France’s actions for women’s rights and equality

The defence of women’s rights, the promotion of gender equality and the fight against gender-based violence are one of the major priorities of France’s external action in the area of promoting and protecting human rights.

France’s global action

France is taking action in all multilateral forums.

Approximately 80% of victims of human trafficking are women. More than 120 million girls and women around the world have undergone female sexual mutilation. In 2014, some 220 million women did not have access to contraception. Some 20 million induced abortions are performed every year in unsafe conditions and are the cause of 50,000 deaths of women who often leave many orphaned children behind. It was in France in 1791 that a woman, Olympe de Gouges, wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Women and Female Citizens. France is therefore especially committed to complying with texts resulting from conventions and conferences on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and their implementation:

  • At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, which took months after the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, shared definitions of concepts such as sexual and reproductive rights were established.

The conference affirmed that the fundamental rights of women include the right to control their sexuality and their motherhood without being subjected to any constraints or violence and freedom to make decisions.

On these bases, France would like to commit, to see these rights, which have been affirmed internationally, fully accessible to women worldwide.

This was France’s message at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session to take stock of the International Conference on Population and Development of Cairo on 22 September 2014.

To take control of decisions in their lives, women must be educated and informed. That is why France is calling for an objective to be devoted to gender equality within the framework of the post-2015 Development Agenda and for women’s rights to be taken into account across the board in the other objectives.

In a context marked by the return of conservatism and obscurantism, there is still much to be done.

Within the United Nations

France actively contributed to the adoption and implementation of the Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security (PDF - 713 ko). These resolutions (1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106 and 2122) call on States to strengthen women’s protection during conflicts and to enhance women’s participation in peace negotiations and decision-making processes. A global review of the implementation of these resolutions will take place in October 2015. In 2010, France adopted a national plan of action to implement the women, peace and security resolutions. A second plan was adopted in March 2015 for the 2015-2018 period.

France supports action conducted by the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the appointment of advisers on women’s protection in peacekeeping operations.

At the United Nations General Assembly, France supported the first resolutions condemning and fighting against female genital mutilation and forced marriage. In 2006, France also initiated with the Netherlands a biennial resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. In 2014, many advances were observed when it comes to the fight against impunity, access to emergency contraception for victims of violence and protection of girls.

Moreover, France is extremely involved in activities of the Commission on the Status of Women, a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, working to improve gender equality and promoting women. At the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2015 to review progress of the Beijing Conference Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption, France would like to see the commitment of all States to implementing the 12 areas of action of the Beijing Platform clearly reaffirmed.

Extremely active in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, France is equally involved in the process of establishing a post-2015 agenda, which will be adopted at a summit to be held for this purpose in New York from 25 to 27 September 2015. France will defend the adoption of an objective devoted to gender equality and taking women’s rights into account across the board in the other objectives.

Lastly, France supported the creation of UN Women. It fully shares its priorities and together they are developing several cooperation actions. France strengthened its partnership with the agency with the signature of a framework cooperation agreement in May 2012.

Within external action of the European Union

France has an active policy to promote the fight against discrimination and violence against women at European level.

Within the European Union, building on the EU guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, adopted in 2008 under the French Presidency, France supports the priority given by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to promoting women’s rights in the EU’s external relations.

France likewise actively participated in establishing the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, which it ratified on 4 July 2014. It is the first legally binding international text including provisions to combat crimes that are allegedly committed in the name of honour. In November 2014, France asked the European Union to issue an appeal for the rapid accession by all Member States and by the EU to the Convention.

A strategy to place the principle of gender equality at the heart of France’s projects

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development adopted a gender and development strategy for 2013-2017 in July 2013, which places the principle of gender equality at the heart of all the projects and development programmes conducted by France thereby defining a framework for action that advocates integrating gender across the board in all sectors of activities.

Through its cooperation policy, France supports many actions to improve gender equality in the world, particularly efforts to curb violence against women, reduce maternal and child mortality, improve girls’ school attendance and empower women economically.


National Plan of Action for 2015-2017 (currently being published)

Evaluation of the Gender and Development Strategy (10.01.13) (PDF, 1 Mo)

Gender-based Violence at School in Sub-Saharan Africa
Report on the symposium "Arab Springs: Women’s Springs?" (Arab World Institute, Paris, 7 March 2012) (PDF, 655 Ko)

French Gender Equality Strategy

Useful links:

UN Women

UN Women France

United Nations Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence

Website of the "Genre en Action" Network

Last updated: March 2015

Useful links

  • France and women’s rights