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As part of the effort to inaugurate a new international socio-political order after World War II, international emphasis was given to certain moral and legal entitlements we have come to call human rights. That emphasis initially found its most forceful expression in the Charter of the United Nations, which not only asserts its members' faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, as well as in the equal rights of men and women of all nations, but also recites its members' commitment to employ international machinery for the promotion of the social and economic advancement of all peoples. Indeed, whille assigning the General Assembly of the U.N. the task of conducting studies and making recommendations pursuant to the realization its purposes, the Charter also commits the U.N. as a whole--"with a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations"--to "promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedom." Specific organs are then called upon to tender advice on the mode as well as the means by which the promotion is to be effected, and pledges are secured from member states to take joint and separate action, in cooperation with the U.N. to create the sought-after conditions of "social stability and well-being."

It is in large measure due to the assumed international obligation to take "joint and separate action" that, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed and adopted, followed by the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as that on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights--two international instruments that spell out specific human rights in accordance with the agreed-on, common standard represented by and elaborated in the UDHR. It is to that assumed obligation, too, that we owe certain regional, human rights instruments such as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950), the American Convention on Human Rights (1969), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, officially named after the Gambian city where it was completed, the Banjul Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (1981).

Despite the preceding measures taken on the regional and global level to promote and encourage respect for human rights, hardly a day goes by without our hearing or reading news of their violation or otherwise gaining information raising questions about the commitment of some nation-state to them. One particular area of violation and questionable commitment on the part of states that is frequently overlooked, however, is an area intimately linked to the norm of equality and nondiscrimination--the very starting point of all our liberties. That area concerns women.


Trotter Institute Research Report No. 7.


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