Our Approach - Equality Now

Why Gender Equality

Our Approach

We use a combination of national, regional and international human rights law to secure justice for survivors of discrimination and violence, to hold governments accountable for their promises, and to bring local issues to the attention of human rights bodies


Each country's government sets laws that apply to individuals within its borders. Since these national laws have the most direct effect on individuals, it is critical that they meet international standards.

By advocating for stronger national laws that follow regional and international standards, we continue to create a fairer world for women and girls.


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

Regional laws often match international laws, and are sometimes tailored to specific issues in that region. Three geographic areas have well established human rights laws - Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Equality Now uses regional and international human rights law to hold governments accountable for their promises and to bring local issues to the attention of human rights bodies.

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Regional and 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 who 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 our work at Equality Now are as follows:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): Sometimes described as the “bill of rights” for women, this treaty was the first to address women’s rights as human rights. CEDAW is the international standard used to measure individual countries’ progress to eliminate laws that discriminate against or harm women and girls.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): Outlining the rights of children, including civil, social, economic and health rights, this treaty changed the way children are viewed and treated as human beings with their own distinct set of rights. This treaty is especially useful to us when we take on cases of girls’ rights.

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol): Because the Palermo Protocol commits ratifying states to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, protect and assist victims of trafficking and promote cooperation among states in order to meet those objectives, it is essential to our work to end sex trafficking.


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.

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