French | Russian | Spanish

Gender lens to the UNGPs

Women (including girls) 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. The commentary to Principle 3 of the UNGPs provides that States should provide appropriate guidance to businesses on “how to consider effectively issues of gender, vulnerability and/or marginalization”, while Principle 7 underlines that States should provide adequate assistance to business enterprises operating in conflict affected areas “to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses, paying special attention to both gender-based and sexual violence”. The commentary to Principle 12 of the UNGPs reads: “Depending on circumstances, business enterprises may need to consider additional standards.

For instance, enterprises should respect the human rights of individuals belonging to specific groups or populations that require particular attention, where they may have adverse human rights impacts on them. In this connection, United Nations instruments have elaborated further on the rights of … women …”. Moreover, the commentary to Principle 20 underlines that business enterprises “should make particular efforts to track the effectiveness of their responses to impacts on individuals from groups or populations that may be at heightened risk of vulnerability or marginalization”, underlining the importance of “using gender-disaggregated data where relevant”.

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 has launched a thematic project to unpack the gender dimension of the UNGPs.  In line with this project, the Working Group presented the guidance on the gender lens to the UNGPs.

Project objectives 

The 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 is focusing on how the intersection of business with human rights impacts women. In doing so, the project also seeks to support and complement broader efforts to combat gender discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In unpacking the respective obligations and responsibilities of States and businesses under the UNGPs in relation to women, the Working Group will draw on the relevant international human rights instruments, notably the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the work of the UN treaty bodies.  The Working Group will also build upon the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

The Working Group is carrying out this project in consultation with other UN mechanisms (such as the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women), OHCHR, ILO, UN Women, UNDP, UN Global Compact, OECD and a range of other stakeholders, including States, business representatives, business associations, trade unions, civil society groups, academics, lawyers and victims of business-related human rights abuse.

The June 2019 HRC report

The Working Group presented during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council, on 26 June 2019, the report on the Gender dimension of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Numerous consultations, multi-stakeholders meetings and conferences, such as the UN Forum, and inputs received from States and other stakeholders, informed this report. Read more about the survey issued for such report and the responses.

The Gender Guidance for the UNGPs is available here in a user-friendly format


The Working Group is convening consultations in different parts of the world to achieve the project objectives. The first multi-stakeholder consultation on 30 November 2017 in Geneva brought together several relevant stakeholders engaged with women rights generally or working in the BHR field to brainstorm collectively on how to accomplish the project objectives. [Summary of Geneva consultation]

The Working Group’s Asia consultation was hosted by Ashoka University’s Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership (GCWL), in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Asia-Pacific and UN Women, on the 20-21 February 2018 at Ashoka University’s campus in Sonipat (near New Delhi) in India. The consultation brought together about 150 participants from more than 30 countries. [Summary of Asia consultation]

The Working Group in collaboration with the OHCHR Regional Office for the Pacific hosted a consultation in Suva Fiji on 30 April 2018. Apart from UN agencies, CSOs and businesses, Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, the Minister for Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, participated in this consultation.

The Working Group’s Africa consultation was held in Nairobi on 12 October 2018. It was co-hosted by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies of University of the Witwatersrand (CALS), Hivos Foundation, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA) and the OHCHR. [Summary of Africa consultation]

The Working Group’s Australia consultation was held in Sydney on 14-15 November 2018. It was co-hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Human Rights Institute, and RMIT University’s Centre for People, Organisation and Work (CPOW). [Summary of Australia consultation]

The Working Group, in collaboration with Geneva Academy and the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, organized a multi-stakeholder expert consultation on 31 January and 1 February 2019 in Geneva. The aim of this consultation was to apply input received during various regional consultations to develop gender guidance specifically for each of the 31 Principles of the UNGPs. [Summary of Multi-stakeholder expert consultation]

The Working Group’s Latin America consultation was held in Mexico City on 21-22 February 2019. It was co-hosted by OACNUDH, UNICEF, ONUWOMEN,  Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos México (CNDH), Comisión de derechos humanos del Distrito Federal(CDHDF), Global Compact- México; Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación ( PODER); Oxfam, Plataforma Internacional contra la Impunidad, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Instituto de Derechos Humanos y Empresas de la Universidad de Monterrey, and Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. [Summary of Latin America Consultation]

Gender roundtable at the 2018 UN Forum

During the 2018 UN Forum, the Working Group organized an interactive roundtable on "Developing a gender lens to business and human rights". A pool of interested stakeholders were divided into small groups to focus on five thematic areas: (i) Sexual harassment and sexual violence against women, (ii) Gender sensitive human rights due diligence, (iii) Economic inclusion and empowerment of women, (iv) Impact of trade, investment and tax regimes on women, and (v) Women’s experiences of accessing effective remedies and defending rights. Each group was encouraged to brainstorm collectively and prepare a brief document to identify challenges, solutions and good practices in one of the five identified areas. These background briefs along with insights gained at “gender café” around these five themes will guide discussion at the roundtable and also inform the Working Group’s forthcoming report on the gender lens to the UNGPs. The five background briefs, as well briefs informed by input received during gender cafés, are as follows:

Gender roundtable at the 2019 UN Forum

During the 2019 UN Forum, the Working Group is organizing an interactive roundtable on "Gender Guidance for the UNGPS: From Paper to Practice".This session seeks to invite diverse stakeholders to showcase, and brainstorm collectively, ways to implement the gender guidance for the UNGPs developed by the Working Group.

Please find the written interventions of panelists during the session:

Further information

If you would like to engage in this project, get further information about consultations or receive updates about the project, please contact the Working Group with “Gender Lens to the UNGPs” in the email subject (