Human Rights of Women

Human Rights of Women
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Women’s and girls’ rights are human rights. They cover every aspect of life – health, education, political participation, economic well-being and freedom from violence, among many others. Women and girls are entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of all of their human rights and to be free from all forms of discrimination – this is fundamental to achieve human rights, peace and security, and sustainable development.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action confirms that protection and promotion of human rights is the first responsibility of governments and core to the work of the United Nations. The Platform for Action firmly anchors the achievement of gender equality within a human rights framework and makes a clear statement about State responsibility in delivering on the commitments made.

The Charter of the United Nations guarantees the equal rights of women and men. All major international human rights instruments stipulate ending discrimination on the basis of sex. Almost all countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), described as the women’s international bill of rights.

Yet serious gaps and violations remain in every region of the world today and progress has been unacceptably slow, particularly for the most marginalized women and girls. Discrimination in the law persists in many countries. Women do not participate on an equal footing with men in politics. They face blatant discrimination in labour markets and access to economic assets. The many forms of violence directed explicitly towards women and girls deny them their rights and all too often their lives. Unacceptably high levels of maternal mortality continue in some regions. Upaid care workloads continue to limit women’s enjoyment of their rights.

Protecting women’s and girls’ rights must be embedded in national law and policy firmly anchored in  international human rights standards. Equally important is that laws are implemented, such as through ready access to courts and an expectation of a fair hearing. Women and girls need to know their rights and have the power to claim them. Social attitudes and stereotypes undercutting gender equality must be challenged and changed.

Through the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 189 UN Member States agreed to take action across these areas. The Declaration makes strong commitments to uphold women’s equal rights and end discrimination. The Platform includes women’s human rights as one of 12 critical areas of concern.

It specifies steps to fully implement all human rights instruments, especially CEDAW, to ensure equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice, and to achieve legal literacy. The realization of women’s human rights is critical to achieving progress in all areas of concern of the Platform for Action.

Nearly 20 years on, these promises have been fulfilled only in part. Women’s and girls’ human rights are more widely understood and championed today, but that needs to be the reality for every woman and every girl. No discrimination. No violations. No exceptions.

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Fast facts

Infographic: Human Rights of Women
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In the words of...

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein – Stand in solidarity with courageous women’s human rights defenders

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
Photo: OHCHR

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and has extensive experience in international diplomacy and the protection of human rights. He was the first President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the former President of the UN Security Council. In this op-ed , he discusses achievements and gaps in guaranteeing equal rights for all and stresses the importance and courage of women human rights defenders, and the challenges they face. OHCHR will begin a new campaign on Human Rights Day, 10 December, to galvanize recognition for human rights advocates.

Read his article »


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Editor's picks

“We have to make next year a great year for transformation”

HR Editor's Picks UN Women CEDAW
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Where: France
Organization: UN Women

Nicole Ameline has been a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) since 2008 and its Chair since 2013. She is a Deputy in the French National Assembly and former Minister for Equality in Employment. She speaks to UN Women about the role of the CEDAW Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action.

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Ending impunity for femicide across Latin America

Editors Picks HR OHCHR
Photo courtesy of Denis Bocquet via Flickr

Where: Latin America
Organization: OHCHR, UN Women

More than 65,000 women and girls are murdered annually. Increasing rates of violence against women have been reported across Latin America, particularly as a result of organized crime, human trafficking, drug trafficking and the proliferation of small arms. In response, the UN Human Rights Office and UN Women have developed a Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women in Latin America.

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In Palestine, specialized prosecutors ensure women survivors’ access to justice

Editors Picks HR UNW Palestine
Photo: UN Women/Ventura Formicone

Where: Palestine
Organization: UN Women

UN Women is working with the Attorney General’s Office in Palestine on a human-rights-based approach to handling cases of domestic and gender-based violence, by training public prosecutors in line with international standards and developing operating procedures.

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The women of Amak: Justice for rural survivors of gender-based violence

Editor's Picks HR Amak
Photo: UNFPA/Oscar Duarte

Where: Nicaragua
Organization: UNFPA, UNICEF, FAO, UNDP, IOM, Secretariat for the Development of the Caribbean Coast, Government of Nicaragua

With the support of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Indigenous Justice System, a joint UN programme has trained community judges, better known as ‘wihtas’ to prevent and resolve conflicts in remote, rural regions where court systems are largely inaccessible. The programme is bringing justice to rural indigenous women by helping women stand up against violence.

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South Africa: From Victim to Victor

Where: South Africa
Organization: UNTV for UN Women

In South Africa—a country often referred to as the murder and rape capital of the world—one group of women are especially at risk. Lesbians are increasingly the targets of a particularly heinous crime: "curative" or "corrective" rape, which perpetrators believe will change their sexual orientation. We travel to South Africa to meet several survivors, who are speaking out to confront sexual violence and discrimination.

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1 Life, 1 Story: Zeinab and Manal

Where: Lebanon
Organization: UNHCR

Zeinab and Manal Shehayib were born in Baalbek, Lebanon to an Egyptian father and Lebanese mother. Their father died when the children were young, before he took the steps necessary to pass on his Egyptian citizenship to them. Under Lebanese law, a mother cannot pass on citizenship on to her children. Left stateless as a result, the sisters describe the numerous obstacles they have faced since then.

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Fighting against sorcery related killings

Editors Picks HR Monica Paulus
Photo: UN Women/Vlad Sokhin

Where: Papua New Guinea
Organization: OHCHR

Every year hundreds of people are put to death or tortured because they are accused of using black magic. Women are six times more likely to be accused of sorcery than men. In Papua New Guinea, the belief in black magic is particularly widespread. Meet Monica Paulus, a human rights defender, who has been fighting against sorcery for years and helping women accused if it.

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