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Thematic reports

A/HRC/26/39: Report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice - Thematic report


01 April 2014

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No country has succeeded in closing the gender gap in all aspects of economic and social life. From her first days to her last, a woman’s experiences will inevitably be marked by the expectations, beliefs, stereotypes, values, opportunities, roles and responsibilities associated with being female in her culture. While every girl is unique and every woman’s life is different, in all societies they share certain aspects of quality of life as a result of living in a gendered and patriarchal reality. Gender discrimination and inequality manifest themselves at all stages of women’s life cycle.


This report addresses discrimination against women in economic and social life, with a focus on economic crisis.

Discriminatory legislation in a number of States continues to obstruct women’s enjoyment of equal rights and access to economic opportunity and resources. The roles and responsibilities assigned to women and men on the basis of stereotypes relegate women to a subordinate status and limit their economic opportunities. A significant number of countries have adopted anti-discrimination measures, but these have not resulted in equality of opportunity in women’s economic and social lives. Women are disproportionately concentrated in informal and precarious employment; they are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination; the wage gap persists; maternity protections have not been fully and effectively implemented; and in many countries women do not have equal rights and access to resources. There has been little attention the negative impacts of the business sector on women’s enjoyment of human rights. Care functions are disproportionately allocated to women and create a major barrier to women’s full participation in economic market activity. Violence against women is another obstacle to women’s equal opportunity. Austerity measures taken by some States in response to economic crisis have had a disparate impact on women, increasing the precarity of their employment and their burden of unpaid care work. The Working Group calls for the establishment of gender-responsive and effective accountability systems at the international, regional and national levels to eliminate all forms of de facto discrimination against women.


The report contains a number of recommendations to support States in developing and implementing comprehensive measures, such as:

  • Eliminating discriminatory laws which create barriers to women’s formal or informal employment
  • Eliminating all discriminatory laws and practices which prevent girls from completing their education
  • Ensuring that prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, pregnancy or parenthood, are enforced for all women in work
  • Imposing on employers the obligation to pay equal pay for equal work or work of equal value
  • Taking measures to reduce and reconstruct informal work
  • Taking positive measures to accelerate de facto equality for women in leadership positions in corporate, financial and trade institutions and enterprises
  • Integrating the care economy as an integral part of macroeconomic policy and recognize the right to care as an economic and social right which requires a social protection floor
  • Providing adequate non-contributory pensions, on an equal basis with men, as a core social and economic right
  • Taking preventive measures, deter and severely punish all forms of gender-based violence and sexual harassment against women.

Inputs received

In the preparation of this report, the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice has availed itself of a wealth of information gathered, among others, through global and specialized background papers. It also convened a Workshop on Business and Gender during its 8th working session on 2-3 October 2013 in Geneva.

Background papers and other written submissions


Economic Participation, Formal and Informal:

Women’s participation in economic leadership and gender analysis of corporate responsibility:

Access to resources:

The impact of parenthood and care functions:

Older Women:

Violence against Women:

Other Materials:

These papers were submitted to the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice to help inform its thematic report. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the Working Group.

Issued By:

Working Group on discrimination against women and girls

Delivered To:

Human Rights Council - twenty-sixth session