Violence against Women: An International Concern BY – Raghav Agarwal

Student At Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha university

The concept of ‘women’s human rights’ declares that as human beings women have human rights. Woman’s human rights framework equips women with a way to define, analyze, and articulate their experiences of violence, degradation, and marginality. General issues of gender equality have emerged as universal concerns of nations in the past decade. In addition, women often face problems with sexual exploitation. Women’s movements have been organized in most societies to address these problems and to demand more equitable conditions for women.

The social and political responses of both men and women to these movements have been culturally constrained. There are as many perspectives and approaches to resolving gender inequities. More specifically, the constraints imposed by a behavioural culture that affect the issues of development and change mechanisms will be considered in the context of universal calls for gender equity and an end to the exploitation of female and sexuality.

The ever-present fact of the physical and mental form of violence has an overwhelming influence on feminine identity formation. Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, in all social, economic and political spheres of life and this violence cut across the rights of the women to participate fully in the activities in the society. Gender equality is a means to achieve social justice. Discrimination against women inflicts certain disabilities on women, which prevents her to develop and utilize her potential in social life.

Women constitute about half of the global population, but they are placed at various disadvantages positions due to gender difference and they have been the victims of violence and exploitation by the male-dominated society all over the world. International law has recognized the varied forms and aspects of violence against women of which domestic violence forms an important part. There is no exact prototype of domestic violence as it differs with households, individuals and situations. Violence could result in anything from death to debilitating physical injuries.

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Starting from the pre-natal stage, discrimination against women is prevalent in every sphere of life. In the pre-birth inequality, preference is given boys over girls at the pre-natal stage. The genetic testing for sex selection is used as methods to terminate pregnancies when expecting daughters. The same kind of inequality may be seen in allocating household facilities.  Son preferences in education and differential access to food and health care for girls are examples of discrimination against women in childhood. In addition to these, female children are victims of several other offences like child marriage, sexual abuse, child prostitution, trafficking in girls etc.

Women’s status in society implies their status in social, economic, political and cultural areas and is determined by the human rights they enjoy. These include access to basic social services, education, right to get information about the activities of the state, quality health services including reproductive health, employment, income, land and credit facilities; their participation in decision making both at private and in public life; and an enabling environment and freedom from violence of any kind. Thus women’s status in society is a reflection of their empowerment. Indicators of women’s status with respect to all these factors are therefore needed to study their status in society.

In European Countries, women did have an integral role in other processes, mainly in the social transformation of countries and they were not very involved in the total process of administration in the country. But with the emergence of social awareness about education, which created certain educational policies for women and children, they played an integral role in drawing and developing educational patterns of each country. In this period religion is impacting on European national-level policies in ways, which undermine equality between women and men, and curtails women’s access to and enjoyment of their basic human rights.

The assault on women’s human rights continues through various forms of violence against women and girls, including, but not limited to rape, marital rape, domestic violence, trafficking, harmful customary and traditional practices, violence and torture during the conflict, forced marriages and early marriages. These forms of violence take place within homes, at work, in schools, in clinics and hospitals, at police stations and many other places and they are continuing and increasing forms of violence against women all over the world.

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The international concern about the violence against women started in the first half of the twentieth century, which is an era of international treaties that addressed the problems relating to women. Though the numerous international conventions provide protections to women’s rights, none of them does directly address the issue of Domestic violence against women as a category by itself.  The reason may be that many forms of domestic violence and sexual assault are perpetrated by private citizens rather than by states.

During the 1970s and 1980s Feminist movements dedicated its service to the unmasking of the features, which excluded women from public life. But such movements did not give priority to legal inequalities under which women existed although those remained a focus for action. But they concentrated on the societal structure rather than the legal inequalities, which perpetuated violence against women.

The rise of feminist movements and the other human rights movements pressurized the inter-national organization to declare the rights of women and thus the UDHR incorporated various provisions for the protection of rights of women. But it is sad to say that the inclusion of women’s rights in key United Nation’s document has not bought about equality. Consequently, the UN has passed both by the United Nations General Assembly and a number of other human rights instruments with regard to various aspects of women’s rights.

The human rights concepts have gained increasing international credibility and support as a growing body of treaties and resolutions have supported and strengthened their international legal basis. Much of the creativity of the Human Rights jurisprudence was for the campaign against women and to achieve a global approach to social justice. Yet the idea of removing everyday violence against women both in public and the private sphere has not been easy to establish as most of the heinous forms of violence against women was deep-rooted in culture and transnationalism of many countries.

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The various attempts made by the international community for enhancing the concept of Women’s rights can be classified under two heads i.e. The general laws relating to rights of women which includes UDHR, ICCPR, ICESCR & International Covenant On Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the special legislation relating to the rights of women includes CEDAW and the other specific legal instruments. When the international community realized that the existence of these general laws was not adequate to deal with the problem of violence against women as it becomes grave in many developing countries, it necessitated the need for some special legislation, which specifically addresses the women’s issues.

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women is the first international human rights instrument to exclusively and explicitly address the issue of violence against women. It affirms that the phenomenon violates, impairs or nullifies women’s human rights and their exercise of fundamental freedoms. The definition provided in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women identifies three areas in which violence commonly takes place:

  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence that occurs in the family, including battering; sexual abuse of female children in the household; dowry-related violence; marital rape; female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women; non-spousal violence; and violence related to exploitation;
  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence that occurs within the general community, including rape; sexual abuse; sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere; trafficking in women; and forced prostitution;
  • Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.

Violence against women in the family occurs in developing and developed countries alike. It has long been considered as a private matter the community and the government. But such private matters have a tendency to become public tragedies. Violence against women in the family includes domestic violence, female and genital mutilation, son preference and dowry related marriage and early marriages.

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Violence against women in the community includes rape, sexual assault within marriage, prostitution and trafficking. Whereas violence against women condoned by the state includes custodial violence against women, violence against women in situations of armed conflict and violence against refugee and displaced women. In many countries, the perpetrators of the crime prosecuted less vigorously. Law has been similarly comparable to the realities of domestic violence. Seldom does the criminal justice system intervene to address the violence and on rare occasions, criminal law is invoked the resulting remedy is far from commensurate with the victim’s injury.

Even though, domestic violence is considered to be an offence committed by private individuals states are also bound by numerous international laws and norms. For example, the UN Declaration specifically addresses and included ‘domestic violence’ under the definition of violence under Article 2 (a).

Since the creation of this declaration the UN Committee that monitors that have to recognize the serious global impact of domestic violence. There are various reasons for violence against women. Several complex and interconnected institutionalized social and cultural factors have kept women particularly vulnerable to the violence directed at them, all of the manifestations of historically unequal power relations between men and women.

Factors contributing to these unequal power relations include socio-economic forces, the family institution where power relations are enforced, fear of and control over female sexuality, belief in the inherent superiority of males, and legislation and cultural sanctions that have traditionally denied women and children an independent legal and social status. International human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979, affirms the principles of fundamental rights and freedoms of every human being. Both CEDAW and the CRC are guided by am the broad concept of human rights that stretches beyond civil and political rights to the core issues of economic survival, health, and education that affect the quality of daily life for most women and children.

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The two Conventions call for the right to protection from gender-based abuse and neglect. The strength of these treaties rests on an international consensus and the assumption that all practices that harm women and girls, no matter how deeply they are embedded in culture, must be eradicated. Legally binding under international law for governments that have ratified them, these treaties oblige governments not only to protect women from crimes of violence but also to investigate violations when they occur and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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