Progress and action: defending international human rights standards on women’s rights

From progress to action: defending international human rights standards on women’s rights

52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council – side event

Friday, 24 March, 12:00 PM Central European Time

Feminist activism and advocacy at the United Nations over the last few decades have resulted in significant developments in international human rights norms and standards, particularly for women and girls. These standards cover a broad range of issues and rights, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality, participation in public affairs, freedom of expression and assembly, as well as multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, including those based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, sex characteristics, disabilities, among others.

Critical feminist mobilisation and advocacy in global spaces, coupled with States’ political will, have also enabled the creation of several UN mandates dedicated to leading normative development on women’s and girls’ rights and to addressing violations of women’s and girls’ human rights. Mechanisms such as the UN Working Groups on Discrimination Against Women and Girls, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls and the CEDAW Committee have enabled great advances in international human rights law on women’s and girls’ rights. For instance, the trend towards the liberalization of abortion laws over the past 25 years has led to a significant decrease in unsafe abortions and maternal mortality and morbidity.

Nevertheless, during recent years these gains have been at risk of being rolled back, with human rights, feminist, intersectional and queer analysis being sidelined. Across the globe, upfront or disguised attempts to undermine the advancements made on women’s and girls’ rights in general, and on sexual and reproductive rights in particular, are becoming more evident. In this context, human rights defenders working on sexual and reproductive health and rights are confronted with shrinking civil society space and direct attacks because of the issues they work on and, oftentimes, also because they are women and girls themselves, facing gender stereotypes and multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including because of their age, diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.

The global patriarchal system, therefore, threatens advances made on women’s and girls’ rights and increases the opposition to gender equality.

This side event aims to create a space for dialogue about the key achievements of feminist activism at the national and international levels, and the further progress needed.
It will also present the voices of women human rights defenders working on a range of issues and will aim to highlight how their activism, together with the responses of the UN human rights mechanisms, are crucial to defending women and girls’ rights. The event will also provide an area of discussion around the role the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms can play in furthering women’s and girls’ rights and in safeguarding key protection for women and girls in all their diversity.


Co-organised by:

Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Center for Reproductive Rights ILGA World, CREA, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPD), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW) and the Sexual Rights Initiative


Co-sponsored by:

the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Uruguay, OHCHR and UNFPA, UN Women



Peggy Hicks, Director of the OHCHR Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division
Ivana Radačić, Member from the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls
Ms Leticia Bonifaz Alfonzo, CEDAW Member
Julia Ehrt, Executive Director at ILGA World
Sonia Correa, researcher and activist
UN Women Representative (TBD)