INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS
Very few UN Conventions specifically mention Widows, though reference may be made in relation to rights of women.
The following may be of interest to those working in the field of widows' rights.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966
The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right
of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant.
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination
to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all
persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966
The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right
of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 1979
1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination
against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of
equality of men and women:
(a) The same right to enter into marriage;
(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only
with their free and full consent;
(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
(d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital
status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(e) The same rights to decide freely and
responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and
means to enable them to exercise these rights;
(f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship,
trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation;
in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including
the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;
(h) The same rights for both spouses in respect
of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether
free of charge or for a valuable consideration.
2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all
necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration
of marriages in an official registry compulsory.
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (ASEAN Region) 1967
1. Without prejudice to the safeguarding of the unity and the harmony of the
family, which remains the basic unit of any society, all appropriate measures, particularly legislative measures, shall
be taken to ensure to women, married or unmarried, equal rights with men in the field of civil law, and in particular:
(a) The right to acquire, administer, enjoy, dispose of and inherit property,
including property acquired during marriage;
(b) The right to equality in legal capacity and the exercise thereof;
(c) The same rights as men with regard to the law on the movement of persons.
2. All appropriate measures shall be
taken to ensure the principle of equality of status of the husband and wife, and in particular:
(a) Women shall have
the same right as men to free choice of a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
(b) Women shall have equal rights with men during marriage and at its dissolution.
In all cases the interest of the children shall be paramount;
(c) Parents shall have equal rights and duties in matters relating to their children.
In all cases the interest of the children shall be paramount.
UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 1993
Women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights
and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. These rights include,
inter alia :
(a) The right to life;
(b) The right to equality;
(c) The right to liberty and security of person;
(d) The right to equal protection under the law;
(e) The right to be free from all forms of discrimination;
(f) The right to the highest standard attainable of physical and mental health;
(g) The right to just and favourable conditions of work;
(h) The right not to be subjected to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment.
States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom,
tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination. States should pursue
by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women and, to this end, should:
(a) Consider, where they have not yet done so, ratifying or acceding to the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women or withdrawing reservations to that Convention;
(b) Refrain from engaging in violence against women;
(c) Exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance
with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State
or by private persons;
(d) Develop penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation
to punish and redress the wrongs caused to women who are subjected to violence; women who are subjected to violence
should be provided with access to the mechanisms of justice and, as provided for by national legislation, to just and
effective remedies for the harm that they have suffered; States should also inform women of their rights
in seeking redress through such mechanisms;
(e) Consider the possibility of developing national plans of action to promote
the protection of women against any form of violence, or to include provisions for that purpose in plans already existing,
taking into account, as appropriate, such cooperation as can be provided by non-governmental organizations, particularly
those concerned with the issue of violence against women;
(f) Develop, in a comprehensive way, preventive approaches and
all those measures of a legal, political, administrative and cultural nature that promote the protection
of women against any form of violence, and ensure that the re-victimization of women does not occur because of
laws insensitive to gender considerations, enforcement practices or other interventions;
(g) Work to ensure, to the maximum extent feasible
in the light of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation,
that women subjected to violence and, where appropriate, their children have specialized assistance, such
as rehabilitation, assistance in child care and maintenance, treatment, counselling, and health and social
services, facilities and programmes, as well as support structures, and should take all other appropriate
measures to promote their safety and physical and psychological rehabilitation;
(h) Include in government budgets adequate resources for their activities related
to the elimination of violence against women;
(i) Take measures to ensure that law enforcement officers and public
officials responsible for implementing policies to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women
receive training to sensitize them to the needs of women;
(j) Adopt all appropriate measures, especially in the field of education,
to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women and to eliminate prejudices, customary
practices and all other practices based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either of the
sexes and on stereotyped roles for men and women;
(k) Promote research, collect data and compile statistics, especially concerning
domestic violence, relating to the prevalence of different forms of violence against
women and encourage research on the causes, nature, seriousness and consequences of violence
against women and on the effectiveness of measures implemented to prevent and redress violence against women; those
statistics and findings of the research will be made public;
(l) Adopt measures directed towards the elimination of violence against
women who are especially vulnerable to violence;
(m) Include, in submitting reports as required under relevant human
rights instruments of the United Nations, information pertaining to violence against women and
measures taken to implement the present Declaration;
(n) Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines to assist in the implementation
of the principles set forth in the present Declaration;
(o) Recognize the important role of the women's
movement and non-governmental organizations world wide in raising awareness and alleviating the problem of violence
(p) Facilitate and enhance the work of the women's movement and non-governmental
organizations and cooperate with them at local, national and regional levels;
(q) Encourage intergovernmental regional organizations
of which they are members to include the elimination of violence against women in their programmes, as
Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
World Conference on Human Rights
18. The human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. The full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life, at the national, regional and international levels, and the eradication of all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex are priority objectives of the international community.
Gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including
those resulting from cultural prejudice and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth
of the human person, and must be eliminated. This can be achieved by legal measures and through national action and
international cooperation in such fields as economic and social development, education, safe maternity and health care,
and social support.
The human rights of women should form an integral part of the United Nations
human rights activities, including the promotion of all human rights instruments relating to women.
The World Conference on Human Rights urges Governments, institutions, intergovernmental
and non-governmental organizations to intensify their efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights of women
and the girl-child.
22. The World Conference on Human Rights calls upon all Governments to take all
appropriate measures in compliance with their international obligations and with due regard to their respective legal
systems to counter intolerance and related violence based on religion or belief, including practices of discrimination
against women and including the desecration of religious sites, recognizing that every individual has the right to
freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion. The Conference also invites all States to put into practice
the provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion
3. The equal status and human rights of women
36. The World Conference on Human Rights urges the full and equal enjoyment by women of all human rights and that this be a priority for Governments and for the United Nations. The World Conference on Human Rights also underlines the importance of the integration and full participation of women as both agents and beneficiaries in the development process, and reiterates the objectives established on global action for women towards sustainable and equitable development set forth in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and chapter 24 of Agenda 21, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3-14 June 1992).
37. The equal status of women and the human rights of women should be integrated
into the mainstream of United Nations system-wide activity. These issues should be regularly and systematically addressed
throughout relevant United Nations bodies and mechanisms. In particular, steps should be taken to increase cooperation
and promote further integration of objectives and goals between the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission
on Human Rights, the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the United Nations Development
Fund for Women, the United Nations Development Programme and other United Nations agencies. In this context, cooperation
and coordination should be strengthened between the Centre for Human Rights and the Division for the Advancement
38. In particular, the World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance
of working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life, the elimination of all forms
of sexual harassment, exploitation and trafficking in women, the elimination of gender bias in the administration
of justice and the eradication of any conflicts which may arise between the rights of women and the harmful effects
of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism. The World Conference on
Human Rights calls upon the General Assembly to adopt the draft declaration on violence against women and urges States to combat violence against women in accordance with its provisions. Violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law. All violations of this kind, including in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy, require a particularly effective response.
39. The World Conference on Human Rights urges the eradication of all forms of
discrimination against women, both hidden and overt. The United Nations should encourage the goal of universal ratification
by all States of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the year 2000.
Ways and means of addressing the particularly large number of reservations to the Convention should be encouraged.
Inter alia, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should continue its review of reservations
to the Convention. States are urged to withdraw reservations that are contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention
or which are otherwise incompatible with international treaty law.
40. Treaty monitoring bodies should disseminate necessary information to enable
women to make more effective use of existing implementation procedures in their pursuits of full and equal enjoyment
of human rights and non-discrimination. New procedures should also be adopted to strengthen implementation of the
commitment to women's equality and the human rights of women. The Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee
on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should quickly examine the possibility of introducing the right
of petition through the preparation of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the decision of the Commission on Human Rights to consider
the appointment of a special rapporteur on violence against
women at its fiftieth session.
41. The World Conference on Human Rights recognizes the importance of the enjoyment
by women of the highest standard of physical and mental health throughout their life span. In the context of the
World Conference on Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well
as the Proclamation of Tehran of 1968, the World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms, on the basis of equality between
women and men, a woman's right to accessible and adequate health care and the widest range of family planning services,
as well as equal access to education at all levels.
42. Treaty monitoring bodies should include the status of women
and the human rights of women in their deliberations and findings, making use of gender-specific data. States
should be encouraged to supply information on the situation of women de jure and de facto in their reports to treaty
monitoring bodies. The World Conference on Human Rights notes with satisfaction that the Commission on Human Rights
adopted at its forty-ninth session resolution 1993/46 of 8 March 1993 stating that rapporteurs and working groups in
the field of human rights should also be encouraged to do so. Steps should also be taken by the Division for the Advancement
of Women in cooperation with other United Nations bodies, specifically the Centre for Human Rights, to ensure
that the human rights activities of the United Nations regularly address violations of women's human rights, including
gender-specific abuses. Training for United Nations human rights and humanitarian relief personnel to assist
them to recognize and deal with human rights abuses particular to women and to carry out their work without gender
bias should be encouraged.
43. The World Conference on Human Rights urges Governments and regional and international
organizations to facilitate the access of women to decision-making posts and their greater participation in the
decision-making process. It encourages further steps within the United Nations Secretariat to appoint and promote women
staff members in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, and encourages other principal and subsidiary organs
of the United Nations to guarantee the participation of women under conditions of equality.
44. The World Conference on Human Rights welcomes the World Conference on Women
to be held in Beijing in 1995 and urges that human rights of women should play an important role in its deliberations,
in accordance with the priority themes of the World Conference on Women of equality, development and peace.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006
Article 28 - Adequate standard of living and social protection
1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate
standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous
improvement of living conditions, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this
right without discrimination on the basis of disability.
2. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social protection
and to the enjoyment of that right without discrimination on the basis of disability, and shall take appropriate steps
to safeguard and promote the realization of this right, including measures:
a. To ensure equal access by persons with
disabilities to clean water services, and to ensure access to appropriate and affordable services, devices and other
assistance for disability-related needs;
b. To ensure access by persons with disabilities, in particular women and
girls with disabilities and older persons with disabilities, to social protection programmes and poverty reduction
c. To ensure access by persons with disabilities and their families living in
situations of poverty to assistance from the State with disability-related expenses, including adequate training, counselling,
financial assistance and respite care;
d. To ensure access by persons with disabilities to public housing programmes;
e. To ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to retirement benefits
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007
1. Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement
of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training
and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.
2. States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures
to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the
rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.
Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief 1981
Discrimination between human beings on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes
an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned
as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and enunciated in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights, and as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful
relations between nations.
Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages 1962
1. No marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and free consent
of both parties, such consent to be expressed by them in person after due publicity and in the presence of the authority
competent to solemnize the marriage and of witnesses, as prescribed by law.
Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS 2001
61. By 2005, ensure development and accelerated implementation of national strategies for women's empowerment, the promotion and protection of women's full enjoyment of all human rights and reduction of their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS through the elimination of all forms of discrimination, as well as all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful traditional and customary practices, abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, battering and trafficking in women and girls;
Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices
Similar to Slavery Adopted by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries convened by Economic and Social Council resolution 608(XXI) of 30 April 1956 and done at Geneva on 7 September 1956
Each of the States Parties to this Convention shall take all practicable and
necessary legislative and other measures to bring about progressively and as soon as possible the complete abolition
or abandonment of the following institutions and practices, where they still exist and whether or not they are covered
by the definition of slavery contained in article 1 of the Slavery Convention signed at Geneva on 25 September 1926:
(a) Debt bondage, that is to say, the status or condition arising from a pledge
by a debtor of his personal services or of those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value
of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature
of those services are not respectively limited and defined;
(b) Serfdom, that is to say, the condition or status
of a tenant who is by law, custom or agreement bound to live and labour on land belonging to another person and to
render some determinate service to such other person, whether for reward or not, and is not free to change his status;
(c) Any institution or practice whereby:
(i) A woman, without the right to
refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian,
family or any other person or group; or
(ii) The husband of a woman, his family, or his clan, has the right to transfer
her to another person for value received or otherwise; or
(iii) A woman on the death of her husband is liable to
be inherited by another person;
Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (2nd part) 1950
Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons,
their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall
at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof
and against insults and public curiosity.
Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in
particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.