Arab women’s rights in the International Law on Human Rights

Home / Articles / Arab women’s rights in the International Law on Human Rights

Dr. Hafez Abu Saadah

President of Egypt Organization for Human Rights

In many Arab countries, if not most of them, women still have not had access to their full rights, which were stipulated in the international treaties and conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Although the main principles for the values of equality and equal opportunities were stipulated in the general international covenants, which are called the statutes of human rights – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on Economic and Social Rights – the International Community found it necessary to dedicate a convention to women, in order to combat discrimination against them, in December, 1979, where it included, in its thirty articles, the international principles and measures to achieve equality in all the political, economic, social, cultural and civil fields.

In many Arab countries, if not most of them, women still have not had access to their full rights, which were stipulated in the international treaties and conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Although the main principles for the values of equality and equal opportunities were stipulated in the general international covenants, which are called the statutes of human rights – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on Economic and Social Rights – the International Community found it necessary to dedicate a convention to women, in order to combat discrimination against them, in December, 1979, where it included, in its thirty articles, the international principles and measures to achieve equality in all the political, economic, social, cultural and civil fields.

It is not the Arab Region only that disparages the rights of women; rather, most countries of the world have such lack of rights accessed by women, except some European countries, such as the Scandinavian countries. Thus, there is a dire need for enhancing the rights of women; however, we have to admit that we have more than one hindrance in our Region preventing women from having access to their rights. The first hindrance is the lack of legislation or law, which fact requires of us that we make advances in legislation, to amend the laws and legislations for enhancing the rights of women and their participation in sustainable development. The second hindrance is the inherited societal culture, which needs a radical change, including some religious interpretations which are used to prevent women from having equal access to opportunities.
It is important to enhance the role of women and achieve equality, which is an inherent part of the strategies for sustainable development of societies, and to eradicate poverty, of which women are some of the most important victims. In addition, a change is required in the social role inside the family, by the sharing of social responsibilities, including the bringing up of children, where women must not be in the position of bearing such responsibilities alone.

We must bear it in mind, that in our Arab societies we will not achieve any tangible progress in all fields, except by adopting policies that are based on combating discrimination and involve women in all aspects of life. As stipulated in the Convention, “complete development of a country, prosperity of the world and the issue of peace all require as much participation as possible on the part of women, who have the right be treated like men in all fields.”

The international conventions, which were signed by most Arab countries, form a system of fundamental rights and liberties for all citizens. They must be applicable through a legislative structure that enhances and implements such rights. In addition, the Arab women, in particular, are in need of a strategy to enhance their rights and to abolish all forms of discrimination against them. This strategy must rely on the philosophy of gender, i.e. to combat the policy of marginalization against women and approve policies for political, social and economic empowerment. Empowerment, here, does not mean that women will be in competition or conflict with men; rather, it is a process by which hindrances encountered by women are removed, such as acquiring knowledge, having job opportunities and assuming leading positions, such as political representation, whatever such hindrances are, whether legal, ideological, cultural or social. Therefore, this process shall be applied mainly through governments and with a strong enhancement by the forces of civil society for this strategy. Hence, encouraging equality between the genders and the empowerment of women achieves benefits for the economy and society as a whole. If we want to achieve progress in all fields of life for our countries, we must concern ourselves with the questions of the position of Arab women and women’s empowerment. This is because there are several international conventions on human rights which acknowledged a package of rights for women, and international mechanisms now work to follow up the progress made by countries in this field.

Check Also

Executions, Flogging, and Torture: An Ongoing Human Rights Abuses in Iran

 December 10th 2017, marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *