Progress of the World's Women 2015: Are we there yet?

by | Jan 12, 2015

Professor Sandra Fredman and Associate Professor Beth Goldblatt, with the assistance of Meghan Campbell, have prepared a discussion paper ‘Gender Equality and Human Rights’ for the UN Women ‘Progress of the World’s Women 2015’ discussion paper series.

‘Progress of the World’s Women 2015’ is based on more than 30 peer-reviewed background papers commissioned by UN women from leading researchers from different national and regional contexts, exclusively for the report.

Sandra Fredman and Beth Goldblatt’s paper aims to draw out the evolving understandings of equality in order to articulate a clear standard by which to evaluate social and economic policies and thereby to ‘make the economy work for women’.  They show that in the context of women, these understandings are best conceived as an elaboration of the principle of substantive equality.

Based upon a ‘four dimensional approach’ to substantive equality, Fredman and Goldblatt elaborate the four-dimensional framework and evaluate the ways in which the various interpretive bodies understand and apply the principles of equality in international law according to these dimensions. They show that, although not articulated in this way, the dimensions are clearly visible in the application by the various interpretive bodies of the

principles of equality to the enjoyment of treaty rights. At the same time, they show that there are important ways in which these bodies could go further, both in articulating the goals of substantive equality and in applying them in assessing compliance by States with international obligations of equality.

The first part of this paper gives a brief introduction to the background principles of substantive equality and explains the four-dimensional framework. The second part draws out the understandings of equality articulated by the interpretive actors within the UN human rights treaty system within this framework. It also points out some of the shortfalls in the current approach to equality. The third part of the paper

demonstrates how the four-dimensional approach to equality can be used to evaluate the impact of social and economic policies on women to determine how to make the economy ‘work for women’ and advance gender equality. It does so by applying the four-dimensional approach to two contested issues in relation to social security.

A copy of this paper, and others in the series, can be found here.

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