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close this bookABC of Women Workers' Rights and Gender Equality (ILO; 2000; 124 pages)
View the documentThe International Labour Organization
View the documentILO Publications
View the documentPreface to the earlier ABC of women workers' rights
View the documentPreface to the new ABC of women workers' rights and gender equality
close this folderIntroduction: Labour standards promoting women workers' rights and gender equality (Ingeborg Heide1)
View the document1. How to use this guide
View the document2. Gender equality in the ILO's mandate
View the document3. International labour Conventions and Recommendations
View the document4. History of standard setting to promote women workers' rights and gender equality
View the document5. Gender equality - A fundamental human right
View the document6. International labour standards, supranational law and national law
View the document7. Application and enforcement at the national level
View the document8. ILO standard setting and other means of action
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View the documentOther ILO publications
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1. How to use this guide

The ILO has increasingly placed emphasis on raising the level of legal education on gender issues. While the legal framework for promoting gender equality has been constantly improved at both national and international levels, a gap remains between the rights granted "on paper" and the actual situation. Even the best legal provisions cannot be of much use if they are not known and not used in practice. Knowledge about legal rights and machinery to enforce them is needed to combat discrimination and fight for a better gender balance in all areas of paid and unpaid employment, and in work-related decision-making.

This practical guide is intended to bridge that gap. Arranged alphabetically by topic, it focuses primarily on States' or employers' obligations and workers' rights relating to gender concerns derived from the ILO's body of international labour standards (Conventions and Recommendations). It also reflects other relevant developments and trends in international law (for example, United Nations instruments), supranational law (for instance, European Community directives), and national legislation and practice.

In addition, a number of political, legal and socio-economic terms are covered, because they are widely discussed or are especially relevant for women workers and gender equality. These include, for instance, Affirmative action, Export-processing zones, Girl child labourers, Gender mainstreaming and Glass ceiling. Entries on law enforcement mechanisms and procedural rules, such as Burden of proof and Remedies and sanctions, are also found in the guide. Terms and phrases that are not self-explanatory are defined and explained.

For each entry on a given topic, the provisions of the various instruments mentioned above are clearly summarized, and the instruments referred to are listed.2

2 International labour Conventions are referred to in the form "C. 88: Employment Service, 1948". This means "the Employment Service Convention (No. 88), adopted in 1948". Similarly, Recommendations are referred to in the form "R. 150: Human Resources Development, 1975".

In the case of international labour standards, specific words and phrases are used to reflect the binding character of a provision. Wording such as, for instance, " each Member shall..." or "each worker shall receive..." usually creates a legal obligation and/or a legal right. Such legal effect generally arises only from ratification, although there are certain fundamental principles which may be regarded as binding international law irrespective of ratification.

For States which are not bound because they have not ratified an instrument, its aims and content should nevertheless serve as policy guidance. Expressions such as "ought to" or "should" have been used regularly throughout this guide to show that the provisions described may be binding for ratifying countries and not binding for others. Exemptions are made for fundamental principles and rights at work, which must be respected and promoted in all ILO member States (see section 5), and when the content of a specific standard is being described.

Cross-references to related topics included in this guide are given at the end of each entry, where relevant.

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