Protecting women’s human rights and achieving legal, economic and cultural equality for women in all areas of society remain key challenges, which have only increased as a result of conflicts, tyranny, displacement and unregulated migration.
The German Government works both at bilateral level and within the framework of the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and other international organisations to enhance women’s rights and foster gender equality.
Women’s human rights
Sexual abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence, forced marriage and genital mutilation are human rights violations that primarily affect women and girls. In addition, traditional values, roles and behavioural patterns often lead to women being specifically disadvantaged as regards their economic, cultural and social rights, such as access to food, education or healthcare.
Women and girls are also particularly subject to the effects of (civil) war, refugee movements resulting from conflict, and sexual violence and rape, which are increasingly being used as weapons of war. Women often suffer multiple discrimination, disadvantaged not merely due to their gender but also because they belong to an ethnic or social minority, or on the grounds of their sexual orientation (multiple violation of human rights). Improving women’s human rights therefore remains a central element of the German Government’s human rights policy.
Gender equality and gender equity
The framework for the German Government’s international gender-equality policy is defined by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the resolutions adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and the findings of the review of the implementation progress (most recently in 2015). It is further defined by various other instruments, such as the conclusions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and resolutions by the Security Council and Human Rights Council. The German Government’s policy is also based on regional agreements, for example the European Convention on Human Rights. The acquis is supplemented and updated by the addition of new documents, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A large number of international agreements and instruments in the field of women’s rights sets clear goals and obligations for the international community, such as gender equality and the elimination of discrimination. The problem lies in the consistent implementation of these goals. Germany and its EU partners have agreed on means and ways to achieve these goals, including concrete projects to support women and girls, in the EU Guidelines on Violence against Women and Girls and Combating all Forms of Discrimination against them.
Large number of projects on gender equality
As part of its efforts to promote women’s rights, the Federal Foreign Office provides support to a large number of projects aimed specifically at gender equality, as well as other human rights projects furthering objectives such as good governance, education and healthcare in various countries and regions.
Public awareness campaigns, conducted in collaboration with local non-governmental organisations, are at the forefront of this work. These projects include providing training on women’s rights in Nicaragua and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, supporting measures to prevent violence against women in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, promoting internally displaced women’s involvement in politics in Colombia, supplying advice on implementing women’s economic and social rights in Morocco and on their access to justice in Cambodia, promoting women’s electoral rights in Côte d’Ivoire and holding business start-up seminars for Kurdish-Iraqi women.
Gender equality in the UN: UN Women
UN Women (short for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) places equal emphasis on the UN’s normative and operational work in the field of gender equality and gender equity. It is tasked with promoting the cross-cutting topic of equal opportunities throughout the whole UN system, providing political advice to multinational bodies and member states, and running development programmes on the ground.
UN Women works on the basis of the entire UN acquis on gender equality, which includes the Platform for Action and Declaration adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security, the role of women in peace processes and conflicts.
The Commission on the Status of Women, which was established in 1948 on the initiative of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to promote women’s rights and ensure gender equality, monitors UN Women’s normative work.