The Role of Islamic Shari’ah in Protecting Women’s Rights
United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, United Nations, March 10, 2009
21 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2009 Last revised: 31 Oct 2011
Date Written: September 1, 2009
On Dec. 10, 2008, the international community celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is championed as recognition around the world of ideals that U.N. member nations strive to achieve. But the UDHR is paradoxically neither universally recognized nor universally accepted.
A specific reaction arising from the formation of the UDHR is the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) on August 5, 1990. Members of the CDHRI felt that this statement better encapsulated their notion of basic human rights, especially as defined by shari’ah law. In the Western world shari’ah is often associated with a negative connotation, especially in relation to women’s rights. These same critiques have been directed to the CDHRI. At the same time, shari’ah is taking a more central position in the world stage, both for Western countries with domestic minorities of Muslims, and in Muslim majority countries.
This paper will review whether the CDHRI and shari’ah can address areas of concern and meet standards in the UDHR within the legal framework. The enormous flexibility afforded to Shari’ah does allow the gap between common practices as human rights ideals to be closed, and in some instances Shari’ah continues to provide more rights to women than in the Christian tradition or UDHR.
Keywords: shariah, shari'ah, Islam, Islamic law, women, women's rights, human rights, international law, conflict of laws, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam
JEL Classification: K33, D63, K11, K12, J68, J38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation