Israel and Human Rights: Gender Equality
University of Arizona
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
II. Legal Status of Women in Israel
Israel’s Declaration of Independence
III. Marriage and Divorce
IV. Critique of Observation
Women make up close to fifty percent of the workforce in Israel, yet are paid an average of only sixty-two percent of men's salaries and women also constitute seventy percent of those earning minimum wage or less.1 The Orthodox religious monopoly over marriage, divorce, and other issues of personal status impinges on the rights of Jewish women to marry whomever they choose or obtain a divorce without their husband's consent.2
The hallmark of any enlightened, free and democratic state is evidenced by its treatment of minorities. Women are perhaps the ultimate minority in the world because, ironically, account for fifty percent of the population. A 2012 estimate shows world population of women versus men to be 1.0 female to 1.01 males,3 while in Israel at the end of 2009, there were 3,816,900 women (50.5%) and 3,735,200 men.4
The United Nations Human Rights Council in its seminal document The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “…the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world….”5 In attempting to set forth a document outlining basic human rights such as, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex…,”6 it does not present a clear definition of discrimination. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article Seven states: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without
1 New Israel Fund, Working for Women's Rights, Retrieved 8 May 2012 from http://www.nif.org/issueareas/womens-rights. 2 New Israel Fund, www.nif.org.
3 Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook: Israel, Retrieved 8 May 2102 from . 4 Central Bureau of Statistics: State of Israel, Populations and Demography, Retrieved 8 May 2102 from . 5 United Nations, Human Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Retrieved 8 May 2102 . 6 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”7
What is discrimination?
Various United Nations human rights instruments define the meaning and content of the principles of discrimination and equality. The Charter of the United Nations prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, language or religion. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, enlarged the list to include color, sex, political or other opinion, national or social origins and other status.8
Non-discrimination is also established in regional human rights instruments, including the European Convention, the European Social Charter and the Declaration Regarding Intolerance: A Threat to Democracy, all adopted by the Council of Europe; the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, adopted by the Organization of African Unity; and the American Convention of Human Rights, adopted by the Organization of American States.9
Some United Nations conventions define discrimination. Article 1, paragraph 1, of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (General Assembly resolution 2106 A (XX) annex) defines the term “discrimination” as “any distinction,...
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