Declaration of the Rights of Women

I have been reading Joan Smith’s excellent book, The Public Woman . I’ll be reviewing the book in more depth soon plus interviewing the author herself (details of that will be in the newsletter if you don’t want to miss it) but I wanted to share a small yet immensely important, part of it with you immediately.

Joan Smith via IndependentIt is a very good book, albeit in a slightly depressing way: depressing because I cannot believe that feminism has come so far yet in reality moved so little distance. That said, it is a book I wholeheartedly recommend to you, and I think it should be required reading for every politician.

The conclusion of the book is that when human rights are referred to we may as well be talking about ‘men’s rights’. Human rights have failed to address the issues of women:

From it’s 18th-century beginnings, human rights theory has concentrated on the fairer redistribution of economic and political rights among a category of people – namely men- which already enjoys them. It has not been imaginative enough to challenge the specific oppression of women and girls, who are still second class citizens in many countries…

Joan introduces her own bill of rights for women and I have reproduced it here because I think it’s brilliant and I wanted to share it with you. Even if you never read the book (and I hope you do) please do read and savour the following:


Women are born free and equal to men. All human beings have the same rights; they have a responsibility to ensure that those rights are enjoyed by everyone, regardless of gender.


Women and girls have the same right to bodily integrity as men and boys. No one should be expected to tolerate physical or sexual abuse, sexual harassment or any form of genital mutilation.


Women have the right to safe contraception and abortion. They should be able to live with any children they bear until the child reaches the age of 16, except in cases of abuse.


Girls are entitled to the same level of education as boys. Literacy is essential to enable women to participate in civil and political society.


No one, whether male or female, should be married under the age of 16; in some circumstances, 18 may be preferable. Adults have an absolute right to choose partners of either sex or live alone.


Women and girls have an unconditional right to use and enjoy public space, for both social and political purposes. They have the right to exercise, take part in sport and observe it on the same terms as men.


The law should not dictate how women dress, except in circumstances where safety or identification requires it. Children cannot give informed consent and should not be required to adopt religious forms of dress.


Women have a right to equal working conditions and pay, and to transparency in pay structures so that it can be enforced.


Women should enjoy the same property and inheritance rights as men.


Abuse on grounds of gender is as abhorrent as racism.


Law should be secular and apply equally to men, women and children. Separation of church and state is essential to protect human beings from discrimination on grounds of belief or absence of it.


The state has a moral obligation to ensure that women and girls are free to enjoy these rights, and to guarantee them when they are denied.

If you can think of anything you’d add, do share.

Thinking of expanding your training business? Are you passionate about empowering women? I can help you! To find out how, click here.

Photo of Joan smith via Independent Newspaper




Posted on June 11th, 2013 by

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