Consultancy for a feasibility study on the creation of a global online database on gender-responsive judicial decisions
The Convention on the Elimination Of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the frame of reference for shaping national constitution-making, reviews and interpretation in ways that are gender responsive. The Convention requires States Parties to embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, its practical realization. CEDAW requires competent tribunals to enforce gender-related legal protections by means of judicial interpretation and precedents that are consistent with the Convention. Even when such legal protections do not exist, the courts play an important role in making pronouncements which highlight gaps in existing law and where the legal system permits, taking steps to remedy the effects of discrimination against women.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the Committee) is an independent expert body established in 1982 to monitor progress being made towards the implementation of the Convention. It has adopted guidelines to support States Parties in the preparation of their progress reports. A critical element of the reporting content is whether the Convention is directly applicable in domestic law on ratification, or has been incorporated into the national Constitution or domestic law so as to be directly applicable; and whether the provisions of the Convention are guaranteed in a Constitution or other laws and the extent to which its provisions can be invoked by courts, tribunals and administrative authorities. Additionally, information is to be provided regarding the judicial, administrative and other competent authorities having jurisdiction with respect to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention.
In keeping with these guidelines, the Committee has also consistently issued concluding observations and recommendations to States Parties on the need to address the structural barriers to women’s access to justice, particularly for those who are marginalized and excluded. Based on its many years of experience of reviewing State Party reports, the Committee will be soon issuing its General Recommendation on Women’s Access to Justice. This General Recommendation will serve as a common global policy framework for implementation and enforcement of laws through a gender responsive justice sector and will require a supportive environment for its effective implementation.
The trend in the last decades reflects the increasing inclusion of gender-specific provisions in constitutions. In some cases, they also include clauses which identify circumstances in which particular actions, laws or customs can be declared unconstitutional or null and void on the basis of violation of the constitution. Legal systems around the world are creating a range of jurisprudence which advance, but sometimes also hinder the achievement of substantive gender equality. In many instances, groundbreaking judicial decisions have contributed to increased gender equality through innovative developments in the application of equality and non-discrimination principles. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) are thereby seeking to create an on-line library of reported cases of these developments for purposes of promoting south-south and north-south cooperation in the advancement of gender equality through the court system.
Justification and context
As the United Nations entity responsible for the promotion of gender equality, UN Women has been active in supporting gender equality in constitutional reforms in programme countries where such processes are underway. In this context, UN Women created and launched a Constitutional database in 2013 with support from the Swedish International Development Agency. The data base has become a one-stop reference point for ascertaining the gender equality provisions in national constitutions across 95 states or territories. It is the first searchable database that looks at constitutions specifically through a gender lens, and providesa comprehensive picture of constitutional provisions relevant to gender equality, allowing users to search by keyword, provision, region or country. Provisions are organized into 16 categories, including equality; non-discrimination; rights of women; public authorities, institutions and services; political participation and freedom of association; citizenship and nationality; education; employment; equal before the law; marriage and family life; status of religious/customary law; status of international law (including human rights law); limitations and derogations; general human rights duties; right to property/inheritance; and reproductive rights. The database highlights that while progress is being made towards ensuring that the de jure equality is achieved through national constitutions, defacto and substantive equality remains a challenge.
IDEA, as an intergovernmental organization mandated to support sustainable democracy worldwide, provides support to constitution building processes at the national level across multiple regions and develops research and tools on comparative global constitutional practice. With a commitment to and a programmatic emphasis on gender equality, IDEA actively supports the participation of women in constitution building processes and the development of gender-specific constitutional provisions that protect and promote substantive equality. At the global level, IDEA is developing a constitutional gender audit tool that will allow users to systematically assess their constitutions or draft constitutions, understand the interrelated equality issues that can be addressed via rights, recognition, and institutional design, and learn how other countries across the globe have addressed these issues. Through this analysis, users can design and strengthen their advocacy strategies, and propose innovative constitutional options for addressing challenges so that women can achieve substantive equality as full members of the constitutional community. However constitutional enshrinement of equality, non-discrimination, and specific rights is necessary but not sufficient, as these provisions must be meaningfully implemented. In addition to the central implementation role of legislatures, the judiciary can play a critical role in settling contested legal issues, forging new understandings of equality rights, and contribute to the transformation of the lived realities of women. Likewise, the judiciary may maintain the status quo or even impede advancement of equality.
In some countries, constitutional and other legally recognized courts have developed an important body of jurisprudence on advancing gender equality within the context of constitutional provisions in areas such as violence against women, citizenship and nationality, marriage, harmful practices and property rights. While not all the cases have advanced gender equality, their effective documentation for purposes of cross referencing and utilization would lead to a community of practice and growth in gender equality jurisprudence, constituting a valuable resource for judges, lawyers, and gender equality advocates.
Duties and Responsibilities
To contribute to the documentation and cross-fertilization of judicial decisions related to the equality and advancement of women, UN Women and IDEA are seeking to create an online library of national court cases and opinions related to constitutional guarantees of gender equality and non-discrimination.
Deliverables and time frames
In anticipation of creating the proposed online library, UN Women is seeking to hire a consultant to undertake an analysis of the feasibility, financial and human resource cost implications of creating an on-line library that brings together cases which have been decided on gender equality, in national courts of competent jurisdiction (at all levels), using constitutions as basic frames of reference. Working under the guidance of the UN Women Constitutional and Access to Justice Advisor,
A consultant will be hired over a period of one month (August 15th-September 15th 2014 – dates are flexible) to produce a report which assesses the following:
- Possible sources of case law and methodological options for the initial collection of case law and subsequent maintenance of up-to-date library - August 22nd 2014;
- Options for defining the scope of the countries included in the library and the scope of cases to be included and the principles to guide the identification and compilation of the cases - August 29th 2014;
- Options for the structure and presentation of an on-line library, including options for coding of the cases, that will be accessible to a global audience of legal and non-legal users - September 5th 2014;
- An overview of the human and financial costs and risks and long term maintenance and possible partnerships (e.g. academic institutions) that can be pursued to maintain the data base - September 15th 2014.
CompetenciesCore Values: Integrity:
- Demonstrating consistency in upholding and promoting the values of UN Women in actions and decisions, in line with the UN Code of Conduct.
- Demonstrating an appreciation of the multicultural nature of the organization and the diversity of its staff;
- Demonstrating an international outlook, appreciating differences in values and learning from cultural diversity.
- Sound knowledge of global gender equality issues, including gender equality in access to justice and constitutional reform; feminist legal theory and gender mainstreaming in research and advocacy.
- Experience in inter-agency or inter organization collaboration an advantage.
- Excellent communications skills; strong interpersonal skills;
- Ability to prepare succinct, evidence-based analytical reports.
- Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to establish and maintain effective partnerships and working relations, both within the UN system and externally;
- Ability to work in a multicultural and multi-ethnic environment with respect for diversity.
- Demonstrating / Safeguarding Ethics and Integrity.
- Demonstrate corporate knowledge and sound judgment.
Self-management and Emotional intelligence:
- Creating synergies through self-control.
- Learning and sharing knowledge and encourage the learning of others.
- Substantive knowledge of and experience in legal research, legal and reference databases, knowledge of gender equality in access to justice and constitutional reform and human rights frameworks including CEDAW;
- Knowledge of gender equality jurisprudence and ability to identify cases of global relevance and strategic use.
Required Skills and ExperienceEducation:
- Minimum of Master's degree or equivalent in Law, Gender Studies, International Relations or Humanitarian, Development studies or other related disciplines;
- Legal background especially in relation to the development of data bases an asset.
- A minimum of 10 years of professional experience in programme work and policy research at a national or international level;
- Experience in international law, legal practice or legal research;
- Proven expertise on gender equality and legal and constitutional reform;
- Experience with UN work highly desirable.
- Fluency in English is required;
- As this assignment will require the identification of sources in other languages, proficiency in another UN working language will be an asset.
- 4 weeks.
- Off-site (working from home).
- Please submit your proposed daily rate.