Author: Nittyam Modi, student at OP Jindal Global Law School.
This article explores the intersection of rights which protect the rights of a child and a female, emphasizing that women’s rights and children’s rights are closely intertwined, and any discrimination against them can harm not only them but also the entire generation. The article highlights the ongoing struggle for equal rights for women, including political, social, and economic rights. It discusses the importance of regulations that allow women to maintain their financial independence while simultaneously carrying out their caregiving responsibilities. The article argues that governments need to combat the prejudice and blindness of social, cultural, and economic institutions to acknowledge women’s rights as human rights. Furthermore, the article examines how the issues of child labor and adolescent rights become even more complex when analyzed through the lens of women’s economic, political, and social rights. Furthermore, it tends to explain the link between females and children by taking the example of child marriage and women’s mortality
The Development of Gender Equality
The concept of Human Rights has been the cornerstone of human democracy and the foundation upon which current international institutions work, and nothing has influenced this remarkable development is more than the demand for equality which took the entire world by storm.
The 18th century was truly a watershed in human history when the principles of equality started to take root from the French Revolution and the call for Liberté, égalité, fraternité” ( EQUALITY, FRATERNITY, AND LIBERTY) took birth, it made people realize that god’s children regardless of one’s gender are made equal and must remain so.
From women fighting for equal political rights to the ongoing struggle for equal pay for equal work, from The First Women convention held in 1848 to the #MeToo movement in the 21st century, women’s rights have come a long way “Where women are honored, divinity blossoms there.” The verse emphasizes the importance of respecting and honoring women, as it is believed that where women are respected, the gods are pleased and blessings are bestowed upon that place, this was the essence of ancient India, however in spite of such holy texts, a ranking of 135 among 146 countries in global gender gap report 2022 clearly indicates that despite recent legal and political advancements, there are still considerable obstacles to fully attaining the equal economic, social, and political rights of both women and children as compared to men.
The True Essence of Gender Equality
The women’s rights movement has long emphasized that attaining gender equality involves fundamental reforms at the very heart of our society rather than merely including more women in the mix. Although laws can be upheld, a genuine revolution towards equality can only be achieved when people from all aspects of life begin to consider women as equals, rather than just members of a certain educated class.
Regrettably, most men still see women as essential housewives, mothers of young children, and wives in many semi-urban parts of the world. Indeed, this is the issue that proponents of women’s rights aim to solve. Women don’t want to be pigeonholed as only being moms, grandparents, nursing mothers, or housewives. They don’t want these out-of-date labels to confine their identity. Feminists frequently advise people to picture a kid who wants to be a lawyer but is mocked by society for being only a housewife and family helper in order to help others comprehend their situation. It is critical to understand that persons who give care have lives that extend beyond their caregiving responsibilities, including needs as well as joys. These people represent a variety of racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Women’s rights organizations are pushing for regulations that let women maintain their financial independence while simultaneously carrying out their obligations to the people they care for, whether they be kids or individuals of any age.
For instance, the 1994 agreement in The International Conference on Population and Development guaranteed women’s reproductive rights. Yet, putting these rights into action necessitates considerable adjustments in the distribution of resources to institutions of higher learning and healthcare, as well as retraining of family planning and medical personnel.
Governments have been decreasing funding in these sectors despite the COVID-19 epidemic underscoring the importance of healthcare. Just 2% of the 2023 budget roughly Rs. 45 lakh crore, is set aside for healthcare. Both inexpensive and high-quality healthcare is still a dream for many households. According to an estimate, mere 0.6 doctors and 0.9 hospital beds are available for every 1,000 people. Also, the revised estimate of the health budget for 2022–2023 has decreased by a whopping 15% as compared to the projected amount. To guarantee that wellness, respect, dignity, and choice are a part of everyone’s lives, it is crucial to combat the prejudice and blindness of social, cultural, and economic institutions in order to acknowledge women’s rights as human rights.
Women across geopolitical divisions within the UN, government, and civil rights groups have to develop a complicated set of methods to protect women’s rights to work with dignity, fair salaries, child care, and freedom from sexual harassment in industries within free trade zones.
The challenges become increasingly intricate when analyzing them through the lens of women’s economic, political, and social rights. For instance, how does one address the predicament of a child who must work because their parents are unable to support them? Inevitably, this child ends up supporting their own family at a tender age, resulting in a loss of fundamental rights. The proposed solution is also convoluted to derive in such cases because prohibiting the child from working could have disastrous consequences. Additionally, when considering adolescent rights in community issues, the problem becomes even more complex. For example, should a minor be permitted to work as sex workers if they desire to do so? Can a teenage mother make decisions on behalf of her child?
Connecting Child and Women Rights
Women’s rights and children’s rights are closely intertwined, as both have faced tremendous discrimination for ages. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that a child is an extension of a woman’s body that grows inside her and with her. Hence, a woman’s social, political, and legal status significantly impacts a child’s rights even before they enter this world. Any discrimination against them can harm not only them but also the entire generation.
History has been proof that whenever there was a women’s rights movement, children’s rights are always complementary to them. For example, in the 1980s, there was recognition of women’s productive and reproductive roles. However, the focus was primarily on women’s productivity, emphasizing that women are not just child-bearers and caregivers, but also have individual value.
To address these issues, we must first recognize every individual as a human being with a family, rather than as a mere object. There can be no universal framework that one can apply to gender and children’s problems rather every framework requires changes according to different sociocultural contexts
Intersection of CRC & CEDAW
Women and children share fundamental similarities with much common history as well, and as a result, the conventions addressing these rights overlap and reinforce each other in numerous ways. Additionally, both conventions address concerns that may not be fully addressed by the other convention individually, making them mutually complementary
Both conventions aim to provide equal healthcare and education access to women and girls. However, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is unique in that it uses pronouns that refer to both males and females, making it clear that the rights are equal for both genders. Moreover, the CRC promotes gender equality not only by mentioning pronouns but also by emphasizing that raising a child is the responsibility of both males and females. Both conventions require changes at the private level, which can only be achieved when parents recognize the notion of gender equality rather than solely relying on state intervention. An instance of this is Article 16 of CEDAW, which ensures parity in marriage and family life
Both conventions share several fundamental principles. These include the importance of holding duty bearers (including the State, parents, and teachers) accountable for their responsibilities, promoting accountability through transparency and a free media; the universality of human rights, which apply to all people regardless of their status; the indivisibility of rights, meaning that all rights are equal and interdependent and that the promotion of one right should not be counterproductive and instead lead to violation of another’s rights; non-discrimination, which ensures that every individual is granted similar rights without any prejudice; and participation, which means that all individuals have the right to participate wilfully and freely in the decision-making process.
Child Marriage: Living Example of Union of Child and Women’s Rights
Child marriage is an issue that has plagued our society for generations, trapping innocent children in a vicious cycle of poverty, abuse, and oppression. The consequences of this practice are devastating, not only for those involved in the marriage but for society as a whole. Shockingly, an estimated average shows that 650 million girls and women worldwide are married before attaining 18 years of age . In developing nations, one out of every three girls is wedded before reaching the age of 18, with one among every five girls married before turning the age of 15. The highest number of girls married as a child is found in underdeveloped areas of Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa regions. Astoundingly, girl child marriage is becoming prevalent even in developed countries like the United States, where recent research suggests that nearly 1% of 15 to 17-year-olds who participated in the survey had been married.
Despite the growing global initiatives, programs, and consensus that girl child marriage must be eradicated due to its detrimental effects on the rights and well-being of girls, no region is currently on track to achieve SDG 5 ( Target 3 ), which aims to eliminate this social evil.
Forcing a girl to marry without her consent, can have disastrous consequences in form of social isolation and restricted access to education and community activities. Child marriage can have extremely severe consequences, such as sexual exploitation, commercial sexual exploitation, and trafficking as well. Additionally, a girl may feel powerless and be at risk of early pregnancy and unprotected sexual acts. She may be coerced into sexual activity without the use of contraceptives. Early pregnancy can have adverse effects on both the mother and child’s health, girls between the age of 15 and 20 are two times more likely to pass away than women in their twenties. Pregnancy complications, such as disability during childbirth or excessive bleeding, can also occur.
Linking Child Marriage and Women’s Rights
The eradication of child marriage necessitates a comprehensive framework that highlights the interconnection between children and women’s rights. Child marriage serves as a prime example of how gender discrimination takes root in childhood. Promoting gender equality between men and women is a powerful tool to combat this societal scourge. This entails granting women equal say as their partners in private matters such as sexual intimacy. The consequences of failing to do so can be dire. CEDAW can also serve as a deterrent against such practices. As per Article 16 of CEDAW, women are equally entitled as any other men to freely choose their spouse and to enter into marriage only with their full and free consent. The CEDAW Committee has further emphasized that the bare minimum marriable legal age for both genders should be 18 years.
While it is true that child marriage can have detrimental effects on both boys and girls, it cannot be denied that girls are disproportionately affected. Domestic Women Violence is a major contributing factor to child marriage and abuse as well. Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge that child marriage selectively targets girls and has more severe consequences for them.
It’s estimated that over 500,000 women experience complications during childbirth, and for each woman who dies, 20 others endure infections, disabilities, and other lasting effects. The impact of this loss is not just on the individual but also on their loved ones, including their spouse, sibling, friend, and most crucially, their child. The absence of a mother is felt deeply by all members of the family, and children who lose their mothers are 10 times more likely to experience premature death compared to those who have not.
Around 80% of maternal deaths globally are caused by five factors: hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labor, unsafe abortion, and hypertensive disease during pregnancy. Despite being the direct cause of maternal death, inadequate healthcare, which is either inaccessible, unavailable, or of poor quality, is ultimately responsible. Studies indicate that providing women with essential maternal and basic healthcare services could prevent four out of every five maternal deaths
Linking Women’s Mortality and Children’s Rights
An approach based on human rights, with gender equality at its core, is necessary for addressing maternal mortality and morbidity among women. Strengthening the sacred bond between a mother and child can further enhance this approach. As a child is carried and nurtured by a woman’s body, they share interconnected rights. The relationship between a mother and child lasts beyond pregnancy and childbirth, spanning years of nurturing and care. Therefore, prioritizing maternal health and providing adequate healthcare during childbirth is a fundamental step toward ensuring the well-being of both the mother and child
The interventions that can avert maternal mortality during childbirth can also prevent newborn deaths. These encompass emergency services, robust childcare facilities, and adequate nutrition. However, to be truly efficacious, these measures necessitate a supportive environment that respects the fundamental rights of both women and children. Such an atmosphere must be trustworthy, affectionate, and secure for both. It must not only be devoid of physical abuse but also free from mental abuse, exploitation, and discrimination. This also entails ensuring a satisfactory level of living standards, and access to respectable education.
Maternal health is intricately linked with various other human rights. Hence, strategies aimed at reducing maternal mortality must incorporate these essential rights.
When women are empowered in both their productive as well as their reproductive roles, they have the potential to bring positive changes to their families, an educated woman has the power to change the destiny of a family and free them from the clutches of generations of poverty and oppression
In conclusion, this article emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the interconnection between women’s rights and children’s rights, and discrimination against them can have devastating consequences for the entire generation. The struggle for gender equality has come a long way since the 18th century, yet there is still much work to be done to fully achieve equal economic, social, and political rights for both women and children. The article suggests that governments need to combat the prejudice and blindness of social, cultural, and economic institutions and develop regulations that let women maintain their financial independence while fulfilling their caregiving responsibilities. It also points out the challenges of addressing issues such as child labor and adolescent rights through the lens of women’s economic, political, and social rights. This article further recognizes the importance of recognizing women’s rights as human rights, the need for fundamental reforms in society, and the significance of quality healthcare and education failing which our society may collapse as well. The article suggests that a genuine revolution towards equality can only be achieved when people from all aspects of life begin to consider women as equals and not just mere governmental intervention.
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