People are free to enjoy all human rights regardless of their nationality, race, sex or cultural background. However, this has not been the case regarding rights entitled to women as though they were not part of human rights. In light of this, women suffer discrimination and hostility in some countries, even in modern society. The promotion of women’s rights as human rights is a subject of critical concern. In South Asia, women could not avoid being discriminated against and violated for a long time, which is reflected in the universal human rights laws.
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Legal systems need to respond to this and revise human rights accordingly. In this paper, we are going to discuss women’s rights as human rights and not as a separate issue. To get an in-depth understanding of the question and discuss it appropriately, we will refer to the status of women in South Asia where women’s rights are still discriminated in the light of social and religious attitudes. This example provides a broad understanding of the entire discussion.
To begin with, Pakistan feminists feel that the universally accepted definition of human rights does not encompass the actual meaning of women’s rights as they are. They argue that this definition is male-dominated. The public sphere’s concern regarding human rights caters to men as their voice is considered to be more important in the public sphere. The major purpose of the creation of human rights was to regulate relationships between the two sexes. Despite this, women in Pakistan experience oppression in their private sphere. According to Shah (2006), human rights give a leeway for the ignorance of some issues related to women’s rights. This provides the basis for a question, whether women are less human beings as compared to men.
The legal reforms of the human rights laws have largely ignored the private part of life as defined by the State. There is extrinsic evidence that in the private area, there can be observed frequent incidents of domestic violence where women are the victims. The bottom line is that the struggle of women for the equal treatment of these rights is not a mere women’s rights concern, but it can be considered a struggle for equal and unprejudiced human rights. Human laws stand against any form of violence done to any person in the public. On the other hand, women still face violence in the private sphere while this has no consideration in human rights.
This puts women in the position of being strangers in their land. In addition to what human rights entail, other significant factors have led to the abuse of women’s rights in such spheres as cultural and religious life. As part of the society, women take part in cultural and religious events. There are different attitudes towards women in different religions, but it is evident that in many religions the male dominance and superiority suppress the position of women in society. For example, a male superiority in South Asia is the result of freedoms given to them by the law which takes into consideration cultural and religious factors. This has led to the development of women’s movements, which confront the laws that legally oppress women with the religion shield.
Islamic faith allows divorce in the family and Sharia’s law states that divorce is meant to benefit the woman, however, while men can divorce women easily, wives can face considerable difficulties and limitations when trying to divorce their husbands. In one of the divorce cases involving a Pakistan woman married to a Nigerian man, the judge was reluctant to use Sharia’s Law during the process, but the man insisted.
Different cases were presented to him where women had been divorced using Sharia’s law. However, religion played a great role when the judge made his ruling under Sharia, other than the Britain law, for example. The law demands women to comply with the religion. Islamic religion undermines the equality of women in society and views them as inferior. Women are not, in any way, given the rights to challenge the authority of religion, which undermines their rights (Madhavi, 2005).
Threats to women’s autonomy are present in Islamic law through the regulation of their way of living. They are to cover themselves from head to toes when in public. While in public men are supposed to accompany women even though there is a freedom of movement in human rights. Afghanistan women in South Asia observe these laws and give respect to their religion. Women in society receive respect only by following what their counterparts dictate. This results in a violation of the basic women’s rights, and, as such, human rights. Such violations call for a need to link the gap presented in the legal systems confounding women’s rights realization.
Women’s movements fighting for women’s rights are considered to adopt Western culture which cannot be applied to South Asia Islamic countries. Even though there are recognized legal laws that were formed under the influence of Muslim customs and they become decisive to women’s possibilities. It is evidenced that the laws that have low favor about women, are given more consideration in the coexistence of numerous legal systems.
It is mentioned in the written statue by the regional coordinator of women in Asia, Farida Shaheed. Women continually face identity problems. They experience the isolation that is present in the name of Islamic faith, and it makes it difficult for women to be aware of their rights (Brodsky, 2004). Injustice continues to prevail in the lives of women because of the contentment of human rights, unwillingness to challenge private and cultural spheres, hidden in religion. Since these two aspects are given much consideration in this discussion, it is essential to reconcile them with human rights.
The above discussion is based on the oppression of women from attaining human rights as a whole. Women have also experienced life threats such as murder cases. Human rights state that all human beings have the right to life (Bridgham, 2008). A good example of this is the woman who witnessed her niece murder, as well as the abduction of her daughter, which took three years to uncover her face. Harassment of women, who attempt to fight against self-discrimination, is also a point of concern. Following threats, they are forced to leave their families and seek refuge elsewhere.
Women appeal for equal rights in search of the truth and are also given a deaf year by the government. For example, in the case in Sri-Lanka, when women witnessed the murder of their men, different men were detained, but the government would not consider searching for real criminals. Being born as a woman seems to be a mistake following the abuse by the governing authorities. The law allows for a peaceful protest when human rights are violated (Mel, 2001). Despite this provision, women are insulted when they protest. This is a reference to a case when an Afghan soldier abused the protesting women students by calling them Soviet slaves, which was an abuse of their human rights.
For a society to be healthy, both men and women have to take their rightful positions. They have to live together and depend on each other as human beings. The biggest question lies in where the joy comes from when women are oppressed by men, who dominate the public sphere. Every person is entitled to the full exercising of human rights, but the laws undermine the position and the values of women. Religion is significant as it forms a part of society and culture through giving moral values and directives.
On the other hand, religion oppresses women as it tries to keep and maintain its standards. The sovereignty of religion over the legal system, which is supposed to protect human rights, is a matter of concern. Women will is to fight for their rights while being in a religion. The Islamic religion has the role to promote freedom to believers whereas it has been used to oppress women. There is a need to create awareness of what human rights entail. It also necessitates legal actions in the achievement of the same. In conclusion, women are part of society and, therefore, recognition of their rights as human rights is essential, not only in South Asia but in every society.
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Bridgham, J. (Director). (2008). Movie: 3. The Sari Soldiers [Motion Picture].
Brodsky, A. E. (2004). ‘With All My Strenght I’m With You on the Path Of My Land’s Liberation’: RAWA’s History and Continued Resistance. With All Our Strength: The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, 58-102.
Madhavi, S. ( 2005). Piercing the Veil. Just Advocacy? Women’s Human Rights, Transnational Feminisms, and the Politics of Repression, 266-290.
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