Gender Equality and Human Rights

image of Gender Equality and Human Rights

There is a strong commitment to equality between women and men in international human rights law. The various actors within the treaty system who are tasked with elaborating on the meaning of human rights in international law have given close attention to gender equality. This work evaluates these elaborations against a conception of equality that is substantive. The achievement of substantive equality is understood here as having four dimensions: redressing disadvantage; countering stigma, prejudice, humiliation and violence; transforming social and institutional structures; and facilitating political participation and social inclusion. The publication suggests that there is a growing consensus at the international level on an understanding of substantive equality that reflects the four dimensions set out here. Making this understanding explicit will assist in addressing, through a range of means, the challenges of gendered inequality.




This paper has drawn on the evolving understandings of equality in order to articulate a clear standard by which to evaluate social and economic policies and thereby to ‘make the economy work for women’. It aims to show that in the context of women, these understandings are best understood as an elaboration of the principle of substantive equality along four dimensions: the redistributive dimension, which aims to redress women’s specifically gendered disadvantage; the recognition dimension, which aims to address stigma, prejudice, humiliation and violence; the transformative dimension, which aims to reconstruct basic institutional features that function as obstacles to women; and the participative dimension, which aims to enhance women’s voice and social inclusion.


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