Article Examines How UN Human Rights Mechanisms Address Gendered Inequalities in Access to and Rights over Food and Land

Workers drying freshly plucked chilies for further processing at Gabbur, Raichur district, Karnataka, India. Workers drying freshly plucked chilies for further processing at Gabbur, Raichur district, Karnataka, India.

17 January 2019

The article Engendering the Right to Food? International Human Rights Law, Food Security and the Rural Woman, written by our Senior Research Fellow Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni, examines how United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms address the role and status of rural women in the context of food security and the rights to food and land.

Published in a Special Issue of the Transnational Legal Theory Journal, it builds on research conducted within the framework of the DEMETER project, co-coordinated by the Geneva Academy, the Gender Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana and the Royal University of Law and Economics in Cambodia.

‘The Geneva Academy is taking the lead on the international human rights component of the research. This article critically addresses the way in which the international human rights mechanisms are conceptualizing and proposing solutions to gendered inequalities in the realization of the rights to food and land’ underlines Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni.

Rural Women Right to Food and Land in Work of UN HUman Rights Mechanisms

Narrow Focus on Customary Law and Lack of Consideration for Global Economic Relations and Gendered Power Structures

The paper starts by examining the drafting history of Article 14 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) along with case studies from various countries – including the DEMETER data from Cambodia and Ghana – and UN mechanisms such as the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the treaty bodies.

Taking a historical perspective helps to explain the origins of Article 14 of CEDAW as well as the ways in which gendered inequalities in agricultural employment conditions, food security and land rights led to a greater focus on the 'rural woman' in international human rights law.

The research critically examines the way in which UN human rights mechanisms, CEDAW in particular, attempt to explain and offer remedies for gendered inequalities in access to and rights over food and land.

‘By focusing almost exclusively on customary law as a barrier to the realization of these rights, these mechanisms obscure the influence of other structural forms of gender inequality’ explains Dr Joanna Bourke Martignoni.

‘This means that the solutions offered frequently fail to consider the ways in which global economic relations shape property rights and gendered power structures at the local level or take into account the positive role that local norms, actors and practices could potentially play in ensuring food security for all’ she adds.

The Need to Take a More Nuanced, Contextualized and Evidence-Based Approach

The article recommends that human rights mechanisms take a more nuanced, contextualized and evidence-based approach in their analysis of complex gendered power relations within rural communities.

Rural Women Right to Food and Land in Work of United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms


Tegucigalpa, Central Park. Pedestrians are looking at portraits of missing persons, during the International Day of Missing Persons. News

New Publication Takes Stock of the Achievements and Jurisprudence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances

14 September 2021

Ten years after the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, The Work of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances takes stock of what the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances has achieved and details its jurisprudence as it stands today.

Read more

Dr Domenico Zipoli News

Our Research Fellow Dr Domenico Zipoli Successfully Defended his PhD Thesis

16 April 2021

Our Research Fellow Dr Domenico Zipoli just defended with success his PhD thesis The Power of Engagement: Assessing the Effectiveness of Cooperation between UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and National Human Rights Institutions.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Council Event

Study on Emergining Good Practices from the UPR

28 September 2021, 13:30-14:45

This online event – co-organized with UPR Info, OHCHR, and GANHRI – will discuss a new study commissioned by OHCHR on emerging good practices in UPR.

Read more


2021 Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform

12 October 2021, 09:00-18:00

The 2021 Annual Conference will discuss the connectivity between national human rights actors and the Geneva-based international mechanisms.

Read more

Greece, ylakio, pre-removal center. Short Course

Introduction to International Human Rights Law

14-29 October 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will provide participants with an introduction to substantive human rights law. It will start with an introduction to the nature and sources of international human rights law and its place in the international legal system. The course will then provide a presentation of the main principles applicable to substantive rights (jurisdiction, obligation and limitations).

Read more

Prison visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Haiti Short Course

The Implementation of International Human Rights Law

16 December - 14 January 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, aims at presenting the institutions and procedures in charge of the implementation of international human rights law.

Read more

 Chittagong (Bangladesh) ship breaking yard Project

A Practitioners' Guide on Human Rights and Countering Corruption

Started in January 2015

This research project, aims via the drafting of a practitioners’ guide on human rights and countering corruption, to clarify the conceptual relationship between human rights, good governance and anticorruption, demonstrate the negative impact of corruption on human rights and provide guidance and make practical recommendations for effectively using the UN human rights system in anti-corruption efforts.

Read more



Started in May 2016

We are a partner of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, housed at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, which aims to map and analyse the human rights challenges and opportunities presented by the use of big data and associated technologies. It notably examines whether fundamental human rights concepts and approaches need to be updated and adapted to meet the new realities of the digital age.

Read more

Cover Page of the publication Publication

The Work of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances

published on August 2021

Maria Clara Galvis Patiño

Read more

cover of the publication Publication

The United Nations Treaty Bodies in a Transition Period – Progress Review March-December 2020 Chronicle

published on June 2021

Olivier de Frouville

Read more