Handbook on gender-responsive law-making

Equality in law is crucial to gender equality, as women and girls look to the laws of their State to protect, fulfill, and enforce their rights. Laws that discriminate and deny them equal rights with men and boys betray their trust in society and signal that gender discrimination is acceptable, normal, and expected.

Women and girls left behind by discriminatory laws are often permanently excluded from the benefits of development. Conversely, the implementation of good laws that conform to the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination can help sustain efforts to move towards:

  • just, peaceful, and inclusive societies;
  • environmental and climate justice;
  • equal participation in decision-making at all levels;
  • universal access to essential public services; and
  • economic prosperity for all.

All aspects of the law—constitutional, civil, criminal, labour, and administrative—that discriminate against women and girls need urgent attention. Repeal or revision of discriminatory laws is imperative, along with the work to enact and put into action laws that enhance existing legal protections and ensure backing by adequate resources.

This handbook aims to serve as a resource for lawmakers from around the world for designing gender-responsive laws. Law-making should address the strategic needs of women and girls and must encompass enacting new laws and amending or repealing laws which are outdated, inconsistent with constitutions, or discriminatory.

The handbook was prepared in close consultation with parliamentarians from across different legal systems of the world, combined with a desk review of relevant literature.  

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