social structures reflect a subordination offemales to males.This subordinationoccurs withinthe organization and conduct ofwarfare,the hierarchical ordering ofinfluential religious institutions,attribution ofpolitical power,authority ofthe judiciary,andinfluences that shape the content ofthe law (Bunch,1991).The historic subordination,silencing,and imposed inferiority ofwomen are notsimply features ofsociety but a condition ofsociety (Cook,1995).Legal preceptstraditionally exclude women from centers ofmale-gendered power,including leg-islatures,military institutions,religious orders,universities,medicine,and law.
Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
Soon after the adoption ofthe Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights in 1948,criticism ofits language arose.The declaration refers to “man”and uses the pro-noun “he”when discussing individuals.While drafters ofthe declaration did notappear to intentionally exclude women from human rights,central concerns aboutthe male focus have persisted (Morsink,1999).Subsequent human rights docu-ments did little to correct the male orientation ofhuman rights until 1980,whendelegates from the United Nations endorsed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms ofDiscrimination Against Women (United Nations,1980).Since then,the concept that human rights are for women,as well as men,has gained significantmomentum,ifnot always put into practice.
Convention on the Elimination of AllForms of Discrimination Against Women
The most prominent human rights document concerning the human rightsofwomen is the Convention on the Elimination ofAll Forms ofDiscriminationAgainst Women (CEDAW).This convention became effective in September 1981,and at least 170 countries have approved the convention.The United States is oneofthe few countries that has not ratified the convention.
Provisions of CEDAW
The focus ofCEDAW is elevating the status ofwomen to that ofmen in the areaofhuman rights.Countries that agree to follow human rights principles containedin CEDAW recognize that the “full and complete development ofa country,thewelfare ofthe world,and the cause ofpeace require the maximum participationofwomen on equal terms with men in all fields”(United Nations,1981,preamble).Adherents to CEDAW note “the great contribution ofwomen to the welfare ofthefamily and to the development ofsociety,”which so far is not fully recognized.
Human Rights and Vulnerable Groups——