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July 10, 2020 by

(In)Human Rights

“Today, invoking the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, one may think of human rights as universal, inalienable and indivisible, as rights shared equally by everyone regardless of sex, race, nationality and economic background.” (Ishay, 2010.)

But today, we could not be farther away from the truth. Human Rights are the rights of the human beings. Correction, the rights of the male human being, as they have been enforced over the years. 

Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights took place, we have seen an extremely poor, very questionable performance aiming to promote the protection of Human Rights in humans that are not the perfect candidate for such distinction. How come it is titled and acknowledged as Universal, but lacks the actual Universality about it? How is it possible that, as society, we still struggle with the clear delimitation of what is right or wrong within our core as individuals?

Questions that remain sometimes unasked, unvalidated, unanswered, unimportant and irrelevant when it comes to the Human Rights discussion worldwide. Why? Because of the various interests at stake. A simple answer, to an obviously not simple prerogative, but an answer that has definitely shaped, and continuous to shape the arguments made within the debate.

If we were to ask ourselves about the rationality of the issue, we could say it comes with a lot of history behind it, and a lot of male dominated history, specifically. It is something that does not have to be questioned because it has been widely known and accepted throughout life on Earth. Thus, if men have dominated most areas and arenas ever since ancient times, and we have grown and lived with that understanding, it should be normal for people to believe that they can continue to do so, if the dogma is not questioned. 

Back to the field of questioning, it is important, and even more so, essential, that we deconstruct and rebuild from the ground up the ideas we have come to accept as universal, as normal, as common to all; for there lies the key to a new found understanding of the principles of righteousness and wrongness. What was right back in time is not necessarily right nowadays, and the same goes for what was wrong: some scenarios are not wrong anymore, simple scenarios such as women voting.

Women, our main concern at hand here, and the ones in charge of turning the tables around as well, because most men are doing very little to concern themselves with women issues. Women have been left alone in a battle that should belong to all human beings, a battle that not only plans to bring about change for one “minority”, but to all humans on Earth. And it is precisely because it entails a conversation that has been nipped and tucked to accommodate the interests of those who made believe they were in charge by changing the nature of things, by creating situations where others less powerful would have to succumb to the will of others, the others that took the reins of the world and made it subject of their rules.

If we start by looking at the rhetoric, we can even see how women were diminished to a minority from the beginning, even when reality is far from that. Women account for more than 51% of the entire world population (Binion, 1995,) and that is clearly not a minority, but why would men try to reduce women as an entity? Why would men want to make women look as the weak and the subjected?

There are conflicts of power and interest that come to the surface when the digging for answers takes place.

As Charlotte Bunch says in her 1990 paper “Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Toward a Re-vision of Human Rights”, women’s rights are not commonly classified as human rights, and that comes from that male dominated view that does not allow for a feminist perspective to permeate through. If we change the foundation for the understanding and application of human rights basing ourselves on the woman experience, there will be more than plenty of room for the discussion to change, for the woman experience brings a lot of questioning to the debate that would serve the entire world party as Binion stated in her 1995 paper “Human Rights: A Feminist Perspective.”  

When we combine these two authors’ thesis and analyze the basis of their assumptions, we can only agree with the fact that there will be nothing more than great implications for other minorities, and even so for groups of people that are not considered minorities like men in general. Therefore, putting the social organization dogma under scrutiny, and empowering others in the process. (Binion, 1195.)

This is the feminist perspective, the one that fights for inclusion, the one that seeks equity in all realms that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has weighted on. The one that wants to change jurisprudence when it comes to the rights that should be enjoyed by all

Human Beings. The Feminist take on women’s rights is not that of an extremist, it is that of the individual who believes that equality is possible in a world where all kinds of rights are submitted to favor the oppressor when claimed, because in due justice, application of protection comes to serve the higher positioned in many occasions. 

When women in different cultures, such as the Muslim or Hindu that promote the institution of Purdah, are left to the jurisprudence of the private sector and judgement because of the nature of the situations they go through, we as a society are failing to protect the oppressed. And that is a dichotomy that needs to be changed: the duality between the public and the private life, as stated by Gayle Binion in her mentioned 1995 paper, because the fact that some women’s issues can be taken into consideration under the public judgment, but some others that are equally affecting women and their rights are left for private dealing, it not only insults women as a group, but challenges the assumptions that we as a human group have failed to acknowledge from a stand-by point of view. 

The lenses we wear to make discriminations of gender nature are the ones we are born with. It is not hidden that we see the world in the way we are shaped, not only physically but mentally too. It is in that sense that we, as humans, advocate for our peers, but the ones that look like us, that behave like us, that pursue the same things we do. Nevertheless, engaging with a group or another based on religion, race, sex or nationality does not entail forgetting about the existence, acceptance and promotion of other groups within societal scenarios. It is on the contrary, a motivation to embrace all kinds of life and all kinds of rights derived from it, from the individuality that we all have a right to as well. 

What is fundamentally right with Human Rights in the current debate is the mere existence of the concept: the idea that as Human Beings we have certain attributions and characteristics that generate a set of rules that should be followed in order to maintain the integrity of our humanity.

But on the other hand, what is believed to be exacerbatingly wrong with the approach given to Human Rights is the fact that even though in theory it encompasses every single human being on Earth, it does not necessarily adapt to the actual needs of those supposedly protected by them. It would appear to be a world paradigm, in the sense that it has been accepted as regular and common, not to give such attention to issues that affect the minorities, since they do not pose a relevant and extra significant threat to the ones in power. It would appear as if the so-called minorities could vanish from the surface by big numbers and the need to protect them would still be threatened by the antagonism shown within the power forces. 

Human Rights are Women’s Rights, Human Rights are Everybody’s Rights, not just Privileged Rights. In a world that seems skeptical and reluctant to understand it, the need for a different set of lenses is much imperative. It is the need for a different-than-male perspective that can change and transform the overrated notion of Human Rights that we have collided with for decades, and that has prevented the population groups, in most need of them, to actually fulfill their rights through objective enjoyment as stated by Donnelly in his 2013 book “Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice”

As women, we identify profoundly with the feeling of being subjected to scenarios we would not choose individually, with the feeling of underrating, with the feeling of not being able to speak up and stand for yourself without living the consequences. It is because of the nature of our gender that we know how to overcome oppression, and how to overthrow the rule of power over the weak, that we can better understand from our feminist perspective, as authors Binion and Bunch have done it, how Human Rights can be better implemented and served for actual enjoyment of them, not for merely theory to convey respect of one another. 

When we talk about Human Rights, the Feminist view is one that definitely has the potential to achieve a bigger and better understanding of the way in which said rights are portrayed, defined and enforced. A feminist take on the concept and development of Human Rights would not only favor women, for that is not their only goal; it would also favor the ones who need to be favored the most because Human Rights should have been put into place to actually be enjoyed in due circumstance, not only to favor ourselves from looking like beings that have a human side in them without actually having it. 

We dehumanized ourselves when we decided we needed to be protected from one another, but critically failed to assume the task of actually protecting one another. It is not a Human Right to be inhuman, it is not acceptable to be detached from what makes us who we are, from the very basic notion of humanity that we all share. 

We dehumanized ourselves when we left women and other minorities to their own detriment, thinking marginalizing them would function as the translation of power to the higher masses. What we did was only fall to the lowest point of our human condition, and now it is time for checks and balances from a whole, new different set of people.

It is time for Human Rights to become human again.


Tags: female, female power, human rights

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