The main objective of this brief is to highlight the possibilities and
potential for adopting a gender approach to justice and women’s rights.
It focuses on three resolutions made by national courts in Mexico and
Colombia which have had significant impacts on the interpretation,
recognition and protection of women’s rights in both law and practice.
By providing a new lens through which to evaluate the historical and
social context of discrimination and inequality, the gender approach is
helping to change traditional legal and societal structures that have
historically maintained gender stereotypes and perpetuated asymmetrical
power relations. This Brief identifies four common strategies used by
Latin American courts to mainstream gender perspectives into judicial
rulings, and provides specific examples of cases to illustrate how these
strategies have been employed. These mechanisms will be of interest to
judges, lawyers, human rights activists and civil society organisations
using litigation as a tool for bringing about social change in favour of
human rights. The brief also identifies enabling factors from the region
and summarises key lessons.
The Latin American experience shows that it is possible - though slowly
and over time - for national supreme courts to incorporate gender
paradigms and standards on human rights as a common practice when
As part of the state, the judiciary is mandated to take action towards
the advancement of women’s human rights. This means that within the
fulfilment of its mandate it must consider the historical discrimination
and subordination of women and, in fact, use the law to reduce and
eliminate gender stereotypes. This legal responsibility has given judges
in Latin America the space within which to implement innovative
practices like a gender approach, thereby helping to reduce gender gaps
in access to justice.
Rulings from the highest tribunals have a strong impact on lower courts’
jurisprudence, which is why it has been so effective in Latin America
when they have adopted a gender perspective to broaden the scope of
protection of rights.
[Available in English and Spanish.]
López, C. ELLA Policy Brief: Latin American Advances in Incorporating a Gender Approach in National Court Rulings. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 5 pp.