Women's Human Rights: The International and Comparative Law Case-Book

Women's Human Rights: The International and Comparative Law Case-Book

Women's Human Rights: The International and Comparative Law Case-Book

Women's Human Rights: The International and Comparative Law Case-Book

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

This book is the first human rights casebook for law students to focus specifically on women’s human rights. It does so for several reasons. Many human rights advocates still do not see women’s rights as human rights. Why? Perhaps because they do not understand the breadth and depth of the laws, practices, customs, and cultural and religious norms that condemn women to a deeply inferior status in so many locations around the globe. Such advocates might conceive of human rights as involving torture, extrajudicial killings, cruel and degrading treatment—all clearly in violation of international human rights. But, they think, those are not issues women face. Yet is female genital mutilation, practiced on millions of young girls and even infants, not torture? When a daughter flouts some family notion of honor—being seen in public with an unrelated man, for example—and her father orders a family member to kill her knowing that the murderer will benefit from judicial impunity, is that not an extrajudicial killing violating her rights to life, liberty, and security? When a husband rapes or savagely beats his wife, knowing the legal authorities will take no action to protect her, is that not cruel and degrading treatment?

Human rights advocates rightly condemn racial apartheid: it deprives persons, solely on the basis of their race, of equal rights to land, housing, schools, work and travel. But when state codes and customary or religious laws deny women, solely on the basis of their sex, their equal rights to own land and housing, attend school, work outside the home, and travel when and where they want, these same advocates do not decry sexual apartheid. After all, when such laws force women to remain in the home, that is just their “natural condition”—to be wives and mothers without the rights and freedoms men have. Women, it is confidently thought, have no desire to lead more complex lives. Not for them the rights to liberty of movement and freedom of association. Not for them the right to own property or to express or receive opinions and ideas.

Protecting people’s health and human rights has rightly become a mantra for change. Yet how many focus on the fact that women are now disproportionately the victims of HIV/AIDS and that laws help put them in this situation? In sub-Saharan Africa, women are nearly 60 percent of all victims; among young people aged 15–24 . . .

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