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Book Review: Women's Rights are Human Rights
A United Nations publication "Women's Rights are Human Rights" is a guide book for human rights educators, policy makers, advocates and activists who engage themselves with women empowerment and gender equity issues.
Keeping this in view, the UN cautions that the publication does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

The publication claims that the United Nations has a long history of addressing women's human rights and much progress has been made in securing their rights across the world in recent decades but their realities are constantly changing, with new manifestations of discrimination against them regularly emerging.

"Some groups of women face additional forms of discrimination based on their age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, health status, marital status, education, disability and socioeconomic status, among other grounds. These intersecting forms of discrimination must be taken into account when developing measures and responses to combat discrimination against women," it is said in the publication by urging that protecting and promoting women's human rights is the responsibility of all States.

Clarifying the aim of the publication, the UN says that it is meant to offer a basic understanding of the human rights of women as a whole, but because of the wide variety of issues relevant to women's human rights, it should not be considered exhaustive. The hundred-odd page document is divided into five chapters, namely, protection of the human rights of women under international law; key concepts; global commitments; women's rights are human rights iv united nations bodies and the human rights framework in practice.

The publication says that the term "gender equity" has sometimes been used in a way that perpetuates stereotypes about women's role in society, suggesting that women should be treated "fairly" in accordance with the roles that they carry out. This understanding risks perpetuating unequal gender relations and solidifying gender stereotypes that are detrimental to women.

"Inherent to the principle of equality between men and women, or gender equality, is the concept that all human beings, regardless of sex, are free to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices," it is proposed in the publication.

The publication says that the term gender refers to socially constructed identities, attributes and roles for women and men. The term gender is not interchangeable with women. Society's social and cultural meaning for these biological differences results in hierarchical relationships between women and men, and in the distribution of power and rights favouring men and disadvantaging women.

According to book, this social positioning of women and men is affected by political, economic, cultural, social, religious, ideological and environmental factors, and can be changed by culture, society and community. A special right for women, the publication talks about is right to autonomy and reproductive choice.

The publication provides a view point how various women's rights need to be understood to move towards gender equality. It has mentioned that it was in 2000, the international community agreed to eight time-bound development goals to be achieved by 2015, including a goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as one on the reduction of maternal mortality.

This UN publication can work as a supplementary material for the courses of Human Rights Education, functionaries working in the development sector, policy makers, gender studies courses and activists. The publication is available on the Internet also and can be freely accessed.

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