Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 206 | Septiembre 1998


Latin America

A Declaration of Human Rights For the 21st Century

Committee of Latin America and the Caribbean for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born exactly fifty years ago, in 1948. A new initiative by Latin America's women is now touring the continent in search of discussion and support for its approval in the United Nations.

The universal declaration of human rights, signed after the Second World War in 1948, marked the beginning of an era in which states pledged to respect their citizens' rights and to make every effort possible to guarantee peace in the world. It is a fundamental requisite for citizens to know what is established in that Declaration if they are to exercise their rights, since you cannot demand that your rights be recognized if you don't know what they are.

As the norms set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration have been in force for 50 years now, we women believe it is necessary to create a new instrument, one that makes us visible as subjects and incorporates the advances in human rights over the past five decades, especially those related to gender and ethnic identity.

The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM) is an association of individuals and institutions working to promote and defend women's rights in the region's 17 countries. Among CLADEM's priorities are the defense and the extensive and inclusive dissemination of human rights seeking to ensure that nobody is left invisible due to their sex, ethnic identity, race, age, social or economic origin, religion or any other reason.

In line with this objective and in light of the global initiatives being proposed for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, CLADEM is campaigning for a gender perspective to be included in the human rights discourse. The result is the proposed "Universal Declaration of Human Rights from a Gender Perspective," which CLADEM and other women's organizations in the region are campaigning to get the UN General Assembly to approve in its 53rd session in December 1998. Fifty years on, we are not aiming to replace the 1948 Declaration, but to strengthen and enrich it. The text of this proposed document is presented below: -->


In December 1948, the United Nations will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In view of the great significance of this event, CLADEM and other regional and international organizations have drawn up a proposal which it is hoped will be adopted by the United Nations' member states.

1998 is the right moment for states to renew their commitment to human rights, and to incorporate gender and ethnic perspectives which have gained importance since the adoption of the Universal Declaration fifty years ago.

Just as the 1948 declaration has constituted a code of ethics for the second half of the 20th century, we believe that now, on the threshold of the 21st century, states should approve another document for the international protection of human rights that incorporates advances in human rights thinking and experience since 1948, while not in any way undermining the achievements of the Universal Declaration.


CONSIDERING that the contemporary formulation of human rights emerged in an historical context in which the concept of human being was to a great extent limited to the western, white, adult, heterosexual, male owner of assets;
CONCERNED that, due to this limited perception of the human being, the rights of women, indigenous people, homosexuals, children, the elderly, the disabled and other groups have been restricted;
CONVINCED that a holistic and inclusive concept of humanity is needed for the full realization of human rights;
REAFFIRMING the indivisibility, universality and interdependence of human rights;
ASSUMING that in the present context of increasing poverty, inequality and violence it is crucial to strengthen and guarantee the full applicability and interconnection of environmental, reproductive, economic, social and cultural rights; and
CONSIDERING that this Declaration in no way reduces the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or of any other international human rights instrument, and that it does not authorize acts that violate sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of states;
WE THEREFORE PROPOSE THE PRESENT PROJECT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ITS 53RD SESSION for consideration in the preparation of a Declaration for the 21st century.


Article 1

1. All women and men are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

2. All human beings have the right to enjoy all human rights, regardless of race, ethnic identity, age, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, language, religion, political option, national or social origin, economic position, birth or any other condition.

Article 2

1. All people have the right to their own identity as individuals, as members of groups with which they identify, as members of a nation and as citizens of the world, with the necessary degree of autonomy and self-determination in all areas to preserve their dignity and sense of self-worth. This right to identity shall not be negatively affected by marriage.

2. Slavery, servitude and the traffic of women and children in any form, including those that might take place within family relations, are prohibited.

Article 3

1. All human beings have the right to an equitable participation in labor, political and social organizations, as well as access to public elected and non-elected posts.

2. All states must eliminate obstacles to women's full and equal enjoyment of their rights as citizens. In particular, women shall be able to acquire citizenship without discrimination and to exercise the same rights as men to participate in all areas of the nation's public and political life.

Article 4

1. All human beings have the right to express their ethnic and racial diversity, free of any prejudice based on cultural, linguistic, geographical, religious and racial discrimination.

2. All human beings have the right to protection against ethnocide and genocide.

Article 5

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to autonomy and self-determination and to the maintenance of their political, legal, educational, social and economic structures and their traditional ways of life.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to the maintenance of their commercial and cultural relations and to sustain communications across national borders.

3. Indigenous peoples have the individual and collective right to participate in the decision-adopting process of their local and national governments.

Article 6

Individuals belonging to ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic minorities have the right to establish their own associations, practice their own religion and use their own language.

II: The Right to Peace and a Violence-Free Life

Article 7

All people have the right to a violence-free life and to enjoy peace in both public and private life. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. All forms of violence against women constitute a violation of their human rights. Violence may not be used to deny people their right to housing, particularly through forced evictions.

Article 8

1. Migrant or displaced people or refugees and people at a disadvantage due to gender, race, ethnic identity, age, conviction or any other condition have the right to special measures to protect them from violence.

2. All human beings have the right to a life free from armed conflict.

3. Outrages perpetrated against women and children in situations of armed conflict, including murder, rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy, constitute crimes against humanity.

Article 9

1. All citizens have the right to a national budget directed to sustainable human development and the governmental promotion of peace, including measures aimed at reducing military costs, eliminating all weapons of mass destruction, limiting arms to the strict demands of national security and reassigning the resulting funds to development.

2. Women and the representatives of groups in situations of disadvantage have the right to participate in decision-making processes concerning national security and the resolution of conflicts.


Article 10

All human beings have the right to autonomy and self-determination in the exercise of their sexuality, including the right to physical, sexual and emotional pleasure, the right to freedom of sexual orientation, the right to information and education on sexuality and the right to sexual and reproductive health care for the maintenance of their physical, mental and social well-being.

Article 11

1. Women and men have the right to decide on their reproductive life in a free and informed way and to exercise voluntary and safe control over their fertility, free from discrimination, coercion and/or violence, as well as the right to enjoy higher levels of sexual and reproductive health.

2. Women have the right to reproductive autonomy, which includes access to safe and legal abortion.


Article 12

1. All human beings have the right to enjoy the benefits of sustainable human development, as defined in the Declaration on the Right to Development.

2. Decisions taken on national priorities and the assignment of resources should reflect the nation's commitment to the eradication of poverty and the full realization of economic, social and cultural rights. These include the right to physical and mental health, education, adequate housing, food security and equal and equitable access to land, credit, technology, clean water and energy.

Article 13

Each woman and man has the right and responsibility to raise and educate his/her sons and daughters, to do the house work and to provide for the family needs, even after separation or divorce.

Article 14

1. All people have the right to profitable work, to free choice of work, to protection against unemployment, to safe, equitable and satisfactory working conditions and to an adequate standard of living.

2. All people have the right to enjoy equal opportunities and treatment in relation to access to professional orientation services and employment; to equal remuneration for work of equal value; and to social security and other social benefits, including breaks and recreation.


Article 15

Transgenerational responsibility, gender equality, solidarity, peace, respect for human rights and cooperation among states are the bases for the achievement of sustainable development and the conservation of the environment.

Article 16

1. All women and men have the right to a sustainable environment and level of development that ensure their welfare and dignity.

2. All women and men have the right to access to technology that is sensitive to biological diversity, the maintenance of essential ecological processes, and to life conservation systems in industry, agriculture, fishing and pasturage.

Article 17

1. All people have the right to actively participate in local, regional and national environmental management and education.

2. Environmental policies will be aimed at:
a) Providing consumers with adequate information, which can be understood by people of all ages, languages, origin and degrees of literacy.

b) Promoting the elimination of chemical products and pesticides that are toxic and dangerous for the environment, reducing the health risks that affect people both at home and at work in urban and rural zones.

c) Encouraging the production of products that are sensitive to and respectful of the environment and require non-contaminating technologies.

d) Supporting the recuperation of eroded and deforested lands, damaged watersheds and contaminated water supply systems.

For more information and personal or institutional support,


(Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
United Nations, 1948)

Considering that liberty, justice and peace in the world are based on recognition of the intrinsic dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family:
Considering that disregard and contempt for human rights have led to acts of barbarism that outraged the conscience of humanity; and that the advent of a world in which human beings enjoy freedom of speech and beliefs, free from fear and misery, has been proclaimed as man's most elevated aspiration;
Considering it essential that human rights be legally protected, so that men do not find themselves compelled to take the supreme recourse to rebellion against tyranny and oppression;
Considering that the peoples of the United Nations have reaffirmed in the Charter their faith in the fundamental rights of man, the dignity and value of the human being, and the equality of rights of men and women and have declared themselves determined to promote social progress and raise the standard of living within a wider concept of liberty;
Considering that the member states have committed themselves to ensure, in cooperation with the United Nations, universal and effective respect for the fundamental rights and liberties of man:
Considering that a common conception of those rights and liberties is of vital importance for the complete fulfillment of said commitment;
The General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be the common ideal towards which all peoples and nations should strive, so that both individuals and institutions, constantly drawing inspiration from it, promote respect for these rights and liberties through teaching and education, and ensure, through progressive measures of a national and international nature, their universal and effective recognition and application, among both the peoples of the member states and those of the territories under their jurisdiction.


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