Should all nations have equal rights

Women's rights

Gender equality is a human right. Women have the right to a dignified life without fear and hardship. Yet women are still more likely than men to live in poverty, have learned to read and write less often, and have poorer access to medical care, property, loans, training and jobs.

In many societies, women suffer violence, discrimination and traditional practices that damage their health and undermine their dignity. Empowering women is an important way to find ways out of poverty. At the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, 179 countries recognized the important role women play in development. Strong women help maintain the health and productivity of their families and communities and improve opportunities for the next generation.

The women's rights commission

The Commission on the Status of Women was set up in 1946 by the Economic and Social Council of the UN. She deals with gender equality, the advancement of women, and women's rights. The body consists of 45 member states of the UN, which are elected every four years by the members of the Economic and Social Council. Attention is paid to geographical balance: thirteen members are African countries, eleven Asian countries, nine are Latin American and Caribbean countries, four are Eastern European and the last eight are Western European and other countries.

The members of the commission meet once a year in order to discuss progress and challenges in depth on a set of topics and to develop global standards and concrete measures to promote equality. In 2013, for example, the topic in March was the elimination of violence against women, for which a far-reaching declaration was adopted at the last minute by consensus.

Over the years, the Commission's tasks have been expanded and adapted several times, so that it is now specifically responsible for the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, introducing a gender perspective in all UN activities, analyzing new topics and trends on gender equality and proposing solutions should do.

In addition, she organized four world conferences at which conflicts and differences of opinion on a wide variety of women's political issues (including health, political rights, economic participation) were discussed. The fourth of these conferences was the 1995 Beijing Conference, which claimed to have addressed all issues related to gender equality and adopted a far-reaching declaration which the Commission is still working on to implement. Another important achievement was the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was drawn up by the Commission, later adopted by the General Assembly and so far ratified by 189 states (as of March 2021).

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the UN Women's Rights Convention, was passed by the UN General Assembly on December 18, 1979 and entered into force on December 3, 1979 September 1981 into force. In addition to the preamble, the convention comprises 30 articles and is the most important international human rights instrument for women's rights.
The convention defines discrimination against women in Art. 1 as

"Any distinction, exclusion or restriction based on gender, which has the result or the aim that the recognition, use or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms by women based on the equality of men and women - regardless of their marital status - in political, economic, social, cultural, civic or any other area is impaired or thwarted. "

The Convention forms the basis for the implementation of equality between men and women by guaranteeing equal access and opportunities for women in political and public life. With the ratification of the convention, which lays down standards for combating discrimination against women in the fields of culture, social affairs, education, politics and legislation, the states undertake to take measures against all forms of discrimination against women. This includes guaranteeing the principle of equal treatment for women and men in the national legal system, the abolition of all discriminatory laws against women, the legal prohibition of discriminatory acts, the establishment of public institutions that guarantee effective protection of women from discrimination and ensuring that they are abolished any form of discrimination against women by individuals, organizations or companies.

CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that affirms women's reproductive rights and targets the influence of cultures and traditions on gender roles and family relationships. The member states also undertake to take measures against trafficking in women and the exploitation of women. 189 states have currently ratified the convention and 99 states have signed it. The Federal Republic of Germany signed CEDAW on July 17, 1985 and the convention entered into force on August 9, 1985 after ratification in Germany.


Forced marriage

Forced marriage is a blatant human rights violation and a modern form of slavery. The children and women forced to marry usually have to move in with the husbands' families and suffer from physical, psychological and sexual violence from their family environment.

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Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Since its inception in 1982, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has been responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. States that have acceded to the treaty must send a report to the Commission every four years explaining what measures they have taken since the last report to improve the situation of women in the country.

The committee assesses these reports during its meetings and makes recommendations to the state in the form of “concluding observations”. The committee also formulates general recommendations. These are addressed to all signatory states and generally refer to articles or topics of the convention.

The committee is composed of 23 independent experts who are elected for four years. Each state that has acceded to the convention may nominate an expert from its own country and participate in the subsequent secret ballot, in which each state has one vote. It is also important to achieve an appropriate geographical distribution and to maintain cultural diversity within the committee.

Further competencies are assigned to the committee by the optional protocol established in 1999. Accordingly, it is also possible for individuals to turn to the committee if they feel that rights protected by the convention have been violated. In the event of serious or systematic violations of women's rights, the committee can also initiate an investigation. However, both are optional and only effective if the state concerned has ratified both the Convention and the Optional Protocol.

The Beijing Platform for Action on Gender Equality

The Beijing Platform for Action on Gender Equality was adopted as the starting point of the 4th UN World Conference on Women on September 15, 1995 in Beijing. The platform for action contains comprehensive strategic goals and measures to achieve a gender-neutral world. It is still considered a pioneering document for German gender equality policy.

The Beijing Platform for Action relates to twelve critical thematic areas (poverty, education, health, violence, wars, economy, armed conflicts, positions of power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, the environment and girls) and calls on member states to take specific action in these areas Implement measures to address gender inequalities. It was trend-setting that many of these 12 aspects had never been discussed on an international stage before. For example, different forms of gender-based violence were defined for the first time. Hillary Clinton also gave her speech here with the famous saying “human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights”, which is still valid today for the discourse on women's rights. What also makes the Beijing Platform for Action special is the strong involvement of civil society at the conference and in the process of developing the Platform for Action.

The Beijing conference still plays a role today when it comes to women's rights. In 2015, the UN Economic and Social Council commissioned the Women's Rights Commission to hold an anniversary meeting on “Beijing + 20” in order to take stock of the achievements and problems of the platform for action. This resulted in a new monitoring mechanism for the Beijing Platform for Action: Since then, states have been asked to prepare state reports and thus link international demands of equality policy with their national equality policy agendas. The last German report submitted shows which measures the Federal Government took from 2009 to 2014 in the twelve critical subject areas to enable gender equality in Germany (as of December 2019).

In 2020 the action platform will celebrate its 25th anniversary, which will be used to include topics that were not dealt with in 1994, such as digitization. The Beijing + 25 process is characterized by a strong involvement of civil society and opportunities for youth participation. A new report by the federal government is also planned for the 25th anniversary.