Women’s Rights Are Everyone’s Rights

women rights

Women represent half the world’s population and have enormous potential to contribute to peaceful societies and sustainable development. Yet, many are denied their rights and face discrimination that impairs their ability to reach their full potential. The ACLU women’s rights project works for equality and human dignity by challenging discriminatory laws, policies and practices. We use litigation, advocacy and public education to make gender justice a reality.

Women’s Rights are Everyone’s Rights

When women and girls’ human rights are respected, the entire community benefits: health and educational outcomes improve, economies grow, and poverty rates decline. Yet gender inequality persists in every region of the globe and is rooted in centuries of misogynist attitudes, standards, and structures that disadvantage women and girls. That’s why it’s critical for all people to stand up for the rights of all women and girls, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation.

For example, while suffrage in the United States was finally achieved with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, women still faced restrictions to voting based on the state’s interpretation of “local custom” (i.e., patriarchal family traditions) well into the 19th century. In the late 1800s, the federal Comstock Law criminalized sending obscene or lewd material through the mail, including birth control and other methods of preventing pregnancy, thus impeding women’s right to choose how many children they want to have and when they have them.

Globally, women have just three quarters of the legal rights that men do. However, progress is being made. Bahrain, for instance, mandated equal remuneration for work of equal value. Egypt enacted legislation to protect women from domestic violence. And the majority of countries surveyed in a recent study say that it is very important for women to have the same rights as men in their country.

In addition, physical abuse remains a serious concern for women worldwide. In fact, 137 women die each day from abuse by partners or relatives. This is a human rights crisis that needs to be addressed urgently. It is also a major obstacle to economic development as studies show that violence against women cuts economic productivity by at least four percent.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the advancement of women. Its work includes addressing all forms of discrimination against women, documenting the situation globally, shaping international standards and policies, and promoting gender-equality initiatives. In 2021, CSW adopted a new definition of women’s rights that is inclusive of all gender identities. This is an important step forward, because it acknowledges that gender identity is a fundamental human right, and it is also consistent with the interpretation of similar human rights treaties. It is high time that all people recognize the humanity of trans* persons, too.