The chapter examines the origins, nature and prevalence of social and economic rights. It explores the arguments for understanding social and economic rights in gender terms and considers different approaches to this understanding.. The chapter discusses and develops a typology of different constitutional and jurisprudential approaches to social and economic rights as they relate to gender issues. It considers both justiciable and aspirational social and economic rights. It also examines other constitutional rights such as the right to equality and the right to life that have been used to claim women’s social and economic rights, as well as specific women’s rights included in some constitutions, that require states to meet the social and economic rights of women. Lastly it notes the incorporation of international law dealing with women’s social and economic rights via some domestic constitutional provisions. The conclusion, in acknowledging that some constitutions provide limited social and economic rights for women, points to alternative and complementary strategies to address these gaps. It also suggests new challenges for scholarship and other engagement in the area of women’s social and economic rights.
Violence against women cuts across class, touching both rich and poor. It is clear, however, that poverty and unequal access to resources contribute to the conditions that make women vulnerable to violence. The chapter suggests the need for a closer understanding of how violence acts as a barrier to women’s exercise of and access to their social and economic rights and how these rights might support efforts to prevent and address violence against women. The chapter considers some of the concerns raised by critical feminist scholars in relation to feminist engagements with international law, particularly where they deal with violence against women within international human rights law. It argues that a focus on social and economic rights might overcome some of these concerns in using human rights to address violence against women. It explores ways in which the conceptual connections between violence against women and social and economic rights might be deepened in international human rights law. Social and economic rights have potential value in contributing to the prevention of violence, rather than just in responding to it. Together with substantive approaches to equality, social and economic rights might be marshalled to achieve transformative changes to society, by altering some of the structural underpinnings of poverty and inequality that contribute to violence against women.