Pui-Yi Cheng, Communications Officer at Equally Ours, blogs about why women’s rights are human rights:
Women’s rights are human rights. The then-US First Lady Hillary Clinton declared these words at a global conference on women almost 20 years ago. Her impassioned speech focussed on abuses taking place around the world, but stories making headlines in the UK this week remind us that at home, we still have some way to go to recognise this.
The woman who set up a Change.org petition urging Sheffield United not to reinstate Chad Evans following his rape conviction has been threatened with rape herself. Young girls making claims of abuse are being ignored by police. Pregnant women and new mothers experiencing mental health problems are receiving substandard care.
These stories highlight how women across the country are still being denied their human rights on a daily basis. Living a life free from abuse, expecting authorities to protect us from harm, and having access to adequate mental or physical health care are all basic human rights we all share.
It’s true that the term “human rights” means that everyone, regardless of their age, gender, race or nationality should have equal rights. But “women’s rights” reflect the fact that men and women have very different experiences, and that a woman can face obstacles and discrimination simply because she was born a girl.
Looking at abuse and deprivation as human rights issues provides a way to help tackle the inequalities that exist between men and women. It helps us to understand the wider and systemic problems that prevent women and girls from fully having control and freedom over their own lives.
When women are being harassed for voicing an opinion and calling for change, when police are turning a blind eye to abuse and when health authorities are denying women adequate care, we need our human rights more than ever. Human rights protections in the UK have empowered women to force police to investigate rape allegations properly. They have allowed the family of a woman killed by a sex offender to learn the truth about her murder.
We need to talk about human rights and we need to talk about women’s rights. With reported rapes higher than ever and media commentators casually playing down violence against women, we can’t afford to be complacent. We can’t afford to assume that women are always protected, respected and equal – we need to take every opportunity to challenge abuse, both in what we say and what we do.