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Women and Universalization on Human Rights

- Shubh Mahalwar

"All human beings are born free" redirects here. It is not to be confused with All men are created equal.

The world today, has embraced the idea that all human beings are entitled to a dignified life and are encouraged. It is a common phenomenon that everywhere, human beings seek the realization of different values to ensure their individual and collective well-being. Nevertheless, in many countries of the world such requests or rights are rejected by repression, injustice, persecution, etc. Human rights gained universal recognition in the wake of World War II, where millions of people lost their lives. Horrified by the loss of life caused by the Second World War, UN leaders vowed to take action to ensure universal respect for and observance of human rights and basic freedoms for all.

Human rights in the field of international law and foreign affairs are also seen as one of the success stories. Once the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, it was generally regarded as a self-evident mechanism for managing the relationship between state, individuals (and communities), the Declaration\'s central purpose being the need to communicate what \'human dignity\' is all about. Nowadays, however, many political regimes around the world offer a different view of human rights, including setting entirely different goals in the wide area that the word \'human rights\' occupies these days. [1]

The word \'human rights\' which has been used since the Second World War has acquired meaning in modern debates and has become a common phenomenon. Following the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December 1948, it was seen by many as a sign of hope for improved security, promotion and regulation of human rights. Nevertheless, 50 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it has been stated that there has been no decline in human rights violations. Censorship, segregation, political incarceration, torture, slavery, disappearance, assassination, extrajudicial executions, illegal arrests and murders, hunger etc. Women\'s and children\'s rights are still being neglected in several different ways.


There are various contemporary human rights interpretations. The UN has described human rights as those rights that are inherent in our state of nature and without which we cannot exist as human beings. \'* Human rights belong to every person and do not rely on the circumstances of the individual or on the relationship between the right-holder and the right- guarantor. Human rights are the rights that everyone has on equal terms for their existence. This is rooted in an appeal to our own nature. In addition, the definition of human rights can be seen as abstract, incontrovertible and subjective. Human rights are universal because they belong to every human being, irrespective of nationality, color, gender, religion or form of government. It\'s indisputable, that is, they are absolute and inherent. Human rights are arbitrary, because they are the property of people who enjoy them because of their independence, agency and autonomy capabilities. [2]
Today, the definition of human rights includes civil and political rights or public freedoms, economic, social and cultural needs, particularly in terms of development, climate, and self-determination; As said, upholding and fostering human rights is a duty of the State. It is also the State\'s responsibility to establish the conditions for peaceful life that require every person in that state to enjoy human rights. Yet with the rising possibility of human rights abuses resulting from State activities.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a landmark document adopted as Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France, by the United Nations General Assembly at its third session, on 10 December 1948. Of the then 58 United Nations leaders, 48 voted in favor, none opposed, eight abstained and two did not vote in favor. The Declaration is made up of 30 articles affirming the rights of a citizen, which were expanded in subsequent international treaties, economic transactions, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions, and other laws, while not legally binding in themselves. The Declaration was the first step in formulating the International Bill of Human Rights, which was completed in 1966 and came into effect in 1976, after they had been ratified by a sufficient number of countries. The aftermath of World War II brought about a revival of the principle of natural rights. Until 1945, the international defense of individual human rights was limited to treaties abolishing slave trade, war laws and minority rights that were signed after the Versailles Treaty (28 June 1919). It was after 1945, that the rights of all human beings came under international law protection.

Immediately after the Second World War, state conduct rules and rights affecting persons within states were rewritten in authoritative international documents such as the 1945 Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations; 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 1948 Convention on Genocide; 1949 modification of the Geneva Conventions; 1950 European Convention on Human Rights; and 1945 United Nations Economic, Science and Cultural Organizations. Many of these documents emerged during World War II with the political imperative to restore public morality. The Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations is addressed to states as moral actors while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) addresses the citizen. [3]

The United Nations Charter, signed on 26 June 1945 at San Francisco, was a document with its origins in the past and hopes for the future that could only be imagined. It reflected the historical evolution on the social organization of humanity. Its provisions were largely based on past experience and found significant, if not correct, expression in earlier instruments. The Charter was a commitment to goals and values, the implementation of which would entail significant modification of institutional and procedural structures in the light of evolving world conditions. It is important to note that not only did the Charter represent restrictions on the freedom of action of a State, it also made provisions for the protection of human rights through the Constitution of each country.

The Charter thus established a fundamental framework for the achievement of international peace, stability and well-being. In this sense, since 1945 the advent of the UDHR, International Covenants, Conventions and Human Rights Treaties, has become very important for the defense and promotion of human rights. [4]


Hansa Jivraj Mehta, a pioneering freedom fighter and women\'s rights activist, was solely responsible for amending a crucial provision of the United Nations General Assembly\'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948. The shift was slight but still significant.
Appointed to the United Nations Humans Rights Commission by India\'s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Hansa sought a small amendment to Article 1 of the UDHR which said, "All men are born free and equal." Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights read after her suggestion, "All human beings are born free and equal." Introducing the notion of gender equality into a text that has become a blueprint for liberal and sovereign democracies all over the world is not a commitment that one can ever take lightly.

Hansa was also active in the drafting of a Hindu Code Bill that aimed to "amend and codify those branches of Hindu law." Through this practice, Hansa aimed to safeguard women\'s civil rights from the interpretation of religious scriptures preferred by conservative but powerful community leaders.

"Mehta played an instrumental role in a women\'s movement that called for the abolition of child marriage (the Sarda Act) and the devadasi system, for better educational opportunities for women, and for reforms of personal rule," When the clock struck midnight on 15 August 1947, on behalf of his family, Hansa presented the first national flag of the newly independent country.

 "We have put on the saffron color, we have fought, we have suffered and we have sacrificed in the cause of the independence of our country. Today, we have achieved our goal. In presenting this sign of our independence, we are offering our services to the nation once again, "she said.

After Independence, she worked on the board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the United Nations Human Rights Council, and her husband Jivraj Narayan Mehta was the first chief minister of Gujarat. She also became the vice-chancellor of a known Indian varsity at Baroda University\'s Maharaja Sayajirao. The Padma Bhushan award in 1959 cemented her reputation as a freedom fighter, reformer, educator and ardent champion of women\'s rights. [5]

Hansa Mehta of India, the only other female delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1947-48, was a staunch fighter for women’s rights in India and abroad. She is widely credited with changing the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is a legend which the Indians should never forget, particularly women. 


1. UNFPA, ’The human rights of women’ (UNFPA, 2006)<> accessed 5 April, 2020.
2. RR Reuther, ‘Women and culture. The case for human rights’ (, 1996)<> accessed 7 April,2020.
3. The protection of human rights Act, 1993.
4. UNGA draft committee, ‘Universal declaration of human rights’, in Paul Williams (eds), (UNGA, 1948).
5. NHRC, “Recommendations of National Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Education for Teaching Professionals Imparting Education in Primary, Secondary, Higher Secondary Levels” (National Human Rights Commission, 2007).