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Chapter 2

Equality Doctrines and Gender Discrimination: The Evolving Jurisprudence of the UN Human

Rights Committee and the U.S. Supreme Court

On This Page

Introduction to the Chapter

This chapter begins an examination of the way different state courts and international and

regional human rights bodies decide whether a statute treating women and men differently

violates provisions guaranteeing women equal rights and equal protection of the law.  Many

state constitutions and international and regional treaties make these guarantees.  Advocates

can turn to those bodies in seeking to invalidate sex-discriminatory laws.  In doing so, they

need to know which body is most likely to rule in their favor and how to argue that the body

should adopt a more probing review if it is overly deferential to the state law.  Thus, in this

and many following chapters we will be closely comparing the bodies’ different approaches to

deciding equality issues.

 

Documents from the Chapter

Each document has its own box.  The box contains, on the top bold line, the name of the document. 

This is followed by the legal citation (not in bold).  Under these lines, the box contains one

or more sources for opening the document.  In the left-hand column (“HTML”or “PDF”), the reader

can access the official document copy, hosted on RossRights.  This permits rapid access to the

document.  In the right-hand column (“External Link”), the reader can access the same document

on an official website.  This link will often take more time to appear than the PDF or HTML copy,

but should be used for official legal citations. Asterisks accompany links where additional steps to reach

the document are required.

For all United Nations Treaties, the source marked "Original" contains the UN General Assembly

Resolution (G.A. res.) adopting the relevant treaty, which is found in the "Annex" following the

Resolution.  The source marked "UN High Comm'r for Human Rights" contains the relevant treaty,

without the G.A. res.

When a link requires searching for a symbol (such as "A/RES/54/4"), follow the link, click on the

Simple Search button to access the search engine, then type the symbol into the "Symbol" field

and click "Search."

 

       Women

Charter of the United Nations,

June 26, 1945, 59 Stat. 1031, T.S. 993, 3 Bevans 1153, entered into force Oct. 24, 1945.

UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF*

*Scroll to the end of the introduction for the text of the charter.

 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

G.A. res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc A/810 at 71 (1948).
Original PDF
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF

*Scroll to and click on 217(III).

 

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),

G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976.
Original PDF^
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF

*Scroll to and click on 2200(XXI).

^The ICCPR begins on page 52

 

ICCPR Optional Protocol ,

G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 59, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 302, entered into force March 23, 1976.
Original PDF^
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF

^The Optional Protocol begins on page 59.

*Scroll to and click on 2200(XXI).

 

International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights,

G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N.GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 49, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 993 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force Jan. 3, 1976.
Original PDF
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF

*Scroll to and click on 2200(XXI).

 

CEDAW Optional Protocol,

G.A. res. 54/4, annex, 54 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 5, U.N. Doc. A/54/49 (Vol. I) (2000), entered into force Dec. 22, 2000.

Original PDF
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF

*Click on the letter 'E' under the 'Optional Protocol' heading in the left sidebar.

 

Cases

Ato del Avellanal v. Peru,

Communication No. 202/1986 (28 October 1988), U.N. Doc. Supp. No. 40 (A/44/40) at 196 (1988).

Original PDF^
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights HTML

^p. 201 (p. 196 in original)

 

Map of Peru

Peru is located in Western South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Chile

and Ecuador.

       white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%

       other 0.6%, unspecified or none 16.3% (2003 est.)

Shirin Aumeeruddy-Cziffra and 19 other Mauritian Women v. Mauritius,

Communication No. 35/1978 (9 April 1981), U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/OP/1 at 67 (1984).

UN High Comm'r for Human Rights HTML

 

Shirin Aumeeruddy-Cziffra and 19 other Mauritian Women v. Mauritius,

Communication No. 35/1978 (9 April 1981), Response of June 15, 1983, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/OP/2 at 226 (1990).

Mauritian Response to Decision HTML

 

Map of Mauritius

Mauritius is an island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar.

Mauritius Detail Map

Mauritius is only 2040 km2 (788 mi2).

       Mauritian 2%

       other 2.5%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.4% (2000 census)

 

United States v. Virginia Military Institute,

518 U.S. 515 (1996).

United States Reports PDF

 

Map of Virginia

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is located in Lexington, VA, which is located 55 miles

northeast of Roanoke, VA.

Virginia Military Institute

Virginia Military Institute (VMI).
Attribution: mikemac29. License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0.

 

VMI Cadets co-mingling.

Attribution: Virginia State Senator John Watkins. License: Creative Commons

Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0.

 

Other Developments

Below is a post-VMI Supreme Court decision concerning sex discrimination.

Nguyen v. INS,

533 U.S. 53 (2001).

United States Reports/Cornell University PDF