The recognition of women’s human rights has been taking place on the global stage in the last two decades implying a parallel rethinking of human rights conceptions. Since 1980 and 1990, feminists has increasingly criticized mainstreaming interpretation of human rights as stemming from male bias, ensuring that women’s human rights require a comprehensive understanding of societal structures and power relations influencing women ability to enjoy, freely and without any kind of discrimination, their rights. Since power structures affect and involve all aspect of human life, from law to politics, from private to public and community life, specific attention to women’s experiences of discrimination and oppression is required. The adoption of the Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination against Women, certainly represents a fundamental depart from gender-neutral language in international human rights discourses, towards the recognition of specific nature of discrimination against women, acknowledging previous advancements of women’s rights and promoting a progressive affirmation of women’s rights as women’s human rights.
This long and detailed negotiation process taking place within United Nations structures and led by women’s rights group and NGOs, culminated in the adoption of Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights held in 1993, affirming that human rights of women are inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.
The articulation of women’ s rights as human rights implied the principle of universality had overcome claims to cultural relativist discourses while at the same time recognizing women and generally individuals free choice to embed themselves in cultural activities and practices that reflect their sense of identity, individually and or collectively, and to freely express symbols of cultural belonging.
Secondly, the articulation of women’s rights as human rights overcome the public/ private divide through affirmation of due diligence standards, allowing to determine whether concerned State has taken effective steps to comply with its human rights obligations. In practice, States are required to address social and cultural patterns perpetuating subjection of women in society and stereotyped role. The Plan of Action of International Women Conference in Beijing in 1995 reflects this approach while affirming the significance of national and religious particularities in various historical, cultural and religious systems must be kept in mind, nonetheless is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural system to protect and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Despite these values and principles, shared by international community, have been officially enshrined in international human rights law and policy framework, at the same time the difficulties these rules encounter to be accepted as binding and be implemented and enforced into domestic legal and policy framework, emanate from the resistance of many States to assume human rights paradigm as comprehensive of national and regional instances.
Alessia Carnevale has graduated in Human Rights and Multi-Level Governance from University of Padua and in Political Sciences and International Relations from University of Naples “L’Orientale”. She has been awarded by Fondazione Alessandro Pavesi with the scholarship “Alessandro Pavesi on human rights” in 2019. Passionate about African studies and traveling, she decided to work on the role of African women to foster food security under a human rights approach, specifically in Senega, inspired by her experience in this country. Indeed she completed in 2014 a stage as project leader involved with the Senegalese team of AIESEC, a youth run global NGO.
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