UN – Cultural rights of women


In her fourth thematic report (A/67/287), the Special Rapporteur proposes to shift the paradigm from one that views culture as an obstacle to women’s rights to one that seeks to ensure equal enjoyment of cultural rights; such an approach also constitutes an important tool for the realization of all their human rights.

The report underlines the right of women to have access to, participate in and contribute to all aspects of cultural life. This encompasses their right to actively engage in identifying and interpreting cultural heritage and to decide which cultural traditions, values or practices are to be kept, reoriented, modified or discarded.

Gender, culture and rights intersect in intricate and complex ways, and cultural rights must be understood as also relating to who in the community holds the power to define its collective identity. The reality of intra-community diversity makes it imperative to ensure that all voices within a community, including those that represent the interests, desires and perspectives of specific groups, are heard, without discrimination.

Preserving the existence and cohesion of a specific cultural community, national or subnational, should not be achieved to the detriment of one group within the community, for example, women. Importantly, combating cultural practices that are detrimental to human rights, far from jeopardizing the existence and cohesion of a specific cultural community, stimulates discussion, which facilitates an evolution towards embracing human rights, including in a very culturally specific way.

The report analyses notions of gender that restrict the cultural rights of women and proposes a set of questions to be asked whenever gender-biased social arrangements are defended in the name of culture. It includes a series of recommendations and a list of issues to be addressed in assessing the level of implementation, or non-implementation, of the cultural rights of women. Such information could usefully be included in State party reports to the relevant treaty bodies and to the universal periodic review.