rights to life and liberty, to freedom of expression and opinion, to participation in government and choice of employment, and to private property and general security in one's person these are just some of the rights that people around the globe have come to recognize as human rights those rights that all individuals have simply by virtue of their very humanity; rights that we expect all societies to guarantee to their citizens irrespective of a person's race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity; rights that we should have no matter where we live or who we are(Ishay 2004). Understood as universal and inalienable, human rights have come to represent a common standard, a set of international norms against which we measure the actions of governments and the practices of communities (Beitz, 2001). They have come to function as the grounds on which we challenge particular policies and actions of states and the basis upon which we demand change or imagine a different, better future (Ignatieff, 2001). With all that they do, with all that we expect from them, it is not surprising that human rights are cherished the world over (Campbell, 2009).
Traditional Practices on Women and Children
24 May 1984, the UN Economic and Social Council requested the Secretary-General (resolution 1984/34) to entrust to a working group composed of experts designated by the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities ; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ; and the World Health Organization the task of conducting a comprehensive study on the phenomenon of traditional practices affecting the health of women and children; and requested all interested non-governmental organizations to cooperate in the study(Power, 2002: Author, 2003).
Effects of Traditional Practices on Women and Children
Working Group on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children held three sessions at the European office of the United Nations in Geneva, the first in March 1985, the second in September of that year, and the third in January 1986. On the basis of the documentation available to it, the Working Group submitted a report to the Commission on Human Rights (UN Doc. E/CN.4/1986/42) in which it accorded priority consideration to such practices as
.Preferential treatment for male children, and
.Traditional birth practices (Perry 2008).
term, as used by the Working Group, refers to the traditional practice which consists in cutting away all, or part, of the external female genital organs. Although in most countries where it is practiced it is an integral part of the initiation rite," the operation has been shown to involve significant risks of damage to the mental and physical health of girls and women (Nussbaum, 2007, p. 273).Preference
Preference of parents for male children is a tradition in many parts of the world and often manifests itself in neglect, deprivation, or discriminatory treatment of girls to the detriment of their mental and physical health. According to the report of the Working Group, "it refers to a whole range of (Placeholder1)values and attitudes that are manifested in many different practices whose common feature is preference for the male child with daughter neglect often a concomitant result. It may mean that a female child is disadvantaged since its birth, and may determine the quality and quantity of parental care and extent of investment on the child's development. It may lead to acute discrimination, particularly in settings where resources are scarce. Although neglect is the rule, in extreme cases son preference may lead to selective abortion or female infanticide but more often it involves neglect."areas most affected by the practice, the Working Group found:
seem to be South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan), the Middle East (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey), and parts of Africa (Cameroon, Liberia, Madagascar, and Senegal) (Mill 2001). In Latin America, there is evidence of abnormal sex ratios in mortality in Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay (www.aacap.org, 2011, pp.1).
its consideration of traditional childbirth practices, the Working Group points out in its report that not all of them are harmful, and some are either beneficial or at least harmless. Among the beneficial practices, it lists breastfeeding, especially traditional "on demand" 12-month breastfeeding, which results in protection from infections and better nutrition and prolongs the intervals between births, and other traditional methods of birth spacing (Campbell, 2009).
Action taken on the Report
examining the Working Group's report, the UN Commission on Human Rights requested the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (resolution 1988/57) to consider, at its 1988 session, measures to be taken at the national and international levels to eliminate the practices described therein (Bouchet, 2002). The Sub-Commission, responding to that request, called upon Mrs. Halima Embarek Warzazi (Morocco), who had acted as Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working Group, to study, on the basis of information to be gathered from governments, specialized agencies (Mayerfeld, 2003, p. 93). Other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations concerned, recent developments with regard to traditional practices affecting the health of women and children and to bring the results of her study to the attention of the Sub-Commission at its 1989 session (www.aacap.org, 2011).
may conclude as among the harmful practices, it describes some of those considered to be the most harmful, including culturally prescribed dietary practices during pregnancy and puerperium, such as restrictions, in various localities, on the eating of meat, eggs, green vegetables, fruit, rice, milk, potatoes, and other nourishing foods; childbirth attended only by traditional birth attendants (TBAs), relatives, or no one at all in dark, secluded, and unsterile hideaways; unhygienic examinations, procedures, and operations; and improper treatment of complications, especially when TBAs delay recourse to trained medical.
An-Na'im, A. (2002a), Human rights in cross-cultural perspectives: A quest for consensus Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp.52-66Na'im, A. (2002b), The legal protection of human rights in Africa: How to do more with less Oxford University Press, vol. 21, pp. 89-116
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