.  The argument explored in this essay is that the need for human rights protection for everybody including women and minority women is expressed in international law but the attainment of these rights and values are not always evident in reality.  Specifically, there is a discrepancy between the expression and construction of human rights protection for minority women and its attainment in practice that is often due to discrimination because of their age, gender, disability etc. The attainment of equality between men and women in addition to the elimination of discrimination of women can be considered fundamental human rights.  Despite the recognition of the need for equality as a fundamental right, women around the world continue to suffer serious and persistent violations of human rights.  Although there has been much progress made in the attainment of human rights generally and the protection of women’s rights over the course of the last century, there remains considerable gaps in the protection of women’s fundamental rights especially minority women’s rights.  Specifically, minority women suffer significant breaches of their human rights by persistent forms of discrimination based on age, gender, disability, their marital status, education, socio-economic class, health and nationality. It is therefore at the intersection between each of these factors that leads to considerable gaps in human rights protection for minority women.  The discussion in this essay will be two-fold. Firstly, it will focus on recognising and appraising international law and the protection of fundamental rights of minority women. Then secondly this essay will examine evidence of the persistent abuse of minority women’s rights. Since the foundation of the modern protection of fundamental rights, there has been a need for the recognition for respect of human rights protection for men and women equally.  Specifically, the Preamble of the United Nations (UN) Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms 1945 affirmed the need for “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women”.  Furthermore, Article 1 of the UN Charter affirms that states have an obligation to ensure that human rights are protected “without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion”.  The argument explored in this essay is that minority women’s rights are most vulnerable to abuse because of the discrimination suffered by minority women.  As a result, the focus of the discussion will initiallyconcentrate on identifying and evaluating international law that aims to protect against discrimination of women. The UN Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR) proclaims that human rights require protection “without discriminationof any kind … such as sex…”.   There are a variety of international and regional instruments that advance the rights of women with the need for special protection of the rights of minority women.   There are numerous international human rights instruments that aim to protect the fundamental rights of women.  In the aftermath of the drafting of the UNDHR, two international covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), were adopted to protect fundamental rights.  The ICCPR protects fundamental human rights classifiable as being civil and political in nature whilst the ICESCR protects fundamental human rights classifiable as being social and cultural rights.   In both instances, the Covenants expressly protects against discrimination on grounds of sex.  Common Articles 2 and 3 obliges all states to ensure that the rights contained in each Covenant are protected in such a way as to guarantee thefundamental rights and the enjoyment of these protected fundamental rights of women and men equally.  These two founding provisions can be considered important as they clearly espouse a general principle that human rights by their very nature are indivisible regardless of sex in terms of their construction but also in terms of their enjoyment.  Consequently, states have an obligation to construct rights equally and secure these rights equally. The ICCPR protects a broad range of fundamental civil and political rights such as the right to life, freedom from torture, slavery, the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial, right to a family life, freedom of religion, freedom of expression in addition to protection from discrimination.  The ICESCR protects a broad range of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to work, the right to freedom of marriage, the right to an adequate standard of living, protection of culture, the right education and health. In seeking to protect the rights of women generally, the UN adopted the ‘Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination’ in 1967 which requires member states to: “abolish existing laws, customs, regulations and practices which are discriminatory against women, and to establish adequate legal protection for equal rights of men and women”. The adoption of this Declaration was followed by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1979 which expressly recognised in its Preamble that women do not experience the same level of human rights protection as men. The Convention can be considered as being the foundation of an overarching framework that seeks in its sixteen articles toprotect the rights of women including minority women. These rights range from the right to vote, the right to work and healthcare, the right to nationality to the right to free movement and the right to participate in public life.  The definition of discrimination set out in Article 1 of the Convention specifies that women are entitled to experience the protection of fundamental rights in such as away as being being from from intentional or unintentional disadvantage, the need to protect women’s rights in public and private life andthe need for women to exercise their fundamental rights.  It is also important to note here that Article 5 of the Convention also extends the rights of women by requiring that states ensure that they protect against the emergence of harmful stereotypes in society and states should construct domestic laws that aim to advance the full realisation of fundamental rights for women in their societies. There are also other international instruments that advance general rights that include special protection for women.  For example, Article 7 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities places an obligation on member states to ensure the full equal realisation of human rights related to each of these Conventions. At the regional level there are also a variety of human rights standards that each aim to protect human rights generally in addition to the rights of women including minority women. The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights contains two core provisions that aim to protect the rights of women, Article 2 obliges member states to protect human rights equally and Article 18 expressly obliges states to “eliminate all forms of discrimination against women…”. In Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights in Article 14 expressly requires member states to protect against discrimination in the protection of rights including on grounds of sex discrimination. The discussion thus far has demonstrated that there is vast array of international and regional human rights instruments that can be drawn upon to advance the protection of fundamental rights of minority women.  The discussion will now progress to critically analyse the sufficiency of the operation of these rights in practice to advance the fundamental rights of minority women in practice. This will begin by examining evidence of the persistent abuse of minority women’s rights. Traditionally, the construction of human rights did not adequately take into account the rights of women as women routinely faced significant human rights abuses in the form of violence, discrimination and oppression across the globe.  It has been the work of activists and other organisations such as non-government organisations that have served to spotlight the issue of women’s rights and in particular the plight of minority women’s rights to drive forward the advance of rights for women.  However, despite the prevalence of the issue of the protection of minority women’s rights, there is still an apparent gap in how these rights are attained in practice. The problem that exists is that multilevelled and intersecting forms of discrimination have long existed and continue to exist that emerges from age, gender, racial and ethnicity backgrounds, health, disability and social and economic disability.    The UN’s ‘Fourth World Conference on Women’as far back as 1995 found that despite the prevalence of a vast array of international and regional human rights instruments”many women face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their human rights because of such factors as their race, language, ethnicity, culture, religion, disability or socioeconomic class or because they are indigenous people, migrants, including women migrant workers, displaced women or refugees.”  One of the key issues identified at this Conference was that racial discrimination “primarily affects women, or affects women in a different way, or to a different degree than men”.   According to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women which found that women due to their vulnerability frequently face violence.  Specifically, women can be considered vulnerable as they are commonly physically weaker and in some cultures, occupy a lower status than in comparison to their male counterparts. There is variety of different types of evidence to demonstrate that women and in particular minority women still suffer significant forms of human rights abuses. One of the most prevalent forms of violence experienced by minority women is sexual violence which violates not only a women’s right to sexual integrity but it also violates a women’s rights to reproductive health.  Sexual violence against women can be manifested in a number of ways from being a form of violence to being forced into a child bearing role.  The standards discussed in the previous section such as the Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discriminationsuch as Article 16 provides women with the right to decide on when to have children and being forced to have sex is a direct breach of their rights to physical and mental health. According to a survey by the UN in 2008 of around 818 women around the world aged between 15 and 49 over just half did not want to become pregnant with 212 million not being given the option of using contraceptives.  This may be considered as being evidence that a significant proportion of women are not being able to exercise their rights in practice. Other evidence of human rights abuses of minority women include the inability of some women to access an adequate standard of healthcare.  For example, it is estimated that 287000 women in 2010 died whilst giving birth and the UN estimates that around 10 million women worldwide annually suffer a life debilitating condition from childbirth. In Alyne da Silva Pimentel Teixeira (deceased) v. Brazil it was determined that a denial of a women of African descent to sufficient healthcare after childbirth was a direct violation of the women’s right to health. CEDAW establishes that States are liable for the provision of quality maternal health care to all women, free from discrimination, regardless of their geographical location, race or income. In light of the discussion in this section, it is argued that women, especially minority women, continue in some instances to face serious and persistent abuses of human rights that can only be addressed by adopting inter-gender analysis of equality and discrimination protection for minority women who can be considered the most vulnerable in society.  To sum it up; the primary aim of the discussion in this essaywas to engage in a crucial evaluation of the effectiveness of current international law standards at protecting the rights of minority women.  The discussion began in the second section by exploring the range of human rights protection at the international and regional levels.  The objective of this discussion was to question the sufficiency of human rights protection for minority women.  On the basis of this discussion it is contended that human rights of minority women are adequately expressed in international law as there is a broad range of international and regional human rights instruments that supports the construction of a broad framework of protection.   In conclusion; because of the discussion in the second section, the question remained as to whether the framework of human rights law advancing the protection of minority women’s rights functioned sufficiently to protect their fundamental rights in practice.  The discussion progressed to address this question which found that there is some evidence to prove that minority women are unable to obtain their fundamental rights because of their race, culture, social background or ethnicity.  The problem with the expression of human rights is the fact that not all states are committed to ensuring the attainment of those rights in practice.  The attainment of human rights can be linked to political, social, cultural and economic differences that combine to frustrate the realisation of human rights for individuals including minority women.  It is contended that by continuing to spotlight the human rights gap experienced by minority women, the deficiency in human rights protection can be identified as the first step to take action towards elimination of human rights abuses of minority women in practice.