Womens Human Rights Resources

Women's Human Rights Resources

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History and Background


The Women's Human Rights Resources web site is a project of the Bora Laskin Law Library at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law. The site is produced by the Women's Human Rights Resources group in consultation and collaboration with law librarians, lawyers, students, researchers, activists and human rights experts around the world.

The site was introduced in 1995 following the publication of "A Select Bibliography of Women's Human Rights" by Professor Rebecca Cook and Valerie Oosterveld of the University of Toronto in the April 1995 edition of the America University Law Review .

The main goal of the Women's Human Rights Resources site is to assist individuals and organizations in using international women's human rights law to promote women's rights. This includes:

  • Community groups so that they can train, lobby and advocate for women's human rights
  • Lawyers so that they can seek the effective enforcement of women's human rights at the national and international level
  • Governments so that they can understand and implement their obligations under international human rights law
  • Judges so that they can incorporate international human rights law into their decision-making
  • Activists and advocates so that they can promote women's human rights through international law
  • Scholars and researchers so that they can ensure full and effective analysis of women's human rights issues
  • Women who want to know their rights

At present, the site receives an average of over 40,000 visitors a month from over 90 countries.


i) Headings and Subheadings:

The Website is divided into 26 subject headings. The home page lists the 26 subject headings currently available on the site.

Some of the 26 subject headings are further divided into subheadings. These subheadings are not listed on the home page, you can find the subheadings by "clicking" on a main heading to see if the subheading that you are looking for is listed.

For example..

If you are looking for information about how international women's human rights law has been used in domestic courts, you can click on the subject heading "Domestic Implementation." This will take you to the main page for the "Domestic Implementation" heading. At the left hand side of the page, you will find 2 subheadings called:

  • Using the International System
  • Using International Law at the Domestic Level.

Information about the use of international law by domestic courts can be found under the subheading "Using International Law at the Domestic Level."

Not all subject headings are further divided into subheadings. The following list identifies the subject headings that are currently divided into subheadings:

  • Conventions, Other than CEDAW
    • International Protection
    • Regional Protection
  • Domestic Implementation
    • Using The International System
    • Using International Law at the National Level
  • Health and Well Being
    • Mental Health
    • Physical Health
    • Rights of Disabled Women
  • Reproductive Rights and Sexual Health
    • Abortion
    • Adolescents
    • Female Genital Mutilation
    • Maternal Health
    • Overview
    • Reproductive Freedom
    • Right to Know
    • STDs and AIDS

ii) Division of Main headings and subheadings:

All main subject headings and subheadings are divided into 3 categories:

  • Articles
  • Documents
  • Links

The articles section contains a bibliography of published scholarly materials. Most of the citations are annotated. Members of the Women's Human Rights Resources Group read the articles and write a brief description of the author's argument. The annotations are intended to identify important work that has been produced and to help you decide if you would like to get a copy of the full article. The Women's Human Rights Resources group has a very limited capacity to copy and mail a limited number of articles free of charge to small community organizations in the South. We do not have the capacity to fill all demands. Other users can attempt to get copies of the articles listed by contacting their nearest library.

The documents section contains different types of materials. These include cases, UN reports, NGO reports, international conventions or treaties and publications of various UN treaty bodies. These are organized in alphabetical order. As the site grows, we will probably separate each of the different document types.

Most of the material available in this part of the site is annotated also. The Women's Human Rights Resources group has taken great care and effort to ensure that the

annotations we provide are as useful as possible. We have started to identify some provisions that might be useful in dealing with specific violations against women.

For example, under "documents" in the "Violence Against Women" section of the site, you will find the following citation and annotation:

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

The relevant articles in this regional convention include: Article 4 sets out the right to respect for life and integrity of the person; article 5 prohibits torture and cruel treatment; article 6 recognizes the right to liberty and security of the person; article 16 sets out the right to the highest attainable standard of health; article 18 requires states to ensure the elimination of discrimination against women and protect women and children as stipulated in international provisions and conventions.

By identifying some provisions that are relevant to a particular right (violence against women in the example above), we hope to save organizations some time and research efforts. We also hope to make the international treaties more accessible to those who have not used them before. A word of caution, however: we are not providing legal advice or suggesting that you should use the provisions identified in your work. We are also not suggesting that we have identified all of the possible relevant provisions. Our goal is simply to give you a starting point for thinking and advocating.

The links section of the site contains annotated links to organizations around the world organized under subject headings.

We regularly update our site by adding new content and checking to ensure that our links are working. We have recently decided to write our annotations in plain English to help make the site more accessible to users. Please contact us if you have any suggestions or comments.


The Women's Human Rights Resources site now makes materials available to users in full text by: (i) providing external links to resources already available on the Internet; and (ii) by providing material in full text on the Women's Human Rights Resources site itself.

i) Providing Full-Text Through External Links

Users can identify materials that are available in full text through external links by the fact that the annotations to these documents are introduced with citations that are bolded and underlined.

For example…

The following two documents are available in full text on the Women's Human Rights Resources site through external links. They are both found under "CEDAW" in the "documents" section:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 34/180 of 18 December 1979; entry into force 3 September 1981, in accordance with article 27(1). This is the main international instrument that recognizes and protects the rights of women. Ratification information is available at the end of the Convention's text.

Declarations, reservations, objections and notifications of withdrawal of reservations relating to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

State parties may file "declarations" which generally serve to clarify or expand upon a state parties' view of its obligations under the Convention. Reservations indicate that a state does not consent to be bound to a particular duty under the Convention. States may not file reservations which defeat the "object and purpose" of the treaty. States may also file

By providing external links, we ensure that we do not duplicate the work of others. We also rationalize the information that is dispersed throughout the Internet so that it is organized and made accessible to researchers, health practitioners and advocates. This is particularly valuable to users in countries where Internet access remains expensive.

Members of the Women's Human Rights Resources regularly "surf" the Internet to identify appropriate external full-text links. These include links to specific documents important for those working on the international human rights of women as well as links to relevant human rights organizations around the world. Of course, the information available on the Internet is always changing. Thus, we check the external links on a regular basis to make sure that they are still working. We also ensure that the substantive content available on the site has not changed drastically. This requires actually revisiting and reviewing the sites to which we link and updating our annotations as required.

ii) Full-Text Material Available Directly on the WHRR

The Women's Human Rights Resources group is also building a full text legal database of scholarly legal literature in the "articles" section of the site. Access to these articles is made available on the site in both "high-tech" or PDF format and "low-tech" or HTML format for users with slower computer equipment and less infrastructure. The user can simply click on the PDF or HTML option available at the end of the annotations for articles where full text is available.

The kinds of materials that are available in full text directly on the WHRR include:

  • scholarly articles that define and discuss the right to reproductive and sexual health under international human rights law
  • scholarly articles that discuss the international human rights system and outline strategies for promoting effective implementation of rights
  • reports prepared by organizations working in the area of reproductive rights (e.g. Oxfam Report on Violence Against Women in the "documents" section of the "Violence Against Women" subject heading)

For example,the following article is available in full text on the Women's Human Rights Resources site in the "Reproductive Rights, Overview" section of the site under "articles."

Boland, Reed, Population Policies, Human Rights, and Legal Change, 44 AMERICAN UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 1257-78 (1995).

This article discusses the human rights implications of population policies, including restrictions on abortion, repressive population policies, prenatal sex selection and spousal veto requirements. Despite the difficulties of attempting to reform abusive population policies and restrictive reproductive health laws through human-rights based local legal action, the author concludes that this will be an increasingly common and effective means of tackling these issues as more emphasis is placed on human rights conventions.
View Article - [PDF Format - requires pdf reader] [HTML Format]


Building a site that is as accessible as possible to individuals and organizations around the world is one of our top priorities. The Women's Human Rights Resources group promotes accessibility by:

  • NOT using Java or Java Script because these generally require users to have newer software and computer equipment. We also do not use frames for the same reason.
  • keeping files small for easier loading
  • redesigning the site to make navigation easier -- we now have all the main subject headings on the home page and each subject heading is consistently divided into "articles," "documents" and "links"
  • testing the redesign on a number of different computers to try to get the pages to look as good as possible on older and newer computers.
  • adopting a plain language policy for our annotations -- this means that all new annotations will be written in language that is easy to understand
  • adopting a policy of not using abbreviations in our citations -- the older citations do use short form. We aim to change this.
  • testing Web-to-E-mail servers that allow users to retrieve information from any public web site anywhere in the world (See Appendix II)
  • Identifying information that is available in English plus other languages


Many users do not have access to the World Wide Web but they do have e-mail. These users can still get access to the Women's Human Rights Resources web site through Web-to-Email servers. These servers are not run by the Women's Human Rights Resources but by other organizations. However, they make the Women's Human Rights Resources site more accessible by allowing those who only have e-mail to get information from the site by e-mail.

We have included information about one such Web-to-E-mail server at Bellanet . Please read this information carefully. It includes information about where you can go for more information about using Web-to-E-mail servers.

Good luck! Please do let us know about how you do with this service and whether it does make the Women's Human Rights Resources site more accessible.


The Women's Human Rights Resources wants to include information about international women's human rights law from different regions of the world. We are interested in:

  • national case law that cites international law
  • decisions by international tribunals and courts
  • legal submissions
  • scholarly articles
  • reports by non-governmental organizations
  • government policies, briefs, reports, etc.
  • training material
  • course material used in universities and schools
  • United Nations reports or documents
  • any other quality material that relates to international women's human rights law.

Please remember that we are looking for material that relates to international women's human rights law and that is of high quality . We will consider putting up such materials on our site in full text if they are available in electronic format. Otherwise, we will consider including a citation and annotation along with an explanation of where the full text can be obtained.


  • If your organization has produced quality information about this subject, then we invite you to send us your materials so that we can include it on our site.
  • If your organization maintains a web site that includes substantive information about international women's human rights law, then tell us about it so that we can link to your site.
  • If you know of information that is missing from our site, then please share it with us so that we can share it with others


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Designed, updated and maintained by Susan Barker, Digital Services and Reference Librarian. Except where otherwise noted, all contents copyright Bora Laskin Law Library, 2015. Bora Laskin Law Library, 78 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 2C5. Comments and Suggestions