Human Rights Council discusses integration of gender perspective, with focus on the UPR

As an annually recurring part of its agenda, the Human Rights Council held on Monday 28 September a discussion on the integration of gender perspective in the Council's work, with a specific focus on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The panel of speakers consisted of representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and national human rights organisations.

It was noted by several speakers that the UPR has great potential to be an instrument in improving women's rights. Integration of gender perspective can be achieved in various stages of the UPR procedure. First of all, during the preparation of the documents on which the review is based, there is the opportunity to involve women and women's rights organisations in the consultative process. Such institutions can also submit their information which will be included in the summary prepared by the OHCHR. Secondly, it was suggested that the state report could or should contain a specific section on gender issues, to ensure constant attention to this issue. Thirdly, during the dialogue, states could raise questions to keep the issue at the forefront of the State under review's attention, as well as make recommendations on issues concerning women's rights. Finally, women should also be involved in the follow-up process and implementation of recommendations.

As for the treaty bodies and special procedures, several speakers pointed out the potential for mutual reinforcement. Recommendations of treaty bodies and special procedures, most notably the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, can serve as inspiration for the questions and recommendations made to the State under review within the UPR process, and should be employed more by states posing questions and making recommendations. Furthermore, recommendations concerning ratification of or reservations to main international treaties, such as CEDAW could also serve to advance women's rights and enhance the work of the treaty bodies.

A point of criticism raised was that women's rights issues raised both in the substantive review during the Working Group and in the final recommendations were often one-dimensional, not contextualised and focused solely on woman as victims. Rather, in order to truly empower women, discussion and recommendations should also focus on women as rights-holders. Furthermore, simply providing for participation of women in the UPR process was not sufficient to fully achieve the integration of gender perspective. It was finally also suggested to consider a guideline for gender strategy, to give effect to the principle of integration of gender perspective contained in Resolution 5/1.