The human rights for women have continued to affect the structure of different organizations. They have international, regional, corporate as well as social institutions. Human rights’ organizations have differentiated the gender-related issues in the human rights’ dimensions. Legal institutions all over the world have incorporated the human rights in their structure. Thus, they have been incorporated with general human rights for women to form an expectation of the society towards gender issues. Since the origin of the women’s human rights, they have received support from more institutions with endorsement from the law, societies, local behaviour, and customs. However, other societies have suppressed or ignored these rights. These communities have continued to favour boys and men according to their traditions or religion. It is important to review current issues surrounding the female human rights to determine their origin, present, and future.
Issues Concerning Human Rights for Women
We can trace the origin of the female rights back in 1792. According to Fraser (1999), the origin of such rights arose in the world after the determination of a rights-of–man theory. However, an ancient literature also shows some texts referring to the rights of women back in the 15th century or even long before that. The traditional sense for this is that there had been a general discrimination against women in the society. This was because the males were a stronger sex in terms of their gender roles and their body physique. The nature of the society is that one group tends to exercise some control over another. Thus, the males were always exercising control over women leading to the discrimination in all parts of the community. This is the reason why the human history has some incidences of males with a little information about women. The discrimination leads to the less powerful group lacking self-confidence with the deprivation of their history and their ability to function legally as members or citizens of the group. With civilization, the idea of human rights has come into being. This played a key role in advocating for the women’s human rights especially with education and political influence for females (Fraser 1999).
After the creation of such organization as the United Nations (UN) in the mid 20th century, women gained the social as well as legal freedom. This is because education allowed them to move from their homes and locality. Women started participating in the public life even at the country, regional, and international levels. Nearly, after 50 years of the creation of the UN, females gained the sufficient international legal and political influence to lobby for the representation in the organization’s meetings. In 1945, women lobbied and pushed for equal rights of females and males in the UN charter. This triggered the draft law for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHCR). The UN delegates changed the constitution to eliminate gender discrimination. Marangopoulos (1994) points out that they have changed the words such as his to everyone with provisions to eliminate the discrimination in terms of gender. Independent human rights’ commissions around the world received the guidelines from the UN to change the national constitutions to include this provision. Some commissions failed to include it. Women organized different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and funded them to push for a political, legal, and social change in favour of equal rights. It triggered the creation of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 1978. It has continued to examine the women’s rights’ situations in different countries together with other NGOs (Marangopoulos 1994).
According to the Human Rights Watch, the appreciation of human rights has grown in all kinds of institutions. Women NGOs have continued to push for the reforms in political, legal, social, and economic institutions to give to females more representation and influence. The UN Human Rights council pushed for the appointment of a Special Representative who would evaluate the women’s rights with relation to business enterprises and corporations. According to Bilchitz (2010), female human rights have had a tremendous influence in the corporate and business world. It is because the key economic players in the world have continued to influence on the economy. Multinational corporations have power over certain social, political, and legal perspectives across the world. It is through the corporate social responsibility. With globalization, there are new challenges that have proven to be complex especially with the human rights protection. An organization may be protecting the rights in its human resource structure. It is even in its operations in several countries. It is because all organizations must observe the employment guidelines according to the legal provisions of their operations. Thus, organizations may have the equality in employees, zero discrimination, and representation during major decision-making processes (Bilchitz 2010). The UN Human Rights Commission has given the norms and responsibilities for all corporations and enterprises to follow the protection of human rights. Thus, the UN evaluates these corporations with reference to responsibilities and norms.
Thus, organizations across the corporate world around the globe cannot violate the women’s human rights in the UN Charter. There are strict legal consequences for any organization that does this. Thus, a multinational corporation cannot violate the female human rights in the society that does not observe the rights. It will face legal consequences in the international system. However, international business enterprises and corporations operate in some regions that protect women’s human rights. This is where the corporate social responsibility for the organization comes into play. It does not mean that the company should itself engage in a fight for these rights single-handedly in the region. It may face a rejection by the society in the area of its operation. According to Peters & Wolper (1995), there are other channels that the UN has provided for organizations to report on the rights’ violation. In this case, the enterprise or corporation should report the women’s rights breaks to the UN. Through the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG), the UN has a mandate to approach any state to adjudicate as well as regulate human rights. The UN can also give the state the possibility to evaluate multinational corporations in their jurisdiction to protect female human rights. When the organization acts in order to assist the society in its area of operation, it is known as corporate social responsibility. It enables a social acceptance with the organization protecting its environment (Peters & Wolper 1995).
The international community has always had the perception that the protection of human rights falls only on different states and governments. However, according to Cragg (2012), it is not always the case. Some states and governments lack the capacity to change the social perspectives and influence the appreciation of human rights. It can be possible in two ways. First, the state may not have the necessary resources to curb the female rights violations in a region. Second, the organizations in the region may have a structure that supports this violation such as the employee principles. This would mean that the state is not able to restart other organizations to support the society in that region. Thus, it has to deal with the organizations in a friendly way. The idea of corporate social responsibility arises in such a case. It is possible for transnational corporations to have an interest in the economic region with rampant cases of women’s rights violation. Recent debates suggest that these corporations can and should have a direct responsibility and obligations to regulate the rights in that region. These debates have made daily news such as the corporation in Europe basing its production activities in such country as the Philippines. There it can easily violate the women’s human rights due to political corruption and incapacitation. It raises a question of whether the corporation should follow its self-interest and continue operations with this violation of rights since the law does not compel them otherwise (Cragg 2012).
It is where the UN frameworks have come to the application. Transnational corporations have offered the justification that they are actually assisting the regions economically by employing the population. According to Wettsein (2012), the corporations are in the regions with high unemployment rates. Their withdrawal would actually hurt the region. This justification is valid only as an excuse for developing their personal interests. It is because the employees in such regions would be cheap, and the corporations are exploiting the population to make maximum profits. Their objective when starting operations in such areas were not to assist the population but rather to take an advantage of their structure for self-interests. Thus, the debates in the UN forum have given two reasons why transnational corporations must exercise women’s human rights prevention in their regions of operations. First, the economic purpose for any organization is to create a better economic world. The violation of this principle will nullify the stakeholders’ aims and, thus, the business, in general. The second reason is that each organization has ethics that it should follow. Any association with an unethical organization is detrimental to consequences. Thus, the organization cannot operate in an unethical situation. At the same time, it cannot give the justification of its ethics in other regions. Thus, the organization fails in its qualifications to operate in any other area that respects women’s human rights (Wettsein 2012).
The debate on corporate social responsibility has continued to be a hot debate between corporations and human rights commissions across the globe including the UN Human Rights Commission. Wettsein (2012) agrees with Cragg (2012) on the topic of corporate social responsibility and businesses. The SRSG has only given reasons why the violation of women’s human rights in different areas for transnational corporations is unethical and unjustifiable. However, the SRSG has not identified a proper treatment for the international corporations that violate human rights. They do not have the right system to follow if an organization violates women’s human rights rather than only negotiating with the state for changes. Human rights are moral ones.
The main question arises on whether it is possible to have universal human rights with the cultural diversity that exists in the world. The society also questions whether it can maintain its cultural diversity with the current globalization. It is because some communities in the world would like to maintain some parts of their culture since it gives them an identity. This implies that they would like different people to evaluate the culture while appreciating the universal human rights. These are the main questions that Okin (1998) attempts to answer. The occurrence of a global culture has been a reality guided by human tolerance and dignity. Thus, sociologists have attempted to determine whether it is possible to have the universal women’s rights and cultural relativism simultaneously. For example, one would question the application of Sharia Law that allows the marriage of more than four wives on the acceptance of such a community to the universal female rights (Okin 1998).
It is evident that cultural relativism would cause a great danger to the interpretation of such rights. It asserts that human values vary greatly according to specific cultural perspectives. They are at the same time universal. Cultural relativism is a reality across the globe. Thus, people can use it to support the protection, promotion, or application of specific female human rights. These rights would have different understandings in several ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Therefore, understanding would lead to a situation whereby there is the relativity of human rights rather than universality. The extremity of cultural relativism will lead to a dangerous situation since it threatens an international system as well the international law. The construction of the international system has taken years to construct. It would fail drastically if the cultural perspectives were to govern it. It would mean that a certain community, society, religion, or ethnic group could justify certain actions and disregard the already existing women’s human rights. Reilly (2009) writes that this would not only legitimize a harsh treatment of women but would also take the society down. The SRSG cannot force states to ignore several cultures that differ in their system of female rights. It would mean that they are promoting one culture discriminating the other. It would be a violation of human rights. Therefore, the groups fighting for women’s rights across the world need to determine the appropriate ways in which to approach cultural relativism and global appreciation of the universal women’s rights. They can organize forums with representatives of certain cultures to determine extremities in the violation of these rights. Then, they can decide on what steps to take before making the appropriate interventions (Reilly 2009).
The society has come a long way in formulating the universal women’s rights. Since the UN Charter in 1995 and the declaration of universal rights for everybody, women’s rights groups and NGOs have pushed for the realization of the universal gender equality. It has reduced the gender discrimination significantly with the society gradually appreciating the female rights. However, there are some challenges that face a global execution of the UN declaration. One of the challenges is cultural relativism. Some states also lack the capacity to deploy the appropriate human rights measures. However, the corporate world can assist them. With the economic integration, transnational corporations have launched operations in virtually all parts of the globe. They can undertake some corporate social responsibility programs to enable all societies to achieve the universal women’s rights. The UN, governments, NGOs, business enterprises, religious groups, and the society, in general, should support the female rights to do them the reality.