open access


Women’s human rights have long been marginalised in international human rights law. The public/private divide on which international human rights law rests has been constructed in a manner that obscures the experiences of women and fails to challenge women’s disadvantage.
In this paper, I discuss the problem of the marginalisation of women’s rights in international human rights law and propose reforms to fully incorporate women’s experiences of human rights abuse. The focus of the analysis is on the public/private divide and its reflection in the conceptualisation of rights, the doctrine of state responsibility, and the principle of equality.
The main argument of this paper is that the gendered nature of the divide needs to be transcended and the public/private divide re-conceptualised in a manner that challenges discrimination and violence against women in the private sphere, while protecting women’s freedom of self-determination and personal development in both the ‘public’ and the ‘private’ sphere. Such a re-construction of the public/private divide entails using gender analysis in interpreting rights, state responsibility, and equality.