International law originates as a social promise or understanding that is not legally binding. It is then put into force through formalities such as:
- International customs
But it is up to signatory nations to ratify these laws by enacting it into domestic law before there is any true force.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex ... or other status.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
This convention aims to put an end to sex-based discrimination, which is defined as:
"Any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
Green = signed and ratified
Yellow = only signed
Red = not signed
CASE STUDY: GUATEMALA
In Guatemala, there are not many laws that restrict women's rights per se - there are no restrictions to women's rights in relation to inheritance, land ownership, or finance. In 2002, the Penal Code was amended to criminalise discrimination against women.
However, in reality, women's rights are subjugated by the culture and mindset of Guatemalan people. The rate of crimes against women in Guatemala are extremely high, and women are commonly being kidnapped, sexually abused, tortured and murdered brutally simply because they are women. Over 700 women and girls a year have been reported to have been murdered, and the government and authorities are doing very little to bring about justice and truth. Culprits or suspects of the murders are rarely detained, police and forensic investigations are lax, statistics are often distorted, and state-employed officials such as police have also been attributed to the crimes.
This is because Guatemala has suffered civil unrest for over 35 years. Men commonly possess weapons and arms, and have thus grown accustomed to violence and power. Coupled with this is the cultural notion that women are inferior to men.
Examples of how the law curtails women's rights:
- Violence against women is prohibited by law, but violence is not punishable by prison sentences
- Domestic violence can only lead to legal proceedings if visible traces of abuse remain on the victim for at least 10 days
- Rapists are exempt from prosecution if they are married to their victim
- The Penal Code states that a woman must be "honest" to be considered a victim of sexual assault