Gender, human rights and security
This chapter reviews the evolution of international human rights law and women’s rights, focusing primarily on the period since World War II. It notes that the history of human rights and equality has been intimately intertwined with conflict-related societal change. The horrors of World War II and the Holocaust led to the adoption of the UN Charter in 1945 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The chapter also notes that progress on women’s rights has been driven by determined advocacy by women’s rights activists. This advocacy led to the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979. These efforts have also been galvanized by international developments, such as the conflict-related atrocities of the 1990s, which led to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) resolutions, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2000s and 2010s. This chapter argues that human rights laws are critically important, but formal declarations are not sufficient; policy action and implementation are key. It stresses how the “war on terror” has been a major setback for international human rights progress, including women’s rights.