The Role of Women in relation to Business and Human Rights

The ICJ highlighted the role of women in ensuring respect for human rights in relation to businesses, in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council today.

In an oral statement made during an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, the ICJ stated as follows (check against delivery):

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomes the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and agrees that despite years of progress, women continue to experience multiple forms of discrimination. Women’s voices continue to be unheard and they face insurmountable challenges as they use these voices to access justice on behalf of their communities.

We have seen numerous cases where women lead their communities in protesting abuses committed by business enterprises. Many of these communities are located in remote areas, far from courts or other mechanisms that could be used by them to seek justice. The women who lead these communities often do not identify as women human rights defenders. They see themselves as mothers protecting the health of their families or the land from which they grow their food and earn their living. Because of where these communities are located, local government authorities play a significant role on whether or not these women are heard or are able to access justice.

The women farmers of Kendeng in Indonesia, for instance, have been protesting the operation of a cement factory in their area, which contaminate their water and land. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Indonesia had already ruled in favor of these women farmers and their community, and ordered the revocation of the cement factory’s permit. To this day, however, the cement factory continues to operate, ignoring the final order of the Supreme Court. The Kendeng women farmers have raised the non-implementation of the Supreme Court’s order with the Governor of Central Java and the Indonesian government, but their voices remain unheard.

In the Philippines, the women community leaders of Pio V. Corpus, Masbate, have been protesting plans to establish a cement factory and a coal-fired power plant in their town. They allege that their local government leaders approved plans for this factory and power plant without consultation and in blatant disregard of the disastrous impact these would have on the environment and people’s health.

Mr. President, we join the Working Group in urging States and business enterprises to ensure meaningful participation of potentially affected women in all stages of human rights due diligence. We also urge States to take measures to ensure that women – wherever they may be located – are able to access justice for abuses committed by business. Finally, we recommend that local government authorities be made aware of the Guiding Principles and able to integrate the gender framework and guidance in discharging their human rights responsibilities.

Thank you.

AdvocacyNon-legal submissions