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 is taking action in all multilateral forums.
Approximately 80% of victims of human trafficking are women. More than 133 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 22 million induced abortions are performed every year in unsafe conditions, principally in developing countries, and are the cause of 50,000 deaths of women per year. These obstacles to achieving reproductive and sexual rights severely hinder sustainable and inclusive development.
France is especially committed to complying with and implementing the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol, as well as the texts adopted by the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development and the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women (Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action).
Sexual and reproductive rights
The Beijing Conference helped set out shared definitions of concepts such as sexual and reproductive rights. It affirmed that the fundamental rights of women include the right to manage their sexuality and their maternity, the freedom to make decisions without any constraints or violence. It is on this basis that France wishes to act, to ensure these internationally-recognized rights are fully accessible to women around the world.
This was the message that France delivered during the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on the follow-up to the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development on 22 September 2014.
Empowerment of women and representation at all levels of responsibility
France is also committed to defending women’s empowerment throughout their lives and their participation at all levels of responsibility. The President underlined these commitments again in September 2015 on the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Conference. With this in mind, UN Women launched their "Step It Up" campaign asking States to make national commitments to overcome the challenges which prevent men and women from developing their full potential.
Women’s rights and the Sustainable Development Goals
Furthermore, France has ensured that women’s rights are fully considered in negotiations on development funding and the sustainable development goals - gender and gender equality issues are the subject of Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5) and across the various goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In a context dominated by the return of conservatism and obscurantism, much remains to be done.
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. In 2010, France adopted a national plan of action to implement these resolutions. A second plan was adopted in March 2015 for the 2015-2018 period.
Violence against women and domestic violence
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 the protection of girls. A new resolution was adopted by consensus in December 2016, during the 71st United Nations General Assembly, specifically targeting the fight against domestic violence (RES71/170). France also initiated a UNESCO resolution to fight school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) which was unanimously adopted in April 2015.
Partnership with UN Women
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 to promote women. 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.
Women’s rights and COP21
Leading up to COP21, France mobilized significant support to defend the inclusion of gender equality in the Paris Universal Climate Agreement. The Paris Agreement recognized the role of women as players in the fight against climate disruption. During COP22, France continued this commitment to women’s rights.
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 European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to promoting women’s rights in the EU’s external relations.
Violence against women and domestic violence
France likewise actively participated in establishing the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention), which it ratified on 4 July 2014. It is the first legally-binding international text which includes provisions to combat crimes that are allegedly committed in the name of honour. Since November 2014, France has been asking the European Union to launch an appeal for all Member States to quickly ratify this convention.
France has also supported the creation of a programme specifically dedicated to projects which promote gender equality and seek to end violence against women entitled, "Rights, Equality and Citizenship", as part of the 2014-2020 multi-year programme, the adoption of the Council conclusions on gender quality, on 16 June 2016, and the work conducted by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).
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.
A third action plan on gender equality for 2018-2022 is currently being drawn up in cooperation with civil society. It aims to boost gender-based achievements by improving traceability and accountability to help development.
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 the provision of schooling to girls and empower encourage women’s political, economic and social leadership.
Insight into ongoing work
Ongoing work focuses on boosting women’s rights and employability on the southern shore of the Mediterranean:
- The "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" Priority Solidarity Fund (PSF) aims to empower women and ensure a better gender balance in government in the North Africa and the Middle East regions. In partnership with UN Women, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the Ministry responsible for women’s rights, the French Interministerial Delegate for the Mediterranean, Sciences Po and ENA Paris, this project proposes to create a network of women stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors as well as in civil society.
- The PSF for "Gender, Generation and Social Cohesion" in the Arab world aims to improve the employability of young people and women and was implemented in partnership with UN Women, the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) and the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD), the Egyptian Sawiris Foundation, and NGOs including Batik International, to help women and young people gain access to employment (e.g., ongoing project in Cairo)
- The Ministry chairs a "Gender and Development" platform stemming from civil society, which has been in place since 2006 to provide a forum for discussion and reflexion on France’s international policies concerning the fight against gender inequality.