Rights of Women refer to freedoms and entitlements of women and girls of all ages. These rights may or may not be institutionalized, ignored or suppressed by law, local custom, and behavior in a particular society. In 1946 the United Nations established a Commission on the Status of Women and it is now a part of the Economic and Social Council. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, enshrines “the equal rights of men and women.” The 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) came into force on 3 September 1981. It is more popularly known as an international bill of rights for women. The Convention defines discrimination against women in the following terms:
Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
The Convention also establishes an agenda of action to end to sex based discrimination. States are required to enshrine gender equality into their domestic legislation, repeal all discriminatory provisions in their laws, and enact new provisions to guard against discrimination against women.
Women’s rights and human rights are indivisible. Many international treaties have recognized women’s rights. Some of the main treaties recognizing the rights of women include, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1952, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1967, Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict, 1974, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993, Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Punishment and Elimination of Violence against Women, 1995, Universal Declaration on Democracy, 1997, and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1999.