IMPOWR Research Guide

As an IMPOWR Contributor, we have put together this Research Guide (available as a PDF for you to download and print) to assist you with your research. You will enter your research into one of five categories for a particular subtopic in a selected country and we recommend that you read the Database Training Manual before you begin as well. 

The IMPOWR database is intended to provide a unique online repository of domestic laws and legal reform efforts that impact women, organized by country. IMPOWR’s goal is to develop a self-sustaining network of researchers and experts that will maintain and update the database so that it is always current and always useful. As an IMPOWR Contributor (also known as a researcher), you are providing the essential core knowledge and primary sources that will be relied upon by IMPOWR database users across the globe. You can help us achieve the goal of sustainability not only by performing your original research, but also by providing feedback and suggestions so that the process becomes – and continues to be – fully self sustaining.

Your work is essential so that we may provide the most reliable primary and secondary sources available, with an emphasis on primary sources. Because such sources may be difficult to obtain, you are encouraged to be creative in your attempts to locate materials that provide current, valid information. For example, the U.S. Department of State provides a list of all embassies and consulates worldwide: If you are researching a subtopic for a country that does not provide easy online access to its laws, consider contacting that country’s embassy or consulate for assistance. If your research focuses on a country or topic with hard-to-find primary sources, we can provide individualized guidance and can put you in touch with subject matter or country experts if one is identified. In addition, please consult the following research guidelines as you conduct your search for relevant materials.

How to Locate Primary Sources

For purposes of IMPOWR research, primary sources include constitutions, statutory law, administrative rules, regulations, orders, opinion letters and any other enforceable government issued edict or degree. In common law systems, case law and advisory opinions are also pertinent. In many instances, such primary sources may be difficult to obtain. In conducting your research, please consider – but do not restrict yourself – to the following sources.


A constitution is the document embodying the set of fundamental principles by which a state is governed. While there may have been attempts to keep abreast of constitutional changes and amendments, the political change in many countries makes the job of keeping constitutional collections very difficult. Generally, the best place to search for a constitution is with the government involved. In most cases, copies may be obtained from the country’s embassy in Washington, DC; its UN mission in New York; its nearest consulate; its foreign ministry; or its national information office.

There are several sites that contain some constitutions of the world. Please do not publish the documents that you find at these sites as the definitive constitutional document unless you have 1) confirmed that the text is indeed accurate or 2) exhausted all resources available to you in an attempt to confirm that the text is indeed accurate. If you are unable to confirm that the text is accurate, please provide notice in your IMPOWR entry that explains that, despite your best efforts, you cannot assure the accuracy of the text1:

In addition, specific country websites will often provide a draft of their constitution. For example, the Liberian constitution is provided here:

It is essential that you attempt to verify such sources before publication. If you are unable to obtain a copy of the relevant constitutional provisions, please consult IMPOWR staff before you publish links to unverified online resources in your IMPOWR entry.

Statutes and Other Legislative Materials

Statutes are the laws or decrees of the sovereign or legislative authority and are expressed in a format necessary to constitute the law of the country. The primacy of statutory authorities is most apparent in civil law systems, which generally de-emphasize case law. Unfortunately, many statutory reporters are not readily available except at the U.S. Library of Congress and the most complete law libraries.

Treaties and Conventions

Many States have entered into bilateral, multilateral, or regional agreements that impact women’s rights. Such agreements may serve not only as the basis for international legal obligations, but also may be incorporated as a statutory foundation for many municipal law systems. In addition to the sources described above, some international organizations maintain information regarding the treaty obligations of States. For example:

When conducting treaty research, bear in mind that there may be a substantial gap between the adoption date and the registration date of a treaty or convention or between the adoption date and the date of entry into force.

Development Databases

Members of the international development community have created a wide variety of online resources that provide information on laws and legal reform efforts that impact women. Your IMPOWR entry should include a link to any significant online resource. The following sources may help get you started:

University and Law School Collections

Many schools have ongoing programs or maintain specialized collections of legal materials that will be helpful in your research. For example:

The Research Committee maintains an extended list of online resources that is available on our current IMPOWR Resources page. This page was created to allow Contributors to share links with other researchers working on the project. As your research uncovers additional useful resources, please share them with the IMPOWR research community.

IMPOWR Research Categories

The five categories of research are:

1. Subtopic Summary Information

The summary is an overview of the status or progress of the topic/subtopic in the country you are researching.

2. Current Legal Framework

  • Is the subtopic guaranteed/addressed in the Constitution? If so, please cite the provision and language.
  • Is the subtopic established in the law, executive order or regulations? If so, please cite the law, statute, code, order or regulation. 
  • Does the law prohibit discrimination against women in this subtopic? If so, please cite a specific law.
  • Does the law prohibit discrimination by government authorities as well as private individuals and entities?
  • What penalties may be imposed for discrimination in violation of the law?

3. Law Reform Efforts

  • What law reform projects on this topic have been completed?  Please provide a general description and/or link to project details or report, if possible. Use the Add Project feature to provide details.
  • What were the results of each project; was it successful?  If so, why?  If not, why?
  • Are the results sustainable over time?  If so, why?  If not, why?
  • What additional law reform projects should be undertaken to guarantee the subtopic?

4. Enforcement and Protection of Equality in Civil Society

  • Are civil society institutions engaged in the establishing and protecting rights relevant to this subtopic?  If so, which ones? (E.g., NGOs, academic institutions, professional societies and organizations, women’s rights groups, etc.)
  • Does the involvement of civil society institutions have a positive effect?
  • Can or should civil society institutions be more involved?

5. Role of Traditions

  • How do religious, community and/or traditional practices affect this subtopic?
  • If they have a negative impact on this subtopic, how can such practices best be addressed?
  • 1. If you rely on a constitutional provision from any online resource, please insert a footnote that describes your efforts to obtain the original, and the source that you cite. For example: “Despite efforts to obtain the most recent amendments to the Benin, Togo constitution from the country’s embassy in Washington, DC, we were unable to receive a current copy as of [DATE]. A link to an online but unverified version, accessed on [DATE] is therefore provided.”
  • 2. Note that if you link documents to the UN Official Document System (ODS), be sure to follow these steps to generate a proper link: 1. Once you have found the document you want to use, locate the document’s symbol number (all documents are issued one). If this is not obvious, use ODS’s main search function to locate your document and they symbol number will be listed on the document’s main page. 2. Type followed by the symbol number into your web browser’s web address area. Example: 3. This link can be used on IMPOWR’s website to access the ODS document.