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Women and the right to food international law and state practice

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I. Rae
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Because of their lower social and economic status, as well as physiological needs, women are often more vulnerable to nutritional problems. When it comes to sharing food resources in the home, women and girls can lose out. Indeed, the full realisation of the right to food for women depends on parallel achievements in the right to health, education, access to information and access to resources such as land. This paper analyses, from a gender perspective, the relevant international instruments on the right to food, and the rights of women, before examining implementation and monitoring at the state level. Evidence suggests that there remains a lack of clarity on women's right to food. Even in cases where the law is comprehensive on this right, women continue to suffer from discrimination. Given that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the main instrument protecting women's rights, the absence in its text of a specific article on the right to food is an important omission which needs to be addressed. When it is mentioned, it is only in relation to pregnant women. This is reflected when countries invariably focus on mothers or even just children when reporting on food-related issues. In many countries the legal frameworks have been strengthened on gender equality and on the protection of the human right to food. Now what is needed are institutional mechanisms that can act as a catalyst to ensure such rights are realised for women. Those that already exist, such as national women's machineries, require strengthening. As do women's groups and organisations who play an essential role in awareness-raising and lobbying to ensure women's rights, including to food, are realised.

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