Header image for news printout

UN experts report on the underlying causes of women’s deprivation of liberty

GENEVA (26 June 2019) - A UN human rights group of experts has urged States to combat the underlying causes that lead to the deprivation of liberty of women as part of their obligations to eliminate discrimination against women in law and in practice. 

“Gendered social norms and stereotypes, economic deprivation, and experiences of violence and conflict are underlying causes for the deprivation of liberty of women,” says a report by the experts.

“Deprivation of liberty is a deeply gendered phenomenon,” the Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women, Meskerem Geset Techane, said before presenting a new report to the Human Rights Council. “Combating harmful stereotypes, and the economic and social inequities faced by women is crucial to adequately address women’s deprivation of liberty,” she added. 

The report examines the multiple forms in which women can be deprived of their liberty by both State and non-State actors, not only in detention facilities but also in other public and private institutions, in private homes or community spaces, and in situations of conflict and crisis. 

The expert said that in complying with their obligation to eliminate discrimination against women, States should take action to ensure that gender stereotypes are not embodied in law, policy and practice or institutionalised resulting in deprivation of women’s liberty. 

“This requires modifying or eliminating all laws based on stereotyped gender roles and combating gender stereotypes in the family, community, social and formal institutions. It also entails eliminating any laws or policies criminalising the private as well as public roles of women, and taking measures to ensure the participation of women in political and public spheres.” 

In relation to women’s economic opportunities, the expert said that unequal access to and control over resources, opportunities and services constitutes a key factor in the confinement of women. “Measures should be taken to ensure that resources and social services are available to women, and that the obstacles they encounter to the full enjoyment of their economic and social rights are eliminated.” 

The expert also stressed the importance of taking the necessary steps to provide effective protection for women from gender-based violence at all levels of society and in times of conflict or crisis. 

The report will be presented on 27 June to the Human Rights Council, which can be watched live


The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice was created by the Human Rights Council in 2011 to identify, promote and exchange views, in consultation with States and other actors, on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. The Group is also tasked with developing a dialogue with States and other actors on laws that have a discriminatory impact where women are concerned. 

The Working Group is composed of five independent experts: Ms Meskerem Geset Techane (Ethiopia), Chairperson; Ms Elizabeth Broderick (Australia); Ms Ivana Radačić (Croatia); Ms Alda Facio (Costa Rica),; and Ms Melissa Upreti (Nepal).

For inquiries and media requests, please contact: Ms Hannah Wu (+41 22 917 9152 / hwu@ohchr.org) or Ms. Laura Ramirez (+41 22 917 9668 / spbconsultant7@ohchr.org) or write to wgdiscriminationwomen@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN experts: Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)