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close this bookWomen's Rights are Human Rights - A review of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR, 2000, 36 p.)
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View the documentEDITORIAL - Foreword by the High Commissioner
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Open this folder and view contentsSPECIALIZED MECHANISMS AND TREATY BODIES
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View the documentList of publications by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on gender and human rights of women
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EDITORIAL - Foreword by the High Commissioner

Women's equal dignity and human rights as full human beings are enshrined in the basic instruments of today's international community. From the Charter of the United Nations' endorsement of the equal rights of men and women, to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the subsequent international treaties and declarations, the rights of women are central to our vision of a democratic society.


But the fine words of these documents and of the Vienna Declaration in 1993 and the declaration of Beijing in 1995 stand in sharp contrast to the daily reality of life for millions of women. Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty, 70 per cent are women; the majority of the world's refugees are women; female illiteracy is invariably higher than male illiteracy. Women and girl-children are treated as commodities in cross-border prostitution rackets and the pornography industry. Millions of girls are still subject to genital mutilation, while women in every country are regular victims of domestic violence. In many countries, women lack access to reproductive health care and every day women are targeted in armed conflicts. Women's economic, social and cultural rights continue to be neglected.

There can be no peace, security or sustainable economic development in societies which deny human rights, including the human rights of women. I believe this is gradually being understood by governments and I welcome their willingness to discuss with the United Nations the application of international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

Fighting for women's human rights is a positive struggle which recognizes the quality of a woman's contribution in every aspect of the community: in politics, industry, commerce, education, academia, agriculture and the home. Women are also the true peacemakers and the peace-builders - at the negotiating table and in war-torn communities everywhere.

Practical and creative measures to realize the human rights of women - civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development - are a priority for my Office and for every part of the United Nations system. As the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I am committed to work in partnership with all United Nations agencies and programmes, governments, regional organizations, academic institutions, individuals and the NGO community, but most specially with women throughout the world to promote and protect women's rights and to translate these rights into a better quality of life for all.

Mary Robinson
High Commissioner for Human Rights