Gender and the right to food

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Despite the existence of a range of a range of instruments that prohibit discrimination against women in international law, such discrimination remains pervasive in all spheres of life. It may result from laws that are themselves discriminatory. More often, however, the discrimination women face is the result of social norms or customs, linked to certain stereotypes about gender roles; unequal access to productive resources such as land and to economic opportunities, such as decent wage employment; unequal bargaining position within the household; gendered division of labor within households, that result both in time poverty for women and in lower levels of education; and women’s marginalization from decision-making spheres at all levels.

This report argues that only by addressing these different forms of discrimination, including by challenging the existing distribution of family responsibilities between women and men, shall the root causes of the discrimination women face be effectively addressed. It describes a cycle of discrimination in which disempowerment of women results in women being less economically independent, being exposed to violence and having a weaker bargaining position within the household and the community. As a result, they continue to assume a highly unequal share of tasks and family responsibilities within the household − taking care of the children and the elderly or the sick, fetching wood and water, buying and preparing the food: in middle-income countries, this unpaid care work would represent the equivalent of 15 per cent of the GDP if it were to be valued in monetary terms; and the figure is 35 per cent for low-income countries. If this unpaid care work were to be financed by the public purse, it would represent 94 per cent of the total tax revenue of South Korea, and 182 per cent of the total tax revenue of India.

This “care economy” for which they remain chiefly responsible results in time poverty for women. Women work more hours than men, although much of the work they perform remains informal, essentially performed within the family, and unremunerated, and thus is neither valued nor recognized. This leads to lower levels of education for women, and an inability to seek better employment opportunities outside the home. They may also be discouraged from improving their qualifications because of the lack of such opportunities, due to the discrimination they are confronted with in the labour market. This may further feed into negative prejudices about their ability to perform as well as men. The lack of recognition of reproductive rights is part of this cycle: marrying early means having children early, and having to take care of them, even though this may interrupt the education of the mother, or make it difficult or impossible for her to seek employment. It is this cycle of discrimination that must be broken 

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