Human Rights and Gender Equality in the Context of Business Activities

Completed in February 2020

Background

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UN Working Group) launched a consultation process to apply a 'gender lens' to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

While it is commonly accepted that businesses have legal obligations to respect the equal rights of women and men within the workplace, the precise contours of corporate obligations in relation to the wider economic, social, cultural impact of their activities remain unclear. There is, however, an increasing body of jurisprudence that highlights the gendered impact of corporate activities beyond the workplace.

Objective

This project aimed to support the UN Working Group’s consultation process and thus contribute the promotion and protection of human rights and gender equality in relation to the business sector via research on international human rights law (IHRL) and policies related to gender equality guarantees and their application to business activities, and the organization of a global conference in Geneva.

Research

The research focused on IHRL and policy related to gender equality guarantees and their application to business activities. It outlined existing gender equality provisions in IHRL and in policy documents that are most relevant to the context of corporate activities.

As the area of business responsibilities takes in a huge range of sectors - manufacturing, financial services, the digital economy, extractive industries, hospitality, agriculture, etc. - the project provided a brief overview of the ways in which a gender and women’s rights perspective could be applied within various sectors without seeking to comprehensively cover the entire gambit of business activities in every field.

OUTPUT

This research supported the development by the UN Working Group of its ‘Gender Guidance for the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ via a publication that clarified the responsibilities of companies under IHRL regarding gender equality and the organization of a global conference that marked the end of a large consultative process.

Outlining the Responsibilities of Business Actors in Relation to Gender Equality under International Human Rights Law

The publication Gender Responsive Due Diligence for Business Actors: Human Rights-Based Approaches focuses on the direct responsibilities of business actors to respect and, in some circumstances, facilitate gender equality guarantees under IHRL and details corporate human rights obligations to respect the equal rights of men, women and gender non-conforming people within the workplace, as well as in relation to the wider economic, social and cultural impact of their activities.

This publication provided background information for the development by the UN Working Group of its ‘Gender Guidance for the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’. It was presented and discussed at several events, including at the annual Forum on Business and Human Rights and at the UN Working Group’s global conference on the application of a 'gender lens' to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Global Conference

The Geneva Academy collaborated with the UN Working Group to host its global conference which discussed the outcome of the consultation process and defined the scope and content of the 'gender lens' document on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Building on a series of regional conferences, it included members of the UN Working Group and UN treaty bodies, as well as representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, states, international organizations, National Human Rights Institutions, NGOs and academia.

Publications

Cover of the Briefing

Gender Responsive Due Diligence for Business Actors: Human Rights-Based Approaches

December 2018

Joanna Bourke Martignoni, Elizabeth Umlas

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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NEWS AND EVENTS

Participants in the consultation News

Multi-Stakeholder Consultation to Integrate Gender-Sensitive and Gender-Responsive Frameworks in Business Activities

February 2019

Academics, representatives of international organizations, members of UN treaty bodies, the private sector, business associations and civil society discussed the integration of a ‘gender lens’ to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Read more >

Cambodia- A day in the life of Chhun Srey Sros, a garment factory worker in Cambodia News

Gender Equality: Clarifying the Responsibilities of Companies under International Human Rights Law

December 2018

Our new publication Gender Responsive Due Diligence for Business Actors: Human Rights-Based Approaches focuses on the direct responsibilities of business actors to respect and, in some circumstances, facilitate gender equality guarantees under international human rights law.

Read more >

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