Applying a gender lens to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Women experience business-related human rights abuses in unique ways and are often affected disproportionately. Women also face multiple forms of discrimination and experience additional barriers in seeking access to effective remedies for business-related human rights abuses. Therefore, in order to effectively meet their respective human rights duties and responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), States and business enterprises need to give special attention to the unique experiences of women and the structural discrimination or barriers that they face.

The UNGPs acknowledge the importance of gender in several places. Despite these references to gender in the UNGPs, the business and human rights (BHR) discourse has not so far given adequate attention to the differentiated impacts of business-related human rights abuses on women and the additional barriers that they face in accessing effective remedies to redress such abuses. Therefore, further guidance to both States and businesses on how to adopt a gender lens in implementing the UNGPs is needed. Against this background, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights is launching a thematic project to unpack the gender dimension of the UNGPs.

Key objectives of this project are to:

1.   Raise sensitivity amongst all stakeholders about the need to adopt a gender lens to implement the UNGPs and in turn mainstream the women issues within the BHR field; 

2.   Develop guidance to assist both States and business enterprises with practical recommendations for what it means to protect, respect and remedy the rights of women in a business context in line with the UNGPs; and

3.   Bring together various agencies, institutions, organizations and actors working in the BHR field to continuously explore ways to empower women who are at-risk or have been adversely affected by business-related human rights abuses.

Although ‘gender’ is a broad concept, this project will focus on how the intersection of business with human rights impacts on women. In doing so, the project will also seek to support and complement broader efforts to combat gender discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In undertaking this project, the Working Group will be consulting with other UN mechanisms (such as the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women), ILO, UN Women and a range of other stakeholders, including States, business representatives, business associations, trade unions, civil society groups, and victims of business-related human rights abuse.


A multi-stakeholder consultation on 30 November 2017 in Geneva will be an opportunity to bring together all relevant stakeholders engaged with women rights generally or working in the BHR field to brainstorm collectively on how to accomplish the project objectives. Subsequent regional consultations will be held in 2018.