Women's Rights Are Human Rights

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Attaining equality between women and men and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women are fundamental human rights and United Nations values. Women around the world nevertheless regularly suffer violations of their human rights throughout their life, and realizing women’s human rights has not always been prioritized. Achieving equality between women and men requires a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which women experience discrimination and are denied equality so as to develop appropriate strategies to eliminate such discrimination. This publication provides an introduction to women’s human rights, beginning with the main provisions in international human rights law and going on to explain particularly relevant concepts for fully understanding women’s human rights.

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Global commitments

Women’s rights have been at the heart of a series of international conferences that have produced significant political commitments to women’s human rights and equality. Starting in 1975, which was also International Women’s Year, Mexico City hosted the World Conference on the International Women’s Year, which resulted in the World Plan of Action and the designation of 1975–1985 as the United Nations Decade for Women. In 1980, another international conference on women was held in Copenhagen and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was opened for signature. The third World Conference on Women was held in Nairobi, with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women having begun its work in 1982. These three world conferences witnessed extraordinary activism on the part of women from around the world and laid the groundwork for the world conferences in the 1990s to address women’s rights, including the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 (see below). In addition, the rights of women belonging to particular groups, such as older women, ethnic minority women or women with disabilities, have been also addressed in various other international policy documents such as the International Plans of Action on Ageing (Vienna, 1982 and Madrid, 2002), the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (2001) and the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons (1982).

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