International Law and Women's Human Rights

Every person is entitled to certain fundamental human rights by virtue of being human. Both the United Nations and regional human rights organizations, such as the Council of Europe and European Union, have specifically recognized the human rights of women and the corresponding obligations of national governments to protect and promote such rights.

Women's human rights are enumerated by treaties, conventions, resolutions, declarations and guidelines, promulgated by either the United Nations or a regional human rights body. Treaties are formally adopted by national governments and then create legally binding obligations for those governments. Every state which has ratified a human rights treaty must ensure that the human rights of its citizens are protected- meaning the government commits to both avoid and prohibit actions that violate human rights and also to undertake positive steps to ensure that such violations do not take place.

Under international law, specific enforcement bodies, usually specialized agencies, committees or special rapporteurs, monitor a nation's human rights situation. These bodies also review reports and complaints about human rights violations, generally submitted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) but also sometimes by individuals.

International Bodies and Institutions
A number of international organizations and institutions work together to fight violence against women and foster women’s human rights. These entities help monitor, document, report, and enforce women’s human rights law on a global or regional level. UN entities and European institutions may specifically work toward women’s rights while informing the work of the larger international bodies.  
Women’s Rights Documents
The international community has adopted, passed, or ratified a variety of international documents that protect human rights, including treaties, resolutions, declarations, and conference documents. For some of the most important documents that set international standards and encourage nations to end violence against women, see United Nations documents and European documents that protect women's human rights.
Monitoring and Enforcement Mechanisms
While international documents create standards and help establish customs regarding the treatment of women around the world, in and of themselves these documents are unenforceable. However, the international system has created a variety of reporting and monitoring mechanisms as well as optional protocols that allow individuals or nations to challenge violations of women’s rights. See UN Mechanisms and European Mechanisms for additional information.