C Chinkin (2002)
50 pages (62 KB)
What mechanisms are needed for mainstreaming gender into the legal and constitutional affairs of states? This reference manual by the Commonwealth Secretariat offers guidelines to assist governments in advancing gender equality in their countries. It suggests that gender mainstreaming in the state's legal and constitutional structures is a corollary to mainstreaming gender in development and ensuring equal opportunities and outcomes for women and men.
Many states have taken important steps in this direction through legislative and social programmes of gender mainstreaming. Such programmes are needed because in most societies women have long been discriminated against and have been the subject of stereotyping that presents them as inferior, passive or essentially as mothers. While gender mainstreaming focuses on women and men, in most instances its primary focus must be to enhance the position of women. Constitutional guarantees and legislative reform are insufficient, however, unless they translate into positive commitments to women's advancement, empowerment and enjoyment of equal choices and opportunities.
Major factors for achieving real change include political will and commitment of resources, concrete and realistic targets and programmes grounded at the national level based on local contexts and evaluation. Mainstreaming is required to implement the 1995 Commonwealth Plan of Action on Gender and Development and its Update (2000-2005) and is supported by arguments of efficiency, effectiveness and social justice.
- Some of the obstacles faced by a programme of gender mainstreaming may be found in existing laws, including legislation and customary laws and in societal structures that have come to be seen as "natural" and "moral".
- Attitudes of key stakeholders may be an obstacle, representing gender concerns as foreign or "western" imports and policies connected to economic globalisation.
- The establishment of a Gender Management System (GMS) provides a means of mainstreaming gender across all government policies, plans and projects.
- The GMS is an integrated network of structures, mechanisms and processes put in place in an existing organisational framework in order to guide, plan, monitor and evaluate this process.
- An understanding of the international legal requirements for the guarantee of women's human rights is an important basis for gender mainstreaming.
Gender mainstreaming must change people's lives, not just change the formal legal structures and law on the books. Legal, and consequently societal, changes must be owned by the people and must be located within the context of their religion and culture.
- Stakeholders need to be identified and consulted in the formulation of objectives, strategies, projects and evaluations.
- There are a number of areas in which concrete changes need to be made. These may include constitutional reform and legislative and customary law reform.
- Areas where the substance of the law most needs examination include public life, nationality laws, labour laws, health and reproductive rights, violence against women and family law.
- There is a need for gender-sensitive government structures, which can be either specific to women or general (mainstreamed).
- The judiciary and law-enforcement agencies have a vital role to play in ensuring that women's rights are protected and promoted.
- Education and training programmes will be required for these stakeholders as well as others. Training should include gender sensitivity and human rights and should use both traditional and non-traditional methodologies.
Source: Chinkin, C., 2002, Gender Mainstreaming in Legal and Constitutional Affairs: A Reference Manual for Governments and Other Stakeholders, Commonwealth Secretariat, London
Related resources: This document forms part of the GRC Exchange topic guide page on "SSAJ: Overview" - part of the wider GRC Exchange topic guide on "Safety, Security and Access to Justice".