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Gender Discrimination for Religious Reasons in Islamic Countries and International Human Rights Treaties


Maryam Mosavi

Gender equality rights are fundamental human rights that are recognized in international human rights treaties, which bind states to eliminate gender discrimination formally and in practice. Islam is recognized as the official religion in the constitutional law of Islamic countries; religious scholars have the competence to interpret Islamic law, resulting in creating a series of unequal rights for women based on Islamic law, which often continues in legal structures. Nevertheless, a majority of Islamic countries have ratified the international human rights treaties but have put reservations in place based on Sharia concerning articles on gender equality rights. Therefore, this dissertation addressed that the degree to which international law has accepted gender discrimination for religious reasons.
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The human rights system creates mechanisms to promote and protect fundamental human rights. The first step is to define the fundamental rights as basic human rights that belong to everyone without any discrimination. Second, human rights law obliges states to ‘respect, ensure and fulfill’ fundamental rights through appropriate measures in their legislation and policies; and the third step contains monitoring mechanisms that determine to which degree states meet their obligations under human rights treaties.

Equality and non-discrimination are fundamental human rights because respect for human rights and fundamental rights will be guaranteed when discrimination is not permitted. However, the right to equality and non-discrimination have two different concepts. Still, in parallel, they promote the right to equality and endeavor to eliminate any and all forms of discrimination. Therefore, in human rights law, this is known as ‘the right to equality and non-discrimination’, which must be guaranteed in the law (de jure) and also in practice (de facto).

The concept of discrimination provides a list of ‘prohibited grounds’; the particular reference to ‘or other status’ or ‘any kind of discrimination’ creates an ‘open-ended’ situation for the recognition of extending the ambit of a ‘prohibited ground’.1 Gender-based discrimination is one of these and recognizes in general and specialized international human rights treaties; these set forth international gender equality standards.

Although several states recognize the general terms of gender equality and non-discrimination in their national constitution, which does not formulate any detailed framework. Thus, they put forth...

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