Article Examines How UN Human Rights Mechanisms Address Gendered Inequalities in Access to and Rights over Food and Land

Workers drying freshly plucked chilies for further processing at Gabbur, Raichur district, Karnataka, India. Workers drying freshly plucked chilies for further processing at Gabbur, Raichur district, Karnataka, India.

17 January 2019

The article Engendering the Right to Food? International Human Rights Law, Food Security and the Rural Woman, written by our Senior Research Fellow Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni, examines how United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms address the role and status of rural women in the context of food security and the rights to food and land.

Published in a Special Issue of the Transnational Legal Theory Journal, it builds on research conducted within the framework of the DEMETER project, co-coordinated by the Geneva Academy, the Gender Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana and the Royal University of Law and Economics in Cambodia.

‘The Geneva Academy is taking the lead on the international human rights component of the research. This article critically addresses the way in which the international human rights mechanisms are conceptualizing and proposing solutions to gendered inequalities in the realization of the rights to food and land’ underlines Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni.

Rural Women Right to Food and Land in Work of UN HUman Rights Mechanisms

Narrow Focus on Customary Law and Lack of Consideration for Global Economic Relations and Gendered Power Structures

The paper starts by examining the drafting history of Article 14 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) along with case studies from various countries – including the DEMETER data from Cambodia and Ghana – and UN mechanisms such as the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the treaty bodies.

Taking a historical perspective helps to explain the origins of Article 14 of CEDAW as well as the ways in which gendered inequalities in agricultural employment conditions, food security and land rights led to a greater focus on the 'rural woman' in international human rights law.

The research critically examines the way in which UN human rights mechanisms, CEDAW in particular, attempt to explain and offer remedies for gendered inequalities in access to and rights over food and land.

‘By focusing almost exclusively on customary law as a barrier to the realization of these rights, these mechanisms obscure the influence of other structural forms of gender inequality’ explains Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni.

‘This means that the solutions offered frequently fail to consider the ways in which global economic relations shape property rights and gendered power structures at the local level or take into account the positive role that local norms, actors and practices could potentially play in ensuring food security for all’ she adds.

The Need to Take a More Nuanced, Contextualized and Evidence-Based Approach

The article recommends that human rights mechanisms take a more nuanced, contextualized and evidence-based approach in their analysis of complex gendered power relations within rural communities.

Rural Women Right to Food and Land in Work of United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms


Print screen of the treaty bodies scheduler News

The Consolidated Reporting Model and ‘Treaty Body Scheduler’ Presented for the First Time to UN Treaty Body Members

8 October 2018

Felix Kirchmeier, coordinator of the Geneva Human Rights Platform briefed the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the main proposals developed by the Academic Platform on Treaty Body Review 2020.

Read more

Workshop participants News

Members of United Nations Treaty Bodies Discuss the Simplified Reporting Procedure

20 December 2018

On 10-11 December 2019, members of United Nations treaty bodies, as well as representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Geneva Academy discussed the so-called simplified reporting procedure.

Read more

View of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dakka, Bangladesh Event

Human rights, gender and corruption: linkages, good practices, potential and limitations

18 December 2019, 13:00-14:00

This event aims at raising awareness of the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights and the consequent need to undertake effective anti-corruption measures.

Read more

A general view of participants during of the 33nd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. Training

The Universal Periodic Review and the UN Human Rights System: Raising the Bar on Accountability

Second Half of 2020

This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.

Read more

Young boy in a slum Training

Formation en ligne sur les Droits Economiques, Sociaux et Culturels

Deuxième moitié de 2020

Cette formation en ligne permet d’acquérir une connaissance approfondie des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels (DESC), des obligations des états et des mécanismes chargés de les protéger et de surveiller leur mise en oeuvre.

Read more

A woman worker at a construction site in India Project

Human Rights and Gender Equality in the Context of Business Activities

Started in June 2018

This project aims 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 and policy related to gender equality guarantees and their application to business activities, and the organization of a global conference in Geneva.

Read more

Senegal, Ziguinchor area, Bignona Department, Kataba 1 municipality, Kouram village. A woman works in a vegetable garden as part of an economic security programme. Project

Towards Food Sustainability: Reshaping the Coexistence of Different Food Systems in South America and Africa

Started in February 2015

This six-year project aims to provide evidence-based knowledge for the formulation and promotion of innovative strategies and policy options that improve food sustainability.

Read more