Today is International Women’s day, a day that aims to celebrate the achievements of women and to call for further gender parity. It is also a day to reflect on how the Human Rights Act protects the rights of women here in the UK.

Women frequently face issues around domestic and sexual violence and gender disparity in many aspects of day to day life. The Human Rights Act is essential in providing protections around some of these issues and is a mechanism through which women’s voices can be heard and inequalities challenged.

Women’s rights have been protected through the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ensuing European Convention on Human Rights and our UK Human Rights Act. Although a minority, there were a number of women who made significant contributions to the development of the Declaration including amending the opening article from “all men” to “all human beings are born free and equal”. You can read more about this in our guest blog from Geraldine Van Bueren QC here

Women’s rights are just as relevant now and the Human Rights Act plays a key role in providing better outcomes for women and holding public authorities to account.  For example, last year two women who had been raped by the taxi driver John Worboys used the Human Rights Act to hold the police to account for failing to properly investigate. This was a crucial turning point for women’s rights, too often women who have experienced serious violent crimes are failed by authorities, either because they are not believed, or their cases are dealt with inadequately. The Worboys verdict shouted loudly and clearly that the police and all other public authorities, by not responding adequately to violence against women are in breach of their duties under the Human Rights Act. You can read more about this case here.

There have also been many cases in which women’s human rights are secured outside of the courtrooms. A social worker, who attended a BIHR training, was able to use human rights law, specifically Article 8 of our Human Rights Act, the Right to Private and Family Life to successfully challenge a housing team’s refusal to provide rehousing for a woman and her family who were fleeing serious harm from domestic violence.

Today is a day to reflect on how far we’ve come but also to renew our commitment to women’s rights. The UN is currently reviewing the UK’s record on gender equality and The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently updated their submission to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. We will be eagerly awaiting the Committee’s view on the rights of women in the UK.

In the meantime however, we will continue to support organisations to empower women and those that support women to feel confident using human rights to secure better treatment. As Maya Angelou so beautifully wrote,

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

Here at BIHR we use the power of the Human Rights Act to empower women's organisations to speak up for the equal dignity of women and girls, helping to address violence against women, prevent abuse and rectify discriminatory treatment. You can read more about our work with women’s organisations such as Latin American Women's Rights Service and Wish, in our article published in Women's Aid Safe Journal, here.