“Should half the world’s population have a completely separate category of rights assigned to us – women’s rights? And should these rights, accorded by virtue of us being the less privileged gender, simply be a part and parcel of recognising that we too are human beings? Or do they need to go further than that to re-balance the systemic inequalities that undermine our power on a daily basis?
Let’s take a look at women rights India.
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” This is an absolute statement that does not operate in absolutes in reality.
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” This is an absolute statement that does not operate in absolutes in reality. In fact, the way we experience human rights as women differs from person to person. Our caste, class, religion, community, abilities, looks and more all play important role in determining which rights can actually be accessed by us, how they can be accessed, and what kind of impact these have in our daily lives.
As a woman, I may face certain oppressions due to the patriarchal society we live in, but as a disabled, Muslim woman from a tribal village in India, my oppressions are compounded. I cannot be split into parts by my identities. In fact, each part of me melds together and I experience life wholly differently to, for example, an upper-class, able-bodied Hindu woman from a metropolitan city.
This isn’t to say that the latter faces no discrimination. It just means that the discrimination, or privilege she deals with is different and that we must acknowledge that. For example, in cases of rape, oppression and stigmatization happens by virtue of being a woman, but the impact of caste is also felt when an upper caste woman is more readily believed, whereas a lower caste woman isn’t as easily believed – a common defence, for example, is that why would an upper case man want to rape a lower caste woman at all? So while both were oppressed as women, the caste of one woman compounded her trauma.
We can improve the way women can access their justice without assuming their experience of every woman is the same. It therefore does not make sense to isolate women’s rights from human rights as a whole.
Recognising the differences and complexities of these layers, means that we can work towards solutions that are as nuanced and complex as the women themselves. We can improve the way women can access their justice without assuming their experience of every woman is the same. It therefore does not make sense to isolate women’s rights from human rights as a whole. Women’s rights must weave through all human rights work – from economic rights, education and caste equality to religious rights and more – if it is to have any lasting and valuable impact..
In that sense, women’s rights are human rights! But going one step further human rights must also be women’s rights. They must recognise that the systems in which we operate must be dismantled and rebuilt if we are ever going to genuinely improve the lived realities of our communities.
Written by Aruna Chawla and Nishma Jethwa. Aruna is a final year student of law. She works with SAHR on issues of policy and gender. Nishma is a lawyer, activist, feminist, fighting for gender justice with SAHR.