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Discrimination Against Women


The Global Persecution of Women

Human Rights


Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. ...

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. ...

(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education.

CEDAW Discrimination against women violates the principles of equality of rights and respect for human dignity, is an obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their countries, hampers the growth of the prosperity of society and the family and makes more difficult the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their countries and of humanity. The full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields.

Article 1

For the purposes of the present Convention, the term "discrimination against women" shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

Article 2

States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:

(a) To embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein and to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle;

(b) To adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women;

(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;

(d) To refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation;

(e) To take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise;

(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;

(g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.

Article 4.1

Adoption by States Parties of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination as defined in the present Convention, but shall in no way entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate standards; these measures shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved.

Great Britain

Liz Clarke, “Wimbledon Relents, Will Award Equal Pay,” Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2007.

After decades of defending their prerogative to reward men with a bigger paycheck than women, Wimbledon officials reversed course and announced yesterday they will award equal prize money beginning with this year's tournament.

The policy change, which had been advocated by the Women's Tennis Association, a host of former champions and even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, brings the sport's most tradition-laden tournament in line with the other majors that comprise the Grand Slam.

The U.S. and Australian opens have offered equal prize money to men and women through all rounds for years, and the French Open pays its respective champions equal prize money. On the heels of yesterday's announcement by officials of the All England club, the owner and host of Wimbledon, French Open officials said they would follow suit and equalize prize money during every round of their clay-court event.

The announcement was met with immediate accolades by tennis champions, male and female alike.

Three-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, who had written a powerfully worded commentary against Wimbledon's pay inequity in the Times of London on the eve of last year's tournament, was quoted by the BBC as saying: "The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today. I applaud today's decision by Wimbledon, which recognizes the value of women's tennis. The 2007 championship will have even greater meaning and significance to me and my fellow players."

Williams was joined in hailing the move by fellow American Billie Jean King, who won a record 20 Wimbledon titles; 2004 champion Maria Sharapova; defending champion Amelie Mauresmo and three-time men's champion John McEnroe.

Bowing to public pressure, Wimbledon officials had narrowed the pay gap in recent years. Last year's men's champion, Roger Federer, earned $1.170 million for his victory, while Mauresmo earned $1.117 million for hers.

Wimbledon officials defended the disparity as recently as last summer, arguing that the job that men's and women's players did on the storied grass courts wasn't the same, given that men played best-of-five matches and women played best-of-three. Further, they argued that women stood to make more money at Wimbledon because so many opted to play doubles, in addition to singles, while the rigor of the men's format made it almost impossible for men to do the same.

Advocates for equal pay have long attacked such arguments on both literal and symbolic grounds. The fact that women play best-of-three matches at Wimbledon is the choice of tournament officials, King has long pointed out, not that of female players. Williams, in her commentary for the Times, argued that the pay inequity sent "a message to women across the world that we are inferior."

Apparently both messages finally resonated this year, with the Wimbledon committee agreeing unanimously on Wednesday to eliminate the pay differential, according to the Associated Press.

"Tennis is one of the few sports in which women and men compete in the same event at the same time," Tim Phillips, chairman of the All England club, said at a news conference. "We believe our decision to offer equal prize money provides a boost for the game as a whole and recognizes the enormous contribution that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon. In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon."

Philip Inman, ”Reforms leave women still short of pensions,” Guardian, 21 Nov. 2006.

• Government's plans offer little help for most needy
• One in three found to have no retirement provision

Planned government pension reforms will fail to tackle inequalities in retirement saving between the sexes and leave millions of women still living on less than men in retirement, according to a report yesterday.

Women who are self-employed or spend long periods caring for others could be particularly hard hit, according to a study by Scottish Widows and the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Irregular working patterns mean that many women lose out on state and private pensions and prevent them saving consistently to build up much needed retirement income.

The study comes a week after the Queen's speech, which included a proposed bill setting out reforms to the state retirement scheme. Ministers said they would increase the basic state pension in line with earnings in 2012 and cut the number of years needed to qualify for the full state pension from 44 years for men and 39 for women to 30 years for everyone.

The government raised cheers from backbench Labour MPs when they were told the measures were particularly aimed at boosting the incomes of retired women.

However, the study shows that almost a third of women have no pension provision at all and half of all women saving for their retirement stop when they have children.

Caring for children and elderly relatives also means women are more likely to be found employed in lower-paid and part-time work.

The study points out that the situation is unlikely to change when 37% of women work full time compared with 60% of men. Almost a fifth of women work part time compared with 6% of men. In total, men save on average £199 a month while women save only £128.

"Women pay a high price for the complex and unpredictable lives they lead," said Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission. "The gender pay gap throughout women's and men's working lives becomes an even bigger pensions gap in retirement, as most women face the financial penalties for doing unpaid work caring for dependent children or older relatives or spending time in low-paid, often part-time work."

The EOC study followed a separate report highlighting how thousands of women could find themselves making unnecessary voluntary national insurance contributions towards their state pension entitlement. Currently, the government asks people who fail to pay the stamp because they are full-time careers or self-employed to make top-up voluntary contributions.

The reforms cutting the number of years in work to qualify for the state pension could save some people up to £7,000 in unnecessary contributions.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said warning letters were sent to people paying voluntary national insurance contributions, but it was not possible to make an assessment of whether they would lose out because the plans had yet to become law.

She said women would benefit hugely from the reforms, which would rapidly increase the number of women eligible for the basic state pension. She admitted that inequalities in the labour market affected private pension saving but that was being tackled across government.

Maxine Frith, “Women Migrants ‘Suffer Double Discrimination.’" Independent UK , 7 September 2006.

Women migrants who travel to Britain and other developed countries are put at risk of exploitation and abuse because governments "overlook and ignore" them, the United Nations says, and there is a "dire need" for stronger co-operation between rich and poor countries to ensure migration around the world is better managed.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed in a report that women now make up half of the world's 191 million international migrants, compared with less than 45 per cent in 1960.

They contribute billions to the economies of the countries they travel to in terms of taxes and consumption, and are also more likely than male migrants to send remittances to help their families in their countries of origin.

But the report warned that governments in the West were not doing enough to protect women from forced migration in the forms of sex trafficking, enforced marriages and employment abuses. It also attacked countries such as the UK for stripping Aids-ravaged countries such as South Africa of key female workers such as nurses to plug their own staffing gaps.

When female migrants arrive in Western countries, they often miss out on health care because they are not aware of their rights and remain at risk of exploitation from employers.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the UNFPA, said: "There is a dire need for greater action to address the lack of opportunities and human rights violations that lead many women to migrate in the first place."

"There is an urgent need for stronger co-operation between countries to make migration more safe and fair. We call on governments to recognise and value the contributions of migrant women and to promote and respect their human rights."

She pointed to a new law in Sweden that prosecuted men who were caught with sex workers rather than the women as an example of how the problems of sex trafficking could be tackled.

Ms Obaid said that women often suffered double discrimination from being both female and migrants. She added that rather than the imposition of quotas, such as those being discussed for new EU entrants such as Bulgaria, Britain should work with poorer countries to build up their own education and health systems so that people were not forced to travel abroad to escape grinding poverty.

Mark Smith, “'The last 18 months have toughened me up,'” Guardian, 31 March 2005.

Pauline Brown, a plumber from Harrow in Middlesex, says she has had to fight constant sexism and prejudice because of her job in plumbing.

She gained her plumbing qualifications with Women's Education in Building, at Ladbroke Grove, in west London, a charity-aided scheme designed to encourage women into the construction trades.

Ms Brown, 28, had been raising her two young children while studying for a psychology degree by post. One day she called out a plumber and from that moment became "fascinated by all the pipes and the mechanics of it all".

She said: "I've always been very practical and never been afraid of getting my hands dirty so I thought I'd give it a go."

She passed her NVQ level three test in plumbing in July 2003, and was helped into her first job by an organisation called Building Work for Women.

Yet from day one, she said, she had to put up with abuse and concentrate on winning over people who see her as incapable of doing the job.

"The worst abuse has come from male plumbers," she said. "Some of them have been really nasty. It's been really difficult to change their preconceptions and prove that I can do the job.

"I'm getting paid the same as a man would, so the discrimination isn't in that area, but I've had to fight to get recognition and respect from colleagues."

But she added: "The customers have been great, and are quick to tell me when I've done well."

She loved her job, she said, and what she had endured made her even more determined to succeed.

"Sometimes I do a double take when I finish a job because I'm proud of what I've done. The satisfaction I get from plumbing is great.

"The last 18 months have really toughened me up. I'm now working towards my Corgi registration [for gas fitting work] so that I can progress.

"I really want to become a site manager, that's where the real money is."

Lucy Ward, “Gender split still thrives at work,” Guardian, 31 March 2005.

Young people entering work are facing "no-go areas" in key occupations because Britain is still failing to tackle gender barriers to real employment opportunity and choice, a study published today says.

The Equal Opportunities Commission says failures in schooling and careers advice, and a highly segregated apprenticeship system are conspiring with employer inaction and weak governmental strategy to keep some sectors almost exclusively male or female.

Men are practically absent from childcare but women face the most barriers, remaining virtually excluded from occupations such as construction (where they make up just 1% of the workforce), engineering, plumbing and information technology.

One employer quoted in the report told a training provider: "This is a job for big strong men. We don't want women coming in here with their hormones."

Girls from poorer backgrounds are particularly badly hit, since they end up channelled into lower paid, lower status jobs without access to the careers advice, work experience placements and training opportunities that would give them freedom to fulfil their ambitions and gain higher pay, the study says.

Its recommendations include training all careers advisers to "challenge gender stereotyping" and offering each pupil two work experience places, one in an area which is not by tradition used to their gender.

The failure to let women into male-dominated sectors not only limits opportunity but deprives employers of "a huge potential pool of labour" which would plug skills gaps in those occupations.

A survey conducted by the EOC found substantial interest, especially among girls, in trying non-traditional jobs.

The report, Free to Choose: Tackling Gender Barriers to Better Jobs, puts fresh pressure on ministers to address the inequalities just weeks after a government-sponsored commission on women's pay called for steps to tackle occupational segregation.

Although the issue has been highlighted for some years by ministers, including the trade secretary, Patricia Hewitt, the latest study shows how deep-rooted gender barriers remain.

According to the findings there is no strategic agenda for schools to help young people try out job ideas, and careers advice reinforces traditional choices, failing to explain to young women the pay advantages of "male careers".

Only 15% of pupils surveyed had had any advice on finding work experience in a non-traditional sector. Children from better-off backgrounds were more likely to find less predictable placements.

The report says apprenticeships (a government-funded training route into work) not only perpetuate gender segregation but worsen it. There are too few places and there is too little support for recruits with caring responsibilities.

Employers are recognising the business case for recruiting more women, but there is too little action, and "many women in non-traditional sectors face isolation and a culture of machismo, bullying and harassment".

At government level, initiatives to increase workers in non-traditional areas are often "insufficiently joined-up or sustained", though this has been changing since the establishment of a national strategy last autumn, the report says.

The EOC calls for appropriate careers advice, new targets for apprenticeships to cut segregation, more support for adult women trainees, encouragement of employers to train and recruit women, and strategies by the government and assemblies to promote "joined-up" action on segregation.

The CBI, in its submission to the government's women and work commission this month, said girls should be encouraged to consider apprenticeships and training in such careers as engineering.

It also suggested that the solution to unequal pay lay in encouraging girls to study science and maths so that they could enter better-paid, traditionally male sectors.

But it rejected a call for compulsory pay audits that would expose discriminatory wages.


"India," DOS Report 2005.

The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace; however, enforcement was inadequate. In both rural and urban areas, women were paid less than men for the same job. Women experienced economic discrimination in access to employment and credit, which acted as an impediment to their owning a business. The promotion of women to managerial positions within businesses often was slower than that of males. State government-supported microcredit programs for women began to have an impact in many rural districts. In March the government amended the law to provide flexibility for women to work in factories on the night shift. Women's organizations welcomed the move but stressed the need to improve security for such women.


Erin Gartner, “Nobel Winner Says Feminist Movements, Not Military Force, Holds Key to Democracy in Iran,” Associated Press, 17 September 2006.

Raleigh, North Carolina - Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, said supporting feminist movements in the Islamic world would better promote democracy than military force.

"Instead of bringing democracy with cluster bombs, we should support women fighting for democracy," Shirin Ebadi said through an interpreter Thursday during a speech at Meredith College, a women's university in Raleigh.

A lawyer, former judge and writer in Iran, Ebadi spoke in Farsi to about 1,000 people about fighting for human rights in Iran and elsewhere in the world.

She said the feminist movement has been successful in changing some custody laws in Iran, but that women need more victories. Iranian women hold high-ranking social and political positions yet the court testimony of one man is equal to testimony given by two women, she said.

"Although they (feminists) were always told these laws were the laws of Islam and could not change, they have been able to change laws," she said.

Ebadi heads the Center for Protecting Human Rights, a group formed by six prominent lawyers that was banned by Iran's hard-line government last month. The government said the group did not have a proper permit.

Ebadi became one of Iran's first female judges after graduating with a law degree from the University of Tehran in 1969. Ten years later, during the Islamic Revolution, she said she was demoted to an administrative secretary when the country's conservative leaders insisted that Islam forbade judgment by women.

In 2003, she became the first Iranian and first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said she was chosen "for her efforts for democracy and human rights ... especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children."

Her autobiography, "Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope," was published this year in the US.

”Iranian Women Protest Sex Discrimination,” Feminist Daily News Wire, 13 June 2005

Approximately 250 women gathered in front of Tehran University yesterday and 200 others gathered nearby to protest sex discrimination imposed on them through Islamic or sharia law. Women demanded that in the upcoming June 17 election, candidates must define how they will change women’s status and the current laws which value women as subordinate to men, according to the New York Times. The Iranian government deployed hundreds of riot police to the scene of the protests. Roohi Afzal, a translator present at the demonstration, said, “We will continue such protests because it shows that women are aware of their rights. It seems that our presence today really hurts the government, that it has deployed so many forces. Maybe it will react and respond to our demands,” according to the New York Times.

The protest can be seen as part of the recent wave of women’s rights activism in Iran due to the political climate of tolerance during election times. Women have voted in large numbers in recent elections, and the candidates are aware that the women’s vote is an important one to win, the Times reports.

On Wednesday, Iranian women protested the rule banning their attendance at male sporting events. Approximately 100 women rushed past Azadi Stadium guards in order to cheer on their national team in the World Cup qualifier match. The majority of these women were invited by Iran’s minister of sports and current presidential candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh. Recently, Mehralizadeh has assisted women in gaining access to soccer games, according to the Washington Post.

Following the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, stern rules were imposed upon Iranian women restricting their public visibility. Iranian law states that women require their husband’s consent in order to travel to a different country or to work beyond the home. Women’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s in court and a woman receives half the inheritance that a brother receives. Iranian women’s rights activists suggest that establishing a new constitution is the only way in which women in Iran will gain full rights.


"Pakistan," DOS Report 2005.

Women faced significant discrimination in employment and were frequently paid less than men for similar work. In many rural areas of the country, strong societal pressure prevented women from working outside the home. Some tribes continued the traditional practice of sequestering women from all contact with males other than relatives.

The government's Ministry for the Advancement of Women lacked sufficient staff and resources to function effectively. Continuing government inaction in filling vacant seats on the National Commission for the Status of Women hampered its efficacy.

United States

Martha Burk, “Women Losing Ground,”, 27 July 2006.

Summer isn't over yet, but the heat on women is already at full blast. Catalyst, one of the top research organizations on the status of women in corporate America, reports this week that females are losing ground in the top echelons of the Fortune 500. Growth in female-held positions has fallen dramatically in the past three years. The National Women's Law Center tells us that female degrees in math and computer science are way down. In what looks like a "back to the '50s move," Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan signed a bill last week allowing the return of single-sex schools in her state. All abortions were outlawed in South Dakota this spring, setting up a challenge to Roe v. Wade that has a good chance of succeeding in a Roberts Court.

Is the world crashing in on US women all at once? Not exactly. The long slide down from the gains of the 1970s started a while back - we're just seeing the results more starkly and more frequently now.

Reflecting on the bad news of summer 2006, I am reminded of a recent speech I was invited to deliver to the All China Women's Federation. Since China's totalitarian government has the power to simply decree women's status in employment, education, personal liberty and even the home, I was told the audience would be particularly interested in whether our government helps or hurts women's progress.

My assigned topic was "The State of Women in the United States." Easy enough, until I started to really think about it. Should I talk about how women in the US are doing when compared to women elsewhere in the world? Or how American women compare to American men - socially, economically and politically. Still another approach would be a contrast of women now and say, the turn of the 20th century, before we even had the vote. Finally, I could talk about the state of US women compared to an ideal - where we would be if we could indeed "have it all."

I decided to talk about today's reality - how women's status in the first years of the 21st century, and not so coincidentally in the reign of George II, compares to how it looked at the start of the "second wave" of American feminism beginning about 1963. The ongoing losses are the culmination of 20-plus years of conservative influence in the public square. Thanks to well-funded and well-placed right-wing think tank policy papers and their media machines shaping public opinion and influencing legislatures at all levels, we're losing ground and fighting hard just to keep the ideals of women's equality in the public debate. Popular mythology is all about women fleeing the workplace and the marketplace of ideas for hearth and home - just read The New York Times and countless copycats touting the exodus.

From the first years since that vibrant second wave made so many gains - abortion rights, equal credit, pregnancy leave, anti-discrimination laws in education and employment - the backlash has continued unabated. Women in the US have now taken the proverbial two steps forward, one step back in many areas we thought were so secure a generation ago.

Thanks to Title IX, we have achieved parity with men in college degrees, but female enrollment is down in business schools, and there has been a 28 percent decline since 1984 in women getting science and math degrees. The Bush administration continues to weaken Title IX through rule changes - a major change to Title IX policy now allows schools to force girls, but not boys, to prove that they are interested in participating in sports before they are given the chance to play.

While we gained the right to seek any job with those early victories, we're still lagging 24 cents on the dollar behind men in overall pay and that gap is not budging. We've already seen that the glass ceiling is not about to shatter as many hoped - it's in fact getting thicker. And if the Roberts court rules in favor of Wal-Mart in the largest sex discrimination suit in history - currently making its way through lower courts - laws protecting employment rights will be effectively gutted.

Our right to control our reproductive lives - hard fought all the way to the Supreme Court in 1973 - is now one case away from being overturned. Don't look to Anthony Kennedy to save us from a Bush created anti-abortion majority. The so-called new Sandra Day O'Connor swing vote, he has a record of limiting reproductive rights while appearing moderate.

Adult women are still the majority of those working for minimum wage, stuck at $5.15 an hour since 1997. There are 62 minimum wage bills on Capitol Hill that the Republicans won't even hear in committee.

We have universal health care for retirees, but women over 65 are the largest group living in poverty. That hasn't stopped President Bush from pushing cuts to food, housing and medical care for the elderly.

The current crop of Democrats is not disposed to stop the decline, even though a Lake Research Associates poll in this month's Ms. Magazine says a clear majority of women identify as feminists. Always willing to sacrifice the biggest part of their base to chase the ever-declining percentage of white males still in the party, Democrats promise women nothing and deliver less than nothing. Despite his own internal polls showing pay equity at the top of women's concerns, John Kerry wouldn't even mention it in the presidential campaign, and we're not seeing it on the DNC's agenda today. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid admitted he couldn't hold his own caucus together for a "no" vote on John Roberts or Samuel Alito - it would have looked too radical to oppose Supreme Court nominees who will vote to erode women's employment rights and possibly obliterate freedom of choice. The national Democratic party forced pro-choice Barbara Hafer out of the Pennsylvania senate race and replaced her with anti-choice Bob Casey, even though Hafer was a strong candidate who could likely have beaten Rick Santorum. It's no wonder that women say neither party is addressing their needs. So even if the House or Senate turns over in November, there is no guarantee women will benefit.

I now have a clear answer for those Chinese women. Government policies matter. We've had a generation to prove women won't make it "naturally" without legal protection and the political will for progress.

If we continue on our current path, it's going to be a long hot century for US women indeed.

Martha Burk is a political psychologist and author of Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It.


The Global Persecution of Women