International Women’s Health and Human Rights

Yesterday, going through the catalog of courses on Stanford Languita, I encountered a course on Women’s Rights and Health Issues, and the Course Image had a Indian poor woman standing in a crowded street, these course had nothing to do with what I study or even what I wanted to in future, still it struck me. I felt as if I should do it, I must, being a woman, be aware of my own rights and authorities I possess in the society. So, their I was, i started the course, Anne Firth Murray, the creator of the course, gave a very brief explanation of the topics that were to be covered under this almost 8-9 week long course.

Completing the first module of this course, I encountered a lot of new facts and opinions of some highly active people who are working for women’s causes since decades, their high insights on this issue have enlightened me. Helen Stacey, Professor of Law at Stanford University, pointed out some really subtle points and after her 38-minute long video, i really didn’t regret watching it. I felt as if I had achieved knowledge. She rightly stated in the very beginning of her interview with Anne that more wealthier you are, the less likely it is that you’ll be aware of the rights you possess. When you have a stable lifestyle, you won’t be feeling a need for human rights. But only as we step down the ladder of Economy, do we realize that more people with indigent condition need their rights. These are the people who suffer the most, they are denied the most basic requirements i.e. food, shelter and housing. And the statistics in the book “From Outrage to Courage” clearly states that more than 50% of these population is composed of Women. That directly worsens women place in the Society.

Any number of words won’t be suffice to completely justify what I really want to say. It’s all interconnected network of events, that has led to the discriminating society we see today. Although their are many countries who have clean records still their is some form of injustice that persists. A survey in US has produced astonishing results. The desire of having a male child was considered to be an ideology which mostly the public in developing countries would have, but these survey has indicated that even the most powerful countries have some form of discrimination in their society. It states that the couples with a girl child are more likely to get divorced than one with a male child. While this doesn’t different point that the reason is gender bias, still these could be one of the potential reasons.

Somewhere near early 1900s, in the midst of World War, the male were supposed to go to the war and women were not allowed to join them, they were given the responsibility to take care of their family and home until their male companions returned. It created a strong image of Women, which stereotyped her. Even though females were considered to be weaker before the dawn of 19th century, still under this premises the situations worsened. The male and the female ratio drastically increased, not just in the work spaces but even in the overall population. The couples started to prefer a boy child which created an issue of its own.  They were considered to be an instrument to continue their legacy by Men. In fact, the Women today around the world face a lot of discrimination, denying them right to education, right to nutritious food, right to choose their own marriage partner and even the most basic right to speech. The women in poorer countries fall become a victim of rapes, human trafficking and physical violence. The mentality that a husband can beat her wife and assault her is considered normal. One of the major reasons behind rapid increase in such cases, is illiteracy, if women knew that they had such a right, then they would certainly raise their voices to access it, but the lack of awareness has worsen the situation. Not that these rights are hidden somewhere in the Constitution, but due to lack of even the basic education, women do not even know about it.

Female Infanticide is one of the leading issues of current times, which is in turn due to preference of a male child. Even if females are allowed to survive, the families take away their rights, and do not provide her education and food, and hence she suffers throughout her childhood and later as she goes to her husband’s home, he tortures her in different ways. Violence is not something restricted to poor families or developing countries, it’s relevant in most part of the world. Sex-Selective abortion is just a twisted form of Female infanticide, where the lady checks the gender of the child and based on it, even before the child comes out, it is aborted in case it is a girl. There have been more that 5 lakh cases just in India, in the past 4-5 years. Though less severe than killing a new born, yet it creates even more disparity among the two genders.

After World War 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights was given by United Nations. It described the basic rights of that all humans must be given without any bias. But as the time passed, it became relevant that their needs to be a completely different conventions for Females. While compelled all the Women to come together and discuss various issues in Beijing (1995) and Vienna (1993). Two important and new conventions, namely,  CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) and CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) came into existence. Both these conventions state all the laws that a female should get in the society. While 194 countries have already signed these treaties and have promised to adhere to its laws and formulate in their respective countries, there are only a few nations who are actually doing it. While some countries like India, isn’t able to put these laws into action due to a huge population, their are others who lack resources. These two conventions are pillars of Human Rights in today’s society, while countries like USA, other have been following it and it has definitely brought some phenomenal changes.

Women Organizations across the globe have been forming groups, and helping other women in their societies. Some of the organizations as mentioned in the books are Brazil’s Rede Feminista de Saúde, Congo’s Society of Women Against AIDS in Africa, Fiji’s Women’s Information Network, India’s Kutch Mahila Vikas Sanghatan Bhuj, Jamaica: St. Elizabeth Women, Nepal: Tewa, to name a few. Their efforts are laudable and they deserve credits for standing up for change.

An Eye-opener, Looking forward to next modules of these course 🙂

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