Wednesday, October 5, 2016


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women requires that women be accorded rights equal to those of men and that women be able to enjoy all their rights in practice. While international human rights treaties refer to “equality”, in other sectors the term “equity” is often used.

The term “gender equity” has sometimes been used in a way that perpetuates stereotypes about women’s role in society, suggesting that women should be treated “fairly” in accordance with the roles that they carry out.18 This understanding risks perpetuating unequal gender relations and solidifying gender stereotypes that are detrimental to women. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has emphasized in its general recommendations and concluding observations on different countries, e.g., in its general recommendation No. 28 (2010) on the core obligations of States parties under article 2 of the Convention, that “States parties are called upon to use exclusively the concepts of equality of women and men or gender equality and not to use the concept of gender equity in implementing their obligations under the Convention.” As the legal term used in the Convention, gender equality cannot be replaced by equity, which is a concept conditioned by subjective criteria.

 Some stakeholders have also favoured the language of equity on the misunderstanding that gender equality means the same or identical treatment of men and women, rather than taking into account the actual circumstances of men and women. As explained above, substantive equality, which is the standard to be met under human rights law, requires measures to achieve equality of results. This may mean that women and men are not always treated in exactly the same manner, in order to redress historical discrimination and/or take account of women’s biological differences.

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