International Women’s Day

José Zalaquett

José Zalaquett

Head of the Project at MOOC Chile
Lawyer, Universidad de Chile. Doctor Honoris Causa, by the Universities of Notre Dame and City University of New York.
José Zalaquett

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On March 8 the International Women’s Day was commemorated. The deep skepticism of many vis-avis this kind of commemorations is understandable. In recent times they have multiplied, spurred by United Nations or by shopping malls. However, both International Women’s Day and Human Rights Day (celebrated every December 10) are not the object of such scorn. Perhaps this is so because both dates relate to causes which are dear to a considerable part of humankind.

It is also the case that these two commemorations, just like labor’s day, celebrated all around the world on May 1 (except in the USA) remember very important historical events whether mournful or celebratory. May 1 the martyr workers of Chicago; December 10 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. International Women’s Day, also called International Working Women’s Day recalls that on March 8, 1908, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union went on strike. Three years later, 140 working women died in an arson that destroyed the premises of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, in Manhattan.

In light of the social order moral standards generally accepted nowadays, it would seem that the human society was quite barbarian in the not-too-distant past. More so if we remember that still by mid 20th-century in many countries women didn’t have the right to vote.

In fact, the long struggle for the recognition of women’s rights was initiated in the late 18th century, although there are more remote antecedents. From that time onwards, and particularly since the second half of the 19th century progress has been quite rapid. Following the end of World War II, the body of international human rights role emerged. Many international treaties will have focused on women’s rights (notably CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women). This treaty, besides proclaiming many women’s rights, declares that special temporary measures aimed at accelerating the de facto equality between man and woman (wrongly called positive discrimination) are not discriminatory.

The feminist movement has new grounds for advancing its agenda in the body of international human rights law. Thus, although there is much to be done, significant progress has been made in the area of gender equality.

For these reasons, this year our free MOOC course, which may be followed in this website, will focus on gender equality and sexual diversity. This last cause has developed quite fast in the last few decades.

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