When we speak about the women`s rights, first of all we must answer the question what are the women`s rights? Women`s rights are the part of human rights which includes all women and girls of all ages. Women`s rights have a great history parallel with the human rights. As in history women`s right was a great problem in some societies. But the importance of universal human rights were always more vital than the women`s right. Some documents, such as the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right (1628), the US Constitution (1787), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), and the US Bill of Rights (1791) are the precursors for today’s human rights documents. After the Second World War the charter of the UN was adopted by the world states, in which was written “We the peoples of the United Nations are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.” This idea on the preamble of the Charter was played an important role on the forming the universal document of the human rights which was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. After this date women`s right got a more wider attention. Because the world had solved its basic problem – the human rights, but this did not solve the problem of whole society. In spite of the United Nations has made clear that violence against women is a violation of basic human rights, this idea was not developed by the majority of the UN members. But when we speak about women`s right and its legal base we can show several documents which were adopted by the UN and applied equally to women and men: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). But this declarations and conventions are not enough to solve the problems of women in the society. As the main problems of women in many states I can show the right for education, right for equal work condition, freedom for marriage, protection from women trafficking and violence against women, reproductive rights, right for participation in the administration and politics and others.
If we look to the timeline of the women`s rights development we can easily examine some periods. The first supporters of women`s rights fought against the inequality on the status of men and women. This struggle began from the earlier countries of mankind and continued till the middle ages. At this period the main problem in the development of women`s rights was that women did not have the same equal rights with men. But the other problem was that the general human rights were nearly absent at this period. After the middle ages the second period began at the development of women`s right. Parallel with the fight for human rights, women began to demand equality with men and some privileges that they are woman. During this period the main issue was the participation of women in the public administration. As we know the Great French Revolution in this period and one of its success – Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 could not solve this problem. It is clear from the name of this declaration that the declaration stressed on the men`s right not human rights. The French playwright and political activist Olympe de Gouges published his ironic Declaration of the Rights of Women and The Female in 1791. He stresses on the failure of the revolution and providing the basic human rights. De Gouges also draws attention to the fact that under French law women were fully punishable, yet denied equal rights. In my opinion the third period began after 1948, the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After this date the modern problems of women became more spread. As the fundamental problems we can show the followings:
– The right to vote
– Property rights
– Birth control
– Reproductive rights
– Rape and sexual violence
– Violence within the family
– Parental status
– Marriage and divorce
– Women trafficking
– Education and work conditions
– Gender equality
Despite the many years passed, gender equality remains as the main problem of the women`s rights. The UNICEF report of the 2007 showed that “Gender equality is not only morally right, it is pivotal to human progress and sustainable development”. Also it is interesting to show the statistics from the Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism by Richard H. Robbins “At the same time that women produce 75 to 90 percent of food crops in the world, they are responsible for the running of households. According to the United Nations, in no country in the world do men come anywhere close to women in the amount of time spent in housework.” This shows that how the role of women important in the mankind and its development. So, if there is a right which gives men privilege, the women also have the right similar this. When we speak about the women`s right it does not mean that we are feminist. Because feminism is totally different from the women`s right. Different from the feminism women`s right is the part of universal human rights which bases on the principle of equality of all humans.
Women began to fight for their right since the 19th century. From this century some women began agitate for the right to vote and participate in the governing bodies of the state and law-making. New Zealand was the first country which gave women right to vote on a national level in 1893. But other countries adopted similar legislation during the 20th century. Azerbaijan was also among the first states which gave women equal rights with men and right to vote, right to participation on the governance. When Azerbaijan declared its independence on the 28th of May in 1918, it gave the equal rights to men and women. But France as known as the cradle of human rights gave right to vote to women in 1944 and the US in 1920.
19th century is also famous for the women fight for their rights. Because the other principal women`s right – property rights got a big attention in this century. Women began to demand the common property after they got married. This issue is one of the big problems of women in Azerbaijan nowadays. The reason spreading this problem is no legalization of the marriage.
The reproductive rights of women and birth control look like as a problem of woman. But if we consider its effects on the society, then we will see that it’s a greatest problem of the whole mankind. This issue affect to the family planning, abortion and population control. So, the mankind must glance these rights as the problem of all humans not only women`s.
Today when we speak about the women`s rights the main problems are the following: the violence against the women within the family, the parental status of the mother after divorce, women trafficking, rape and sexual violence. To solve this problem we do not need any more legislation. For example, in Azerbaijan there is enough legislation for the protection of women`s right. In Azerbaijan there are some privileges for the pregnant and non-pregnant women in the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. The Article 108 (sexual violence), 108-1(forced pregnancy), 136 (illegal artificial fertilization), 141 (illegal abortion), 149-152 (sexual aggression), 164 (working rights of pregnant women) are directly dedicated to the protection of women. The Criminal Code of Azerbaijan Republic also consist of several articles which protect both men and women rights directly. But there is no any article that protects only men`s right.
Nowadays several declarations and conventions were adopted by the international organization on the field of women`s rights. Here are some of them:
– The Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by General Assembly resolution in 1967
– The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which entered into force in 1981
– Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Adopted by the United Nations (2000)
– Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, adopted by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1991)
– Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, adopted by United Nations (1962)
– Resolution 1325 on traffic in women and forced prostitution in Council of Europe member States, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1997
– Recommendation 1582 on domestic violence against women, adopted by the Council of Europe in 2002
In the end, I want to give two different quotations from The UN-General Kofi Annan and French activist Olympe de Gouges for complete my opinion. Kofi Anna said on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1999 that “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.” And de Gouges said that “Male and female citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, must be equally admitted to all honors, positions, and public employment according to their capacity and without other distinctions besides those of their virtues and talents.”