Women’s Access to Justice

Two members of the women’s group and the ‘Peace Village’ in Surabaya, Indonesia at a training event in April 2021. Photo: Wahid Foundation/UN Women
Two members of the women’s group and the ‘Peace Village’ in Surabaya, Indonesia at a training event in April 2021. Photo: Wahid Foundation/UN Women

Women’s Access to Justice is a conceptual framework for providing women with laws and remedies to enforce their rights under national and international law.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) will remain merely an unenforceable promise, unless there are gender-responsive justice systems, and unless we address the biases in the justice chain and the long-standing gender discrimination in legal institutions.

However, a focus on policies and legislation alone is not enough to resolve these challenges. Women’s Access to Justice is about bringing about systematic change in legal frameworks hand-in-hand with change in social and cultural norms. Restrictive social norms often prevent women from utilizing available pathways to seek justice. Transformational change is called for: engaging entire communities to create an environment where women can seek remedies without fear of negative consequences. Furthermore, affordability and comprehensibility are fundamental to improving Women’s Access to Justice overall, and in particular for marginalized groups facing a host of intersecting factors – that is, members of indigenous, disabled, LGBTQ+ communities and others.

Justice for women goes beyond claiming individual rights. It is more encompassing, including women’s full participation in shaping systems and in creating social change to address global challenges. Women’s active participation is essential to solve current and future challenges, be it international negotiations on climate justice, addressing human rights issues, resolving the ethical dilemmas posed by technological progress or those relating to advances in behavioural science, or realizing the goal of poverty eradication, to name a few.

 

Enhancing Women’s Access to Justice in Asia and the Pacific: Bridging the gap between formal and informal systems through women’s empowerment

UN Women, in partnership with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is implementing a five-year programme, generously funded by the Government of Sweden, entitled “Enhancing Access to Justice for Women in Asia and the Pacific: Bridging the gap between formal and informal systems through women’s empowerment”. The project builds on the comparative advantages of the programme partners to address Women’s Access to Justice at international, regional, national and local levels.

The Women’s Access to Justice programme focuses on three output areas:


The aim of the partnership is to strengthen the gender responsiveness of justice providers within the formal system and at the community level, while at the same time engaging women’s organizations, women human rights defenders and entire communities to change social norms and to create an enabling environment for women to realize their rights. Various programme activities bring together different target groups. They range from grassroots bottom-up initiatives, such as community dialogues on women’s rights, to regional and national dialogues with judges and members of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.


Thematic focus areas 2021

The following themes, interlinking the programme’s output areas, are central to our implementation activities in 2021 across the priority countries.

Read more about the initiatives under the thematic focus areas in our quarterly brief. Learn more

Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran
Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran

Strengthening the formal justice system

Supporting justice providers and institutions to establish a gender-responsive justice system and to address long-standing institutionalized gender discrimination.

Photo: UN Women/Fardin Waezi
Photo: UN Women/Fardin Waezi

UN human rights mechanisms

Linking local, national, and regional women’s organizations to human rights treaty bodies and special mechanisms.

Photo: UN Women/Terri O'Quinn
Photo: UN Women/Terri O'Quinn

Community-based mechanisms

Strengthening the capacity of women’s grassroots organizations to facilitate a community-based model for gender justice

Photo: UN Women/Boost Metrics
Photo: UN Women/Boost Metrics

Transitional
justice

Uplifting women’s role in post-conflict truth-finding mechanisms and rehabilitation processes and promoting their full participation in transitional justice.

Photo: UN Women/Pairach Homtong
Photo: UN Women/Pairach Homtong

Women’s rights movement

Bringing together women’s organizations and human rights defenders to create a joint movement to lobby for a holistic approach on Women’s Access to Justice.

Photo: UN Women/Rakshya Risal
Photo: UN Women/Rakshya Risal

Dialogue
platforms

Facilitation of dialogue between justice providers and communities to create an enabling environment for women’s rights and to change social norms