This module is a resource for lecturers  


Topic five - Local, regional and global solutions to violence against women and girls


In Topic Two, the concept of discrimination in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was presented (GA Resolution 34/180). Since General Recommendation 19 was adopted by the CEDAW Committee in 1992, and the General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (GA Resolution 48/104) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, the detail of what it means to address violence against women as a human rights problem has been recognized in a variety of legal instruments.

International human rights law is made up of legally binding agreements - known as treaties and conventions - which give rise to legal obligations on the States agree to take part in them. The treaty-monitoring bodies for these treaties appraises the extent to which States are discharging their obligations to abide by the terms of the treaty. Case law from the international and regional treaty bodies (for example, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights), where individuals bring their experiences of human rights violations for adjudication, also build international understanding about what States need to do to discharge their obligations under the treaty to ensure the enjoyment of human rights in practice. The treaty bodies use this experience and expertise to give general comments (such as CEDAW's General Recommendations) on the rights contained in the treaty. CEDAW General Recommendation 19 was updated in 2017 by CEDAW General Recommendation 35, which is included in the Advanced Reading for this Module.

International human rights law is also made up of political declarations by State representatives speaking as a collective in the resolutions of bodies such as the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and regional institutions, such as the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, or the Arab League. 

The obligation on States to prevent, investigate, and prosecute violence against women requires States to undertake a variety of legal, policy, and practical initiatives, the detail of this has been set out in successive resolutions at the international and regional level, and several regional treaties.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted and endorsed the outcome of the 1995 Beijing Conference on women, in the final Declaration and Beijing Platform for Action. This comprehensive policy document covers women's human rights in a number of critical areas, including women and poverty, women's education, women in the economy, women and the media, women and the environment, as well as violence against women.

In December 2010, the General Assembly, in its resolution 65/228, adopted the Updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which represent a comprehensive framework to assist States in developing policies and carrying out actions to eliminate violence against women and to promote equality between men and women within the criminal justice system.

The updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures are organized around eleven themes: i) guiding principles; ii) criminal law; iii) criminal procedure; iv) police, prosecutors and other criminal justice officials; v) sentencing and corrections; vi) victim support and assistance; vii) health and social services; viii) training; ix) research and evaluation; x) crime prevention measures; and xi) international cooperation.

Furthermore, in 2013 and 2015, respectively, the United Nations General Assembly adopted two resolutions on "Taking action against gender-related killing of women and girls" ( A/RES/68/191) ( A/RES/70/176), urging Member States to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate prosecute and punish acts of gender-based violence against women and girls.

The United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Human Rights Council also pass regular resolutions on the need for States to intensify their efforts to gender-based violence against women and girls. The UN Commission on the Status of Women also adopts "Agreed Conclusions" which have addressed violence against women in 1998 and 2013. The United Nations Security Council has addressed the issue of conflict-related rape and sexual violence in a succession of resolutions on the theme of women, peace and security. (See for example: Security Council Report).

Regional human rights bodies have also adopted treaties and resolutions relating to gender-based violence against women: the three regional treaties, in the Americas region (the Convention of Belem do Para, 1994), in Africa (the Maputo Protocol, 2003) and Europe (the Istanbul Convention, 2011) are detailed in the PowerPoint presentation that accompanies this Module. The Arab League and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have also developed regional initiatives to advance the women, peace and security agenda within their respective regions.

The most recent, and most detailed regional treaty is from Europe - the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention (2011).

The Istanbul Convention is particularly interesting because the detail of the existing international human rights law, particularly the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions, and case law from the international and regional human rights treaties, was considered when drafting the wording of this convention. For example, as set out in Topic Three, the definition of rape in Article 36 was based on wording in cases in the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and the European Court of Human Rights. The Istanbul Convention reflects the detail of international human rights law - drawn from the international jurisprudence, and from across the regional human rights systems - on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of violence against women. It is therefore based in international human rights law drawn from around the world, not just European regional standards. In fact, this treaty is open for ratification by any State, anywhere in the world, not just European States.

There are 60 articles in the Istanbul Convention, covering all aspects of preventing, investigating, prosecuting and providing remedies to victims. Protecting women and girls who are known to be at risk through protection orders is also a feature of the Istanbul Convention. The Istanbul Convention also requires States parties to organize their government structures in a cooperative manner, so that victims of violence receive a coordinated response to prevent further violence and provide reparation.

The Istanbul Convention recognizes obligations on States to undertake the following initiatives:

  • States should coordinate all measures across the various branches of national and local government
  • Initiatives to address violence against women should be properly funded and resourced
  • States should cooperate with civil society organizations to develop and establish good practices to eradicate violence against women
  • States should ensure education of children and young people and information for the general public promotes gender equality and the eradication of violence against women
  • States should ensure access to services for victims, such as shelters and hotlines
  • All professionals - particularly in the health sector and criminal justice sector - should be trained and their performance monitored to ensure that they are providing an effective service to victims
  • The media should be encouraged to report on violence against women responsibly and accurately
  • Criminal law should include the range of forms of violence - including stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, forced abortion and forced sterilization, as well as physical, psychological and sexual violence;
  • Family and civil law should include protections for victims of violence, for example, access to protection orders, and recognition that parental rights to child contact should not take precedent over the rights and safety of women and child victims of violence
  • Police should take effective action to ensure immediate risk assessments and protective measures.

The Istanbul Convention requires each State party to transform its domestic laws and policies to improve the prevention, investigation and prosecution of violence against women and girls, and to improve specialist services. States parties provide regular reports on how they are discharging their obligations under the treaty and transforming the situation of violence against women in their country. Part of this obligation is to make the detail of the treaty known to the general public, so that civil society as a whole, and particularly women and girls know about their rights and can take action to demand enforcement of the treaty.

The gender dimension of human trafficking and people smuggling are explored in detail in Module 13 of the E4J University Module Series on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants. 

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