475. WOMEN ARE BORN FREE AND EQUAL IN RIGHTS TO MEN.

Human rights: Food for countering a tyrannical thought ‘Women are born equal in rights to men’

Human Rights Reader 475

-The exercise of the natural rights of women is only limited by the perpetual tyranny exerted by men.
-The free communication of thought and of opinions is one of the most precious rights of women. (Olympe de Gouges, 1791)

As always, the personal is political and poverty worldwide has a female face

-Where social protection and public services are cut back in the name of balancing budgets, women pick up the slack.

1. In the face of these challenges, it would be easy to dismiss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an unrealistic distraction. The importance of linking the SDGs to human rights (HR) to advance gender equality is most clear when highlighting, not only the indivisibility of human rights, but also the need for an integrated approach to implementation. Take the example of intimate partner violence: a woman who leaves an abusive relationship needs not only access to justice (target 16.3)*, but also to a place to live (11.1), to medical care (3.8), to a decent job (8.5) and to social protection (1.3)**. (Kate Donald and Silke Staab)
*: A twenty first century judge that has not incorporated sexual and reproductive rights in his analytical framework is not in a position to adequately rightly ponder the actions that promote or impeded free decisions (free of coercion) as relates to the sexuality and reproduction of people especially women and girls. Therefore, he will be led by prejudices that place women in places of sexual subservience imposed in many countries by implacable outdated codes. (María Isabel Matamala)
**: Claims that resources for strengthening social protection, essential services or basic infrastructure are simply not available from the public purse must be challenged: We do not live in a world of scarcity, but in one where resources are distributed in a grotesquely unfair way, failing to reach those who need them the most. It is about shifting priorities towards HR and equality. We run the risk of simply perpetuating empty rhetoric if we do not get the policies and funding approaches right. (K. Donald and S. Staab)

2. Ultimately, we will not achieve any of the SDGs without achieving greater equality for women in all areas. This objective is also enshrined in human rights obligations and requires far more than just small-scale interventions to empower women. The barriers to gender equality are multiple and structural, so we need ambitious, comprehensive and well-financed policies to ensure all women can claim and realize their rights by 2030. (K. Donald and S. Staab)

The spreading of the belief that corporations are (or may be) gender sensitive is a hoax

3. When fiscal space is limited by the failure of corporations to pay taxes (or to evade them), evidence shows that gender inequalities are perpetuated or even exacerbated, which in turn limits improvement in women´s lives or the narrowing of gender gaps. The time has come for private corporations and governments to stop using symbolic policies*** and practices with limited impacts as a substitute for the real political and economic commitment that is needed to overcome the structural barriers to women´s and girls’ empowerment, human rights and gender equality. (Corina Rodriguez)
***: Take, for example, investing in women and girls. These investments are limited to promoting micro-credit and micro-entrepreneurships programs, seen as ‘magic wands’ that will empower women regardless of the power structures that are at the root of gender inequality. Concrete experiences are clear about the limits of the potential of these initiatives. (AWID)

4. For all these and many other reasons, over-reliance on the private sector carries significant risks, as shown by the questionable legacy of existing PPPs and the very mixed impacts of business activities (especially those of trans-national corporations and extractive industries) on women’s rights.

5. Neoliberalism and a fundamentalist religiosity are often allied with a conservative nationalism that denies women’s rights (and even scientific truths). At the same time, neoliberalism commodifies women’s bodies, as well as access to care, in increasingly marketized societies. The progress that has been made notwithstanding, the issue of abortion may indicate most dramatically how deeply rooted and normalized patriarchy remains in our institutions and in our collective psyche. (Alicia Yamin and P. Bergallo)

Well-funded and comprehensive policies in two areas –violence against women and girls, and unpaid care and domestic work– will be particularly critical to unleashing progress for women (K. Donald)

6. The discussions must move from designing ‘gender-aware-programs’ (ones that do not accidentally disadvantage women) to ‘gender-transformative-programs’ that actively seek to correct gender inequalities in access, uptake and results.

7. The economic empowerment of women is now at the heart of the gender agenda, but we need integrated solutions to deliver sustainable results: Interventions that seek to achieve women’s economic empowerment should address not just visible proximate causes (such as lack of education, skills or training), but also root causes (such as sociocultural norms, legal or policy-based discrimination, or unpaid work responsibilities)****; all these hinder women’s access to quality paid work and control over their pay.
****: If given economic value, the unpaid labor of women in the household, would add to about 1/3 to the world’s annual gross economic product. Women grow 50% of the world’s food, 30% of the households in the world are headed by women; 600 million of the 800 million illiterate people in the world are women; in the poor countries, seven out of ten women working outside the home are employed in agriculture; between 60-80% of the agricultural work in Africa is performed by women. Moreover, inequality has split the world; 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than US$ 10 per day. There has been an unprecedented rise in the share of work that is informal and precarious, in which women are over-represented. Poverty relief and women’s empowerment should be linked to equal pay and a living minimum wage. What is needed is a bold shift from inaction to gender-relevant targeted investments and labor reforms. (Sandra Massiah)

8. Very true one-liners to remember (and use)

• Every woman is the image of all other women …but not all are equally happy. (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451)
• All the laws that affect the body of women have been passed when women were members of parliament. (Diana Maffia)
• The worse feeling for women is one of impotence, because it leads to passivity and indifference.
• Women face multiple fundamentalisms that are all connected.
• The rights of pregnant and sick women are to transcend other rights. (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath) (Steinbeck did not know that all rights are equal and indivisible…)

Bottom line

9. ‘Idealism’. Sounds stale, no? How long is it that we keep hearing the slogan ‘be realists, ask for the impossible’. Grandiose, no? But what is an impossible if not a reality? Something in which time could eventually make a difference? Keep in mind that it has been men that have asked for the impossible. Only some succeeded in changing the vision of the world. But how many women in history were disregarded and ridiculed for their ideas? Resisting, whatever the results, will perhaps be the biggest and most significant contribution women will ever make to change the world. (Carla Guelfenbein, La Mujer de mi Vida)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
Your comments are welcome at schuftan@gmail.com
All previous 470+ Readers can be found in www.claudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
– There are feminists and feminists. Feminists already existed in the French Revolution where the figure of Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793) stands out. In September 1791 Olympe published her ‘Declaration of the Rights of Women and of Women Citizens’. Here follow some of its contents:
• Ignorance, purposeful forgetfulness and/or the rejection of women’s rights are high among the causes of government corruption.
• Women are born free and equal in rights to men.
• Rights are natural and indispensable for both women and men.
• Sovereignty essentially resides in the nation that is nothing but the birth place of both women and men.
• The exercise of the natural rights of women is only limited by the perpetual tyranny exerted by men.
• Male and female citizens being equal, they must have the same dignities respected, must have equal access to positions and employment in the public sector according to their abilities and without any other restriction than their virtues and talents.
• If a woman has the right to be brought to the guillotine, she also has the rise to the pulpit.
• The free communication of thought and of opinions is one of the most precious rights of women.
• Women participate in all sorts of heavy work, in all odious tasks; they must therefore have the same right to the distribution of jobs, employment and dignities in industry.
It should not surprise you that The Convention rejected the text of Olympe de Gouges.
She had many enemies, among them the ‘slavist’ groups in France.
Olympe de Gouges was condemned to death and guillotined on November 3rd 1793. (Louis Casado)
– The only thing I believe-in is that women will be the future of men. Not being facetious though, should things go the way they are going, women will be the future men. …and this is fine by me. (Albino Gomez)

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