Photo Credits: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The law expresses how governments value and treat their citizens. It reflects your rights as a citizen and is a primary tool for holding your government accountable to protecting those rights. As a human rights organization, Equality Now uses international human rights law to hold governments accountable to their promises and to bring local issues to the attention of human rights bodies.


Why we use international law

International law is the set of rules and minimum standards that governs relations between nations, and sets standards for how a State treats the people that it governs. It guarantees equal rights and protections to women and girls, including:

  • Gender-equal laws and equal access to justice for everyone
  • Legal frameworks - a broad system of laws, rules and policies - that protect everyone equally
  • Proper implementation of laws to ensure that what is written is put into practice

There are different levels of laws that help shape policies and inform social norms:

Why are treaties important?

International law is most often in the form of a treaty. Treaties -- written agreements between States --  are critical to international law because they are binding on the governments which sign and ratify them. When a country ratifies a treaty, it is obligated to abide by the requirements of that treaty.

There are ten core international human rights treaties. The three most critical to Equality Now’s work are:

Equality Now also uses regional human rights treaties to address issues in specific areas of the world. The two main regional treaties on women’s rights that we use include:

  • Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol): As one of the most advanced and progressive legal tools on women’s rights, the Maputo Protocol is a groundbreaking treaty for Africa and a model for other nations. We campaigned for the passage of the Protocol, and as a member of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition, we advocate for African nations to use the Protocol as a roadmap for promoting women’s rights. The treaty sets a high standard and, with SOAWR, we have helped train thousands of activists, legal practitioners and state officials to use it effectively.
  • Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará): This was the first instrument to specifically define  violence against women and to call for systems to protect and defend women's rights as a way to combat violence and discrimination. This treaty spells out the commitment of nations in the Americas to protect and defend women’s rights and prevent abuse.

How is international and regional law enforced?

Most international and regional treaties have a committee of human rights experts that measures how well countries are living up to their obligations. Countries report on their own progress and civil society and advocacy groups can provide information-- including complaints of violations in individual cases -- to the committee to assess how well a country is doing.

When a country is not living up to its duty to protect the rights of women and girls, Equality Now:

  • Submits a complaint to the governing committee
  • Puts pressure on governments directly to fix their violations of human rights standards
  • Use the rights outlined in international and regional treaties as the basis of our argument when working with partners to bring cases to court

Our impact in legal advocacy

Since 1992, Equality Now has used the law to protect and uphold women's and girls' human rights. By advocating for stronger laws following regional and international standards, we create a more just world for women and girls.