Gender and women's rights
Around the world, women are still victims of various forms of discrimination and inequality, both in their professional lives and at the family, economic, social, civilian or political level. Women are also often victims of crimes such as domestic or sexual violence, forced marriages or child marriages, human trafficking, exploitation or slavery, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and forced abortion.
Achieving gender equality and the rights of women and girls are therefore a priority for Belgium. Concrete spearheads include the equal participation of women in all sectors of society, the fight against gender-related and sexual violence against women and girls, and the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Belgium contributes to the implementation of EU policy, which developed guidelines on violence against women and the fight against all forms of discrimination against women. With these guidelines, the EU underscores its commitment to promoting gender equality and women's rights in concrete way in its external policies.
Within the framework of the United Nations, discrimination based on gender is prohibited in the majority of human rights treaties. In addition, specific instruments and bodies have been created to make the human rights of women a reality. For example, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was drawn up in 1979. This Convention aims to eliminate all aspects of discrimination in the public and private lives of women. Belgium has ratified both the Convention (10 July 1985) and its Optional Protocol (17 June 2004). Not only is our country actively engaged in promoting the ratification and implementation of this Convention, it also regularly calls on other countries to withdraw their reservations regarding this Convention.
Moreover, as early as 1946, the United Nations provided for the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). This subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has 45 Member States and is exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. During its annual two-week sessions in March, this Commission meets in New York to review the progress of States in this area, identify challenges and formulate policy recommendations. Within the framework of the EU, Belgium has been actively participating in these sessions for many years and always advocates a final outcome that is as progressive as possible.
As part of the broader reform agenda of the United Nations, UN Women, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, was created in 2010. UN Women is the result of a merger of 4 previously separate parts of the UN system, and is a partner organisation of the Belgian development cooperation.
Within the framework of the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly, Belgium supports initiatives at EU level to promote and protect women's rights. Belgium also supports the mandate of the working group on discrimination against women and girls, among other things by participating in the interactive dialogues with these independent experts.
In 1995, the fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing. At this conference, States drew up a global agenda for promoting the rights of women and girls. This Platform for Action reflects the commitment of the international community and sets out specific measures to be taken to realise women's rights in 12 areas: poverty, education and training, health, violence, armed conflict, economics, decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights of women, media, environment, and girls. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this World Conference, Belgium provided the United Nations with a report on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.