​​​​​Women’s Human Rights and Gender Equality

© OHCHR photo 

Gender equality is at the very heart of human rights and United Nations values. A fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter adopted by world leaders in 1945 is "equal rights of men and women", and protecting and promoting women's human rights is the responsibility of all States. The High Commissioner for Human Rights recently pledged to be a Geneva Gender Champion committing to advance gender equality in OHCHR and in international fora.

Yet millions of women around the world continue to experience discrimination:

Moreover, some groups of women face compounded forms of discrimination -- due to factors such as their age, ethnicity, disability, or socio-economic status -- in addition to their gender.

Effectively ensuring women’s human rights requires, firstly, a comprehensive understanding of the social structures and power relations that frame not only laws and politics but also the economy, social dynamics and family and community life. 

Harmful gender stereotypes must be dismantled, so that women are no longer viewed in the light of what women "should" do and are instead seen for who they are: unique individuals, with their own needs and desires.

The international framework

Discrimination based on sex is prohibited under almost every human rights treaty - including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which under their common article 3 provide for the rights to equality between men and women in the enjoyment of all rights.

In addition, there are treaties and expert bodies specifically dedicated to the realization of women's human rights:

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Considered the international bill of rights for women, the Convention defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1979 and came into force on 3 September 1981.

The CEDAW Committee

Oversight of the Convention is the task of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a group of 23 independent experts on women's rights from different States that have ratified the Convention. Countries that are parties to the Convention must submit reports detailing their compliance with its provisions every four years. The Committee (the treaty body) reviews those reports and may also hear claims of violations and inquire into situations of grave or systemic contraventions of women’s rights.

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women

In 1994 the United Nations resolved to appoint a Special Rapporteur - an independent expert -- on the causes and consequences of violence against women. The Special Rapporteur investigates and monitors violence against women, and recommends and promotes solutions for its elimination.

The Working Group

In 2010 the Human Rights Council established a Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice to promote the elimination of laws that discriminate against women and/or have a discriminatory impact on them.

Feature stories

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Meetings, events and workshops

16 May 2017
Expert Workshop on the best practises to promote women’s equal nationality rights in law and in practice 

7 March 2016
International Women's Day event on invisible gender bias 

Past meetings, events and workshops

Studies, reports and papers

NEW! Developments in Laws - infographics (2017) (English only).

Women's Rights in Africa (2017). The publication is only available in English for the moment.

SG report on Child, Early and Forced Marriage A/71/253

Tool for the integration of a gender perspective in SGBV-related judgments (Spanish only)

Infographics on Violence against Women and Education

Gender related killing - Ebook

Report on attacks against girls seeking access to education

All documentation


First OHCHR self-learning virtual course on the Latin American Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women (femicide/feminicide)

Call for Inputs: Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 32/13

Submissions for report on the realization of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl Human Rights Council Resolution 32/20

Follow-up report on the application of the technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity

Call for Inputs: Report of the Secretary General on progress towards ending child, early and forced marriage worldwide pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 69/156

HC's oped - Human Rights of Women webpage  

Submissions into OHCHR compilation of good practices and major challenges in preventing and eliminating female genital mutilation, pursuant to HRC resolution 27/22

Beijing+20 Review - Human Rights of Women

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Reflections of Courage: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - #reflect2protect