|Susan G. Butruille|
Writer & Creator
Women's Voices series
many from Susan's column
"Women's Voices: Past and Future"
which primarily appeared in
The Woman's Journal
|A Daughter Pays Tribute|
to Her Mother
Ruth Hendricks Greffenius
An Ancient Truth: Women's Rights Are Human Rights
January: Anna Perenna & Grace Hopper
February: Those Amazing California Women
March is National Women's History Month
April: A Time of Fools' Wars, Flowers and Peace
May: Celebrating Mothers
MOTHERS' PEACE DAY
LISTEN TO THE MOTHERS!
June: Celebrating the Father
THE PIANO PLAYER
Lifting the Veil and Living the Legacy: of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Real Riches of the Season: Tales from the California Gold Rush
Celebrating Our Common Roots
The words have an eerie sound. If we listen hard, with our hearts and with our memories, we can hear their echoes through centuries, through millennia. They are the cries, the pleas, the demands of women's voices stating a simple truth: "Women's rights are human rights."
First Lady Hillary Clinton made this historic declaration on September 5, 1995 at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women in Beijing. Clinton's words - even her appearance at the Beijing conference - were widely opposed by factions in the U.S. government and the White House, and religious conservatives accused her of advancing a "radical agenda" at an "antifamily" gathering.
Clinton repeated this simple truth when she announced her candidacy for U.S. President in 2016. "My running for president is a way of sending a message - we have an opportunity to lift everyone," she declared.
Early abolitionist and feminist Angelina Grimké Weld had proposed this radical notion more than 150 years before the Beijing Conference. "Whatever is morally right for a man to do is morally right for a woman to do," she wrote. "I recognize no rights but human rights."
Consider the principles behind the Platform for Action from the Beijing Conference:
- Violence against women in all its forms must be stopped.
- Girls must be protected and valued equally with boys in their families and by societies.
- Women must have access to education and health care of a high quality and to the levers of economic and political power.
- Family responsibilities must be shared.
- The right of women to control their own fertility, and equality in sexual relations, are fundamental to women's empowerment.
- Freedom of expression is a prerequisite to human rights, which are women's rights.
Women's rights are human rights. Knowing that women have been demanding to be treated as human beings for thousands of years may be the piece of knowledge it will take finally to make these ancient principles a reality: the right to safety, equality, education, health care, peace, and control over one's own body and property. Women's rights are human rights.
These same principles are in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which grew out of previous UN conferences on women. More than 150 countries have ratified CEDAW. The United States has not.
The same principles were stated at the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848. American women then were denied not only the right to vote, but also the basic rights to property and wages (if married), child custody, education, church leadership, moral and physical self-determination, and legal justice.
The Seneca Falls Convention's Declaration of Sentiments stated, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women [emphasis added] are created equal. . .."
The Declaration continued: "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her."
All resolutions propsed at the Senecca Falls convention passed easily except one: the one considered the most radical. The demand for the right to vote barely passed, beginning a struggle that lasted for 72 years, until 1920. To this day, the right to vote is the only right specifically guaranteed women in the U.S. Constitution. Women's rights are human rights.
For thousands of years, women throughout the world have demanded and fought for their human rights.
In 1638, Governor John Winthrop banished Anne Hutchinson, "a woman of haughty and fierce carriage," from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She had publicly expressed her religious views, challenging men's religious authority. Women's rights are human rights.
Women led slave revolts in Colombia in the late 1700's. Women were fighting for human rights in France and Russia before and during their revolutions, and in Poland before Lech Walesa emerged as the leader of Solidarity. Women of Poland are among those who still do not have reproductive rights. Women's rights are human rights.
Women in Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan, Africa, Latin America and all over the world have fought as warriors to protect their matrilineal cultures from patriarchal religions. Ancient lore from Greek, Germanic, Celtic, Egyptian, Slavic, American Indian, Asian and Norse tradition is filled with women warriors, queens and priestesses defending women's rights. Chinese women took up arms to demand their rights in the Yellow Turban Uprising of 200 CE. A strong woman warrior tradition continued there for centuries. Women's rights are human rights.
Women continue to demand safety, food, health care and self determination for themselves and or their children. The voices echo through the centuries and the millennia. Opposition--sometimes subtle, sometimes violent remains.
Women's rights are human rights. One day these words must be reality.