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UN Independent Experts urge States to comply with their International obligations to respect, protect and fulfill women’s rights

Statement on the Occasion of International Women’s Day (8 March)

GENEVA – The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, together with the other UN independent experts mentioned herewith*, urged today States to ensure the realization of women’s rights.

“As we celebrate the International Women’s Day centenary, we jointly remind States of their core obligations to ensure the realization of women’s rights, as established in Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

These obligations comprise the duty to respect, to protect and to fulfil women’s right to non-discrimination and to the enjoyment of equality. This must be amongst their highest priorities but is too often neglected or subject to inadequate or token efforts.

In order to comply with these obligations, States must ensure that laws, policies, programmes and institutional structures ultimately result in the equal enjoyment by women of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. These should also protect women and girls against discrimination committed by private actors. Discrimination that takes place within ostensibly private spaces is not beyond the control and regulation of State institutions.

Therefore, States must urgently implement relevant laws, policies, regulations and procedures. While, in many cases, advances have been made in the adoption of standards and the recognition of women’s rights, the reality of the lives of so many women shows that implementation of standards and commitment on the ground is still unacceptably weak.
Public policies, programmes and institutional frameworks must lead to substantive equality and the full development of women’s potential. Those practices that prejudice and perpetuate the notion of inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes, and of stereotyped roles for men and women must be eliminated.

In meeting their obligations on women’s rights, States must bear in mind that discrimination affects women in different ways depending on how women are positioned within the social, economic and cultural hierarchies that prohibit or further compromise certain women’s ability to enjoy universal human rights. Thus the discrimination of women based on sex and gender is inextricably linked with other factors, such as race, ethnicity, religion or belief, health, status, age, class, caste, and sexual orientation and gender identity.

States’ obligations remain applicable even during armed conflict or in states of emergency caused by mankind or natural disasters and without discrimination, to all those within their territory or under their jurisdiction, including refugees, asylum seekers, migrant workers, victims of trafficking and stateless persons.

 The challenge is to move more decisively from an era of rhetorical engagement to one of implementation and enforcement. Only by doing so, we will honour the resolutions of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which made clear that the human rights of women and girls are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights”.

(*) Special Rapporteur on housing, Ms Raquel Rolnik; SR on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Frank La Rue; SR on human rights defenders, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya; SR on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, SR on migrants, Mr. Jorge A. Bustamante; SR on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo; SR on Palestinian territories, Mr. Richard Falk; Working Group on people of African descent; Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.


“Special procedures” is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Currently, there are 31 thematic and 8 country mandates.

Learn more about the mandate and work of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/CEDAWIndex.aspx

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/vienna.htm

For more information and media requests, please contact Gabriela Guzmán Garza (Tel.: +41 22 917 9412 / email: gguzmangarza@ohchr.org)