Women’s Rights

Throughout the world discrimination and violence against women remain a scourge. In numerous countries, discrimination is inscribed in law, from criminal laws to laws on marriage, inheritance and access to property. Even in countries where women have obtained equality in law, discrimination continues in practice. Women are significantly under-represented in decision-making positions. Violence against women prospers, often fuelled by inadequate laws, obstacles to access to justice and inaction on the part of public authorities who tolerate such violations. The absence of adequate sanctions favours a climate of impunity which contributes to the repetition of these crimes.
Yet women are not only victims. Everywhere women are also the main actors in the struggle for emancipation.

In this context, FIDH has made the protection and promotion of women’s rights a priority. Alerted by national member and partner organisatons, FIDH:
- documents violations of women’s rights;
- advocates for the abolition of discriminatory laws and for the adoption of laws protecting women from discrimination and violence;
- activates regional and international women’s rights protection mechanisms;
- supports and represents victims of sexual violence in legal proceedings.

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  • Discrimination in law and practice

    The struggle against misogyny and patriarchy - which continue to dominate all regions of the world - necessitates the elimination of discrimination and the guarantee of equal rights between men and women in law and practice. FIDH advocates for the ratification without reservation of international and regional women’s rights protection instruments (the CEDAW Convention and its Optional Protocol, the African regional Maputo Protocol...) and for their effective implementation. In collaboration with national members and partners, FIDH calls on states to reform legislation in accordance with these instruments.
    FIDH has participated in the launch of two major regional campaigns aimed at fighting discrimination against women:
    - The campaign "Equality without reservation", initiated in 2006, unites women’s rights and human rights NGOs in Arab countries to bring about the withdrawal of reservations to CEDAW. The campaign has contributed to the withdrawal of reservations by Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, opening the way for reform of national discriminatory laws.
    - The campaign "Africa for Women’s Rights", launched in 2009, led by more than 100 NGOs across the continent, calls on States to ratify and respect international and regional women’s rights protection instruments in law and practice.

  • Sexual and reproductive rights

    On all continents, repressive legislation criminalising access to abortion remains in force, resulting in serious violations of women’s rights. In many countries, the law imposes an absolute prohibition on abortion. Elsewhere, limited exceptions are permitted, in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman, rape, incest or malformation of the foetus. These laws usually contain additional - often costly - procedural restrictions (medical certificate signed by one or several doctors, decision of a court) which prevent women having recourse to abortion in practice, even in the cases allowed by law.
    The consequences are violent and sometimes deadly. In addition to regulating women’s bodies, such laws encourage recourse to clandestine and unsafe abortions. For young girls, carrying a pregnancy to term can have disastrous effects on their bodies and their futures. Most of the countries which refuse to recognise the right to abortion also inflict criminal penalties on women who undergo illegal abortions as well as on the medical personnel who practise such abortions. The United Nations has repeatedly called on states to abolish these repressive laws.
    FIDH documents violations of the rights of women and girls caused by restrictions to access to abortion, to life, health, education and participation in public life, and advocates for the adoption of reforms which respect women’s rights.

  • Violence against women

    Violence against women is a global plague: domestic violence, rape, including marital rape, sexual and gender-based crimes committed during armed conflict, attacks on women human rights defenders...
    FIDH promotes access to justice for victims of these crimes. In every state, access is limited as a result of inadequate legislation, stigmatisation of victims and fears of reprisals, ill-adapted legal systems, costs of proceedings... and impunity prevails.
    FIDH documents obstacles to access to justice at the national level and advocates for legal, institutional and political reforms. FIDH provides legal support and representation to victims of sexual and gender-based crimes at the national and regional level. FIDH also calls on the International Criminal Court to strengthen its contribution to fighting impunity for such crimes, including by systematically including sexual and gender based crimes in prosecution strategies.