Briefing note - 1st session of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice - Geneva, 6-10 June 2011

The 1st session of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice took place in Geneva from 6 to 10 June 2011. The working group was established pursuant to Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 15/23 and its five members were appointed by the HRC in March 2011. All five members, i.e. Emma Aouij (Tunisia), Mercedes Barquet (Mexico), Kamala Chandrakirana (Indonesia), Frances Raday (Israel/United Kingdom) and Eleonora Zielinska (Poland) attended the 1st session. Ms. Kamala Chandrakirana was elected the first Chair of the Group. The Working Group will elect a Chair on a one-year rotation basis. The rotation is expected to take place at the 5th session in October 2012.

During its 1st session, the Working Group developed a preliminary framework to initiate its work in the light of HRC resolution 15/23 tasking the Working Group, amongst others, to prepare a compendium of best practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women or are discriminatory to women in terms of implementation or impact; and to undertake a study on the way and means it can cooperate with States to fulfil their commitments in that regard. The Working Group is mindful of the work carried out by CEDAW, other treaty bodies and Special Procedures mandates, and intends to build on existing standards and initiatives developed by international and regional human rights mechanisms as well as on the available knowledge and tools produced to date by UN bodies, states and civil society on its subject matter.

The Working Group is developing the scope and methodology for identifying best practices beginning with a compilation of approaches to ‘best practice’ within the UN human rights system and beyond. For the purpose of contextualization, the whole spectrum of practices will be examined, including those which have not yielded the expected results.

The Working Group seeks to develop knowledge and tools on best practices employed by States, by national, regional and international human rights mechanisms, by NGOs and by UN agencies to achieve the respect, protection and fulfillment of women’s right to equality, including:

  • in the elimination of laws and regulations that are both directly and indirectly discriminatory to women, such as through constitutional guarantees, judicial review, legislative reform, litigation and case law, political action, religious or cultural hermeneutic projects;
  • in processes which have led to introduction of equality provisions in constitutions, laws and policies; and,
  • in access to justice, including through measures to prevent, prosecute, punish, and redress violations of women’s human rights, transitional justice processes, and specialized national mechanisms or machineries on women’s rights.

Thematically, the Working Group will focus on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice in the following sectors:

  • public life and citizenship (e.g., nationality and citizenship laws; political representation for women);
  • economic life (e.g., employment laws; wage gaps; access to goods and services; economic exploitation of women’s sexuality in trafficking and pornography; policies, practices and codes related to business, transnational corporations and natural resource management);
  • family life (e.g., religious and customary personal law; forced marriage; child marriages); and
  • health and safety (e.g., reproductive rights; violence against women; women in detention; maternal mortality).

The intersection of various grounds of discrimination will be a cross-cutting perspective and particular attention will be given to specific groups of women, including but not limited to, women living in poverty, migrant women, women with disabilities, women belonging to minorities, indigenous women, older women, girl children, including adolescents, women in conflict situations, refugee women, internally displaced women and stateless women.

Pursuant to HRC Resolution 15/23 paragraph 18(d), the Working Group intends to firstly build an information base from the concluding observations of CEDAW and other treaty bodies; the thematic and country visits reports of Special Procedures; CSW resolutions and conclusions; HRC resolutions and UPR reports; regional standards and jurisprudence. It will also explore the availability of statistical data 30 years after CEDAW to show in a dynamic way progress in women’s situation particularly in public and economic life. A qualitative mapping of available sources of information is currently being developed.

During its 2nd session, the Working Group will formulate a questionnaire to obtain further information from all stakeholders relevant to its mandate.

In terms of method of work, the Working Group will conduct communications and country visits in a spirit of soliciting dialogue with Governments as per the mandate given to the Group by the Human Rights Council. It is also interested in convening expert group meetings as a mean to gather information and knowledge on best practices and other matters relevant to its mandate.

The next sessions of the Working Group have been tentatively scheduled as follows:

  • 2nd session: Geneva, 24 - 28 October 2011
  • 3rd session: Geneva, 27 February - 2 March 2012
  • 4th session: New York, 23 - 27 July 2012
  • 5th session: Geneva, 1 - 5 October 2012

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In memoriam