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Human Rights Quarterly 26.3 (2004) 760-780
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Montréal Principles on Women's Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The Montréal Principles were adopted at a meeting of experts held 7-10 December 2002 in Montréal, Canada. These principles are offered to guide the interpretation and implementation of guarantees of non-discrimination and equal exercise and enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights, in order to ensure that women can enjoy these rights fully and equally. Guarantees of non-discrimination and equal exercise and enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights are found, inter alia, in Articles 3 and 2(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,so that women can enjoy these rights fully and equally.
The participants at the Montréal meeting were: Sneh Aurora, Fareda Banda, Reem Bahdi, Stephanie Bernstein, Gwen Brodsky, Ariane Brunet, Christine Chinkin, Shanthi Dairiam, Shelagh Day, Leilani Farha, Ruth Goba, Soledad Garcia Muñoz, Sara Hossain, Lucie Lamarche, Marianne Møllmann, Dianne Otto, Karrisha Pillay, Inés Romero Bidegaray, and Alison Symington. They unanimously agreed on the following principles.
Sex or gender inequality is a problem experienced primarily by women. The systems and assumptions which cause women's inequality in the enjoyment of economic, social, and culturalrights are often invisible because they are deeply embedded in social relations, both public and private, within all states. Acknowledging this systemic and entrenched discrimination is an essential step in implementing guarantees of non-discrimination and equality.
The terms "gender" and "sex" should both be understood as referring to the range of economic, social, cultural, historical, political, and biological [End Page 760] constructions of norms of behaviour that are considered appropriate for women and men. Implicit in such an understanding of "gender" or "sex" relations is that male and female norms have been constructed so as to privilege men and disadvantage women. "Gender" and "sex" discrimination can be used interchangeably, and both "gender inequality" and "sex inequality" are used to refer to the disadvantaged position of women. In order to reflect this understanding of women's disadvantage, the Montréal Principles use the terms "discrimination against women" and "women's equality" wherever possible.
Economic, social, and cultural rights have a particular significance for women because as a group, women are disproportionately affected by poverty, and by social and cultural marginalization. Women's poverty is a central manifestation, and a direct result of women's lesser social, economic, and political power. In turn, women's poverty reinforces their subordination, and constrains their enjoyment of every other right.
The UN Charter mandates universal respect for, and observance of all human rights, including the right of women to equal exercise and enjoyment of their economic, social, and cultural rights.1 All regional and global instruments which set out economic, social, and cultural rights contain guarantees of non-discrimination and of equal enjoyment for women of these rights.2 An expression of this global consensus is found in Articles 3 and 2(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In the political context of the early twenty-first century, it is particularly important to underline this long-standing international consensus regarding human rights primacy. The lack of priority accorded to securing universal enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights hurts women disproportionately. Women's particular vulnerability to social and economic [End Page 761] deprivation is deepened further in conflict and post-conflict situations and when economic sanctions are imposed. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that economic, social, and cultural rights must be taken into account when imposing sanctions, and state parties to the Covenant should take account of the suffering that such sanctions are likely to inflict on certain sectors, such as women. As the UN Security Council has recognized, peace and women's equality are inextricably linked.3
The inequality in the lives of women that is deeply embedded in history, tradition, and culture4 affects women's access to, and enjoyment of, economic, social, and cultural rights. To ensure women's enjoyment of...