Saturday, September 30, 2017

Root causes of violence against children

A key factor that makes children and adolescents, particularly girls, vulnerable to violence (and increases the likelihood that boys and men perpetrate such violence) is social tolerance of both victimization of girls and perpetration by boys and men. Often this abuse or exploitation is perceived as normal and beyond the control of communities which, alongside shame, fear and the belief that no one can help, results in low levels of reporting to authorities. In addition, victims are often blamed for the violence they experience. This social tolerance of violence in general, and intimate partner and sexual violence in particular, stems from the low status of women and children in many societies, and cultural norms surrounding gender and masculinity. Therefore, changing gender norms relating to male entitlement over girls and women’s bodies – and control over their behaviour – is a critical strategy to achieve gender equality, reduce violence aimed at girls, shape prevention activities and address specific care and support needs.
Violence is also rooted in a number of other social, economic and cultural factors that impact communities, families, relationships, and the manner in which children experience their daily lives. The social ecological model depicts this interplay of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors
• Individual-level risk factors include biological and personal history aspects such as sex, age, education, income, disability, impaired brain and cognitive development, psychological disorders, harmful use of alcohol, drug abuse, and a history of aggression or maltreatment.
• Close-relationship level risk factors include a lack of emotional bonding, poor parenting practices, family dysfunction and separation, associating with delinquent peers, children witnessing violence against their mother or stepmother, and early or forced marriage.
• Community-level risk factors include how the characteristics of settings such as schools, workplaces and neighbourhoods increase the risk of violence. These include poverty, high population density, transient populations, low social cohesion, unsafe physical environments, high crime rates and the existence of a local drug trade.
• Society-level risk factors include legal and social norms that create a climate in which violence is encouraged or normalized. These also include health, economic, educational and social policies that maintain economic, gender or social inequalities; absent or inadequate social protection; social fragility owing to conflict, post-conflict or natural disaster; weak governance and poor law enforcement.

The interaction between factors at the different levels is just as important as the influence of factors within a single level (9) . For example, longitudinal studies suggest that complications associated with pregnancy and delivery – perhaps because they lead to neurological damage and psychological or personality disorder (individual risk factors) – seem to predict child maltreatment and youth violence mainly when they occur in combination with other problems within the family, such as poor parenting practices (34) . Several other common risk factors – such as family dysfunction and low social cohesion within the community – place some children at much greater risk than others. And, as humanitarian crises including war, mass refugee movements, economic migration, climate disasters and disease outbreaks proliferate, more children than ever are becoming vulnerable to violence of all forms. 
Though programmes and policies often address different forms of violence in isolation, it is important to recognize that the different forms are connected, as they share common root causes. Because they share common causes, they often occur together, and one can lead to another. For instance, being a victim of child maltreatment can increase the risk in later life of becoming a victim or perpetrator of sexual violence, youth violence, self-directed violence and intimate partner violence. Children who witness intimate partner violence against their mother or stepmother are also more likely to experience such violence in later life – both as victims and as perpetrators (35–36) . Thus, programmes that effectively address root causes have high potential for reducing multiple forms of violence against children

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Types of violence against children

Most violence against children involves at least one of six main types of interpersonal violencea that tend to occur at different stages in a child’s development  (9) :
• Maltreatment (including violent punishment) involves physical, sexual and psychological/emotional violence; and neglect of infants, children and adolescents by parents, caregivers and other authority figures, most often in the home but also in settings such as schools and orphanages.
• Bullying (including cyber-bullying) is unwanted aggressive behaviour by another child or group of children who are neither siblings nor in a romantic relationship with the victim. It involves repeated physical, psychological or social harm, and often takes place in schools and other settings where children gather, and online.
• Youth violence is concentrated among those aged 10–29 years, occurs most often in community settings between acquaintances and strangers, includes physical assault with weapons (such as guns and knives) or without weapons, and may involve gang violence.
• Intimate partner violence (or domestic violence)
 involves violence by an intimate partner or ex-partner.
Although males can also be victims, intimate partner violence disproportionately affects females. It commonly occurs against girls within child and early/ forced marriages. Among romantically involved but unmarried adolescents it is sometimes called “dating violence”.
• Sexual violence includes non-consensual completed or attempted sexual contact; non-consensual acts of a sexual nature not involving contact (such as voyeurism or sexual harassment); acts of sexual trafficking committed against someone who is unable to consent or refuse; and online exploitation.
• Emotional or psychological violence and witnessing violence includes restricting  a child’s movements, denigration, ridicule, threats and intimidation, discrimination, rejection and other non-physical forms of hostile treatment. Witnessing violence can involve forcing a child to observe an act of violence, or the incidental witnessing of violence between two or more other persons.

When directed against girls or boys because of their biological sex or gender identity, any of these types of violence can also constitute gender-based violence.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Magnitude of violence against children

An analysis of nationally representative survey data on the prevalence of violence against children in 96 countries estimates that 1 billion children globally – over half of all children aged 2–17 years – have experienced emotional, physical or sexual  violence in the past year (2) . 
Despite its high prevalence, violence against children is often hidden, unseen or under-reported. Its hidden nature is well documented (3) – for example, a meta-analysis of global data finds self-reported child sexual abuse 30 times higher and physical abuse 75 times higher than official reports would suggest (4, 5) .
Girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. For example, the lifetime prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is 18% for girls, compared to 8% for boys (4) . Perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are predominantly males. Girls are also more likely to experience intimate partner violence (sexual and/or physical); rape by acquaintances or strangers; child or early/forced marriage; trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and child labour, and genital mutilation/cutting. Such violence occurs in many settings, including those where girls should be safe and nurtured — at home; travelling to, from and within school; in their communities; and in situations of humanitarian emergency, displacement, or post-conflict settings.
Boys are more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of homicide, which commonly involves weapons such as firearms and knives (7) . 

Homicide is among the top five causes of death in adolescents, with boys comprising over 80% of victims and perpetrators. In addition, for every homicide there are hundreds of predominantly male victims of youth violence who sustain injuries as a result. Boys are also more likely to be the victims and perpetrators in fights and assaults (7) .

Given the high rates at which girls and boys experience violence, this paints an alarming picture of the extent to which children live with the impact of violence, in the absence of support or services. In many countries, the true magnitude of the problem is vastly underestimated, partly because prevalence estimates come from administrative data used by health or justice systems and not from national survey data, and partly because of the widespread beliefs that lead people – including children – to see violence as a norm rather than a problem demanding attention. Furthermore, girls and boys who do report such violence are often stigmatized, or not believed, and no action is taken. Though violence may be hidden, its consequences eventually surface (8) , creating a pervasive, enduring and costly toll for children and adults, communities and nations.
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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ending Violence Against Children is a Priority

Potential health consequences of violence against children

Violence against the most vulnerable members of our society – our children and adolescents – has a devastating impact and leads to a wide range of health and social problems. Yet much of it is predictable and preventable through programmes that address its causes and risk factors.

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Friday, September 22, 2017


On the 3rd anniversary of the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention, EuroMed Rights calls on governments on both sides of the Mediterranean to urgently ratify and implement this international tool to prevent and combat violence against women. #STOPViolenceAgainstWomen, let’s achieve gender equality!

The ‘Istanbul Convention’ is the first and most comprehensive legally binding Council of Europe (CoE) treaty specifically dealing with violence against women, designating it as a human right violation and a form of discrimination. It sets out minimum standards on protection of women from violence as well as prevention and prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women. To date, 24 members of the CoE have ratified the Convention, while an additional 20 has signed it.

Violence against women being prevalent on both sides of the Mediterranean, EuroMed Rights welcomed the decision of the EU to dedicate 2017 to ending violence against women, especially as the Council of the European Union recently approved in May the signature of the Istanbul Convention. By deciding to join the Convention, the EU confirms its commitment to combatting violence against women both within its territory as well as globally, and strengthens its capacity to act. However, it is important that the EU also continues to push and support its members’ states to ratify and implement the Convention. It should also be encouraged to push for the accession to the Convention of third states within its’ eastern and southern neighborhood, in the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy.

By ratifying the treaty, states undertake to guarantee gender equality in their legislation as well as to criminalise all forms of violence against women including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, stalking, forced abortion and forced sterilisation. Ratifying countries are also required to protect and support victims of gender-based violence by implementing comprehensive and coordinated policies involving government agencies, NGOs as well as national, regional and local authorities.

Violence against women remains one of the most prevalent human rights violations of our times. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention can change attitudes and introduce tangible improvements in the lives of millions of women and girls in our societies. Let’s keep united and let’s use the Istanbul Convention!

EuroMed Rights welcomed on 26 July the adoption by the Tunisian Assembly of the people’s representatives of the comprehensive law on fighting violence against women. Following many years of efforts, its adoption, which includes the main recommendations by civil society, is a milestone for women’s rights in Tunisia and the implementation of the principles defended by the new Constitution.

However, we want to draw attention to Cyprus and Turkey, 2 countries where much work on fighting VaW is still needed.
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Preventing Intimate Partner Violence is a Priority

Intimate Partner Violence is a Priority (IPV) is a serious preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans and occurs across the lifespan.2-4 It can start as soon as people start dating or having intimate relationships, often in adolescence. IPV that happens when individuals first begin dating, usually in their teen years, is often referred to as TDV. From here forward in this technical package, we will use the term IPV broadly to refer to this type of violence as it occurs across the lifespan. However, when outcomes are specific to TDV, we will note that.

IPV (also commonly referred to as domestic violence) includes “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression (including coercive tactics) by a current or former intimate partner (i.e., spouse, boyfriend/ girlfriend, dating partner, or ongoing sexual partner).”5 Some forms of IPV (e.g., aspects of sexual violence, psychological aggression, including coercive tactics, and stalking) can be perpetrated electronically through mobile devices and social media sites, as well as, in person. IPV happens in all types of intimate relationships, including heterosexual relationships and relationships among sexual minority populations. Family violence is another commonly used term in prevention efforts. While the term domestic violence encompasses the same behaviors and dynamics as IPV, the term family violence is broader and refers to a range of violence that can occur in families, including IPV, child abuse, and elder abuse by caregivers and others. This package is focused on IPV across the lifespan, including partner violence among older adult populations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a separate technical package for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

IPV is highly prevalent. IPV affects millions of people in the United States each year. Data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) indicate that nearly 1 in 4 adult women (23%) and approximately 1 in 7 men (14%) in the U.S. report having experienced severe physical violence (e.g., being kicked, beaten, choked, or burned on purpose, having a weapon used against them, etc.) from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Additionally, 16% of women and 7% of men have experienced contact sexual violence (this includes rape, being made to penetrate someone else, sexual coercion, and/or unwanted sexual contact) from an intimate partner. Ten percent of women and 2% of men in the U.S. report having been stalked by an intimate partner, and nearly half of all women (47%) and men (47%) have experienced psychological aggression, such as humiliating or controlling behaviors.

The burden of IPV is not shared equally across all groups; many racial/ethnic and sexual minority groups are disproportionately affected by IPV. Data from NISVS indicate that the lifetime prevalence of experiencing contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner is 57% among multi-racial women, 48% among American Indian/Alaska Native women, 45% among non-Hispanic Black women, 37% among non-Hispanic White women, 34% among Hispanic women, and 18% among Asian-Pacific Islander women. The lifetime prevalence is 42% among multi-racial men, 41% among American Indian/Alaska Native men, 40% among non-Hispanic Black men, 30% among non-Hispanic White men, 30% among Hispanic men, and 14% among Asian-Pacific Islander men.3 Additionally, the NISVS special report on victimization by sexual orientation demonstrates that some sexual minorities are also disproportionately affected by IPV victimization; 61% of bisexual women, 37% of bisexual men, 44% of lesbian women, 26% of gay men, 35% of heterosexual women, and 29% of heterosexual men experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking from an intimate partner in their lifetimes.7 In regards to people living with disabilities, one study using a nationally representative sample found that 4.3% of people with physical health impairments and 6.5% of people with mental health impairments reported IPV victimization in the past year.8 Studies also show that people with a disability have nearly double the lifetime risk of IPV victimization.

IPV starts early in the lifespan. Data from NISVS demonstrate that IPV often begins in adolescence. An estimated 8.5 million women in the U.S. (7%) and over 4 million men (4%) reported experiencing physical violence, rape (or being made to penetrate someone else), or stalking from an intimate partner in their lifetime and indicated that they first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before the age of 18.3 A nationally representative survey of U.S. high school students also indicates high levels of TDV. Findings from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicate that among students who reported dating, 10% had experienced physical dating violence and a similar percentage (11%) had experienced sexual dating violence in the past 12 months.10 In an analysis of the 2013 survey where the authors examined students reporting physical and/or sexual dating violence, the findings indicate that among students who had dated in the past year, 21% of girls and 10% of boys reported either physical violence, sexual violence, or both forms of violence from a dating partner.11 While the YRBS does not provide national data on the prevalence of stalking victimization among high school students, we know from NISVS that nearly 3.5 million women (3%) and 900,000 men (1%) in the U.S. report that they first experienced stalking victimization before age 18.3 A study conducted in Kentucky suggests that nearly 17% of high school students in that state report stalking victimization, with most students indicating that they were most afraid of a former boyfriend or girlfriend as the stalker.12 Research also indicates that IPV is most prevalent in adolescence and young adulthood and then begins to decline with age,2 demonstrating the critical importance of early prevention efforts.

IPV is associated with several risk and protective factors. Research indicates a number of factors increase risk for perpetration and victimization of IPV. The risk and protective factors discussed here focus on risk for IPV perpetration, although many of the same risk factors are also relevant for victimization.13-14 Factors that put individuals at risk for perpetrating IPV include (but are not limited to) demographic factors such as age (adolescence and young adulthood), low income, low educational attainment, and unemployment; childhood history factors such as exposure to violence between parents, experiencing poor parenting, and experiencing child abuse and neglect, including sexual violence. Other individual factors that put people at risk for perpetrating IPV include factors such as stress, anxiety, and antisocial personality traits; attitudinal risk factors, such as attitudes condoning violence in relationships and belief in strict gender roles; and other behavioral risk factors such as prior perpetration and victimization of IPV or other forms of aggression, such as peer violence, a history of substance abuse, a history of delinquency, and hostile communication styles.

Relationship level factors include hostility or conflict in the relationship, separation/ending of the relationship (e.g., break-ups, divorce/separation), aversive family communication and relationships, and having friends who perpetrate/ experience IPV.15-16 Although less studied than factors at other levels of the social ecology, community or societal level factors include poverty, low social capital, low collective efficacy in neighborhoods (e.g., low willingness of neighbors to intervene when they see violence), and harmful gender norms in societies (i.e., beliefs and expectations about the roles and behavior of men and women).

Additionally, a few protective factors have been identified that are associated with lower chances of perpetrating or experiencing TDV. These include high empathy, good grades, high verbal IQ, a positive relationship with one’s mother, and attachment to school.15 Less is known about protective factors at the community and societal level, but research is emerging indicating that environmental factors such as lower alcohol outlet density18 and community norms that are intolerant of IPV19 may be protective against IPV. Although more research is needed, there is some evidence suggesting that increased economic opportunity and housing security may also be protective against IPV.

IPV is connected to other forms of violence. Experience with many other forms of violence puts people at risk for perpetrating and experiencing IPV. Children who are exposed to IPV between their parents or caregivers are more likely to perpetrate or experience IPV, as are individuals who experience abuse and neglect as children.13,15,23 Additionally, adolescents who engage in bullying or peer violence are more likely to perpetrate IPV.15,24 Those who experience sexual violence and emotional abuse are more likely to be victims of physical IPV.14 Research also suggests IPV may increase risk for suicide. Both boys and girls who experience TDV are at greater risk for suicidal ideation.25-26 Women exposed to partner violence are nearly 5 times more likely to attempt suicide as women not exposed to partner violence.27 Intimate partner problems, which includes IPV, were also found to be a precipitating factor for suicide among men in a review of violent death records from 7 U.S. states.28 Research also shows that experience with IPV (either perpetration or victimization) puts people at higher risk for experiencing IPV in the future.

The different forms of violence often share the same individual, relationship, community, and societal risk factors.29 The interconnections between the different forms of violence suggests multiple opportunities for prevention.30 Many of the strategies included in this technical package include example programs and policies that have demonstrated impacts on other forms of violence as reflected in CDC’s other technical packages for prevention of child abuse and neglect, sexual violence, youth violence and suicide.6,31-33 Recognizing and addressing the interconnections among the different forms of violence will help us better prevent all forms of violence. Research

The health and economic consequences of IPV are substantial. Approximately 41% of female IPV survivors and 14% of male IPV survivors experience some form of physical injury related to their experience of relationship violence.2 IPV can also extend beyond physical injury and result in death. Data from U.S. crime reports suggest that 16% (about 1 in 6) of murder victims are killed by an intimate partner, and that over 40% of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by an intimate partner.34 There are also many other adverse health outcomes associated with IPV, including a range of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and nervous system conditions, many of which are chronic in nature.35 Survivors of IPV also experience mental health consequences, such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).36 Population-based surveys suggest that 52% of women and 17% of men who have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner report symptoms of PTSD related to their experience of relationship violence.3 IPV survivors are also at higher risk for engaging in health risk behaviors, such as smoking, binge drinking, and HIV risk behaviors.
A substantial proportion of survivors also report other negative impacts as a result of IPV, and there is wide variation in the proportions of female and male survivors reporting these impacts. Populationbased surveys indicate that among women and men in the U.S. who have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetimes, 73% of the women and 36% of the men report at least one measured negative impact related to these victimization experiences (e.g., fear, concern for safety, missing school or work, needing services).3 Among the female IPV survivors, 62% reported feeling fearful, 57% reported being concerned for their safety, 25% missed at least one day of school or work from the IPV, 19% reported needing medical care, and 8% needed housing services. Among the male survivors, 18% reported feeling fearful, 17% reported being concerned for their safety, 14% missed at least one day of school or work from the IPV, 5% reported needing medical care, and 2% needed housing services.
Although the personal consequences of IPV are considerable, there are also considerable societal costs associated with medical services for IPV-related injury and health consequences, mental health services, lost productivity from paid work, childcare, and household chores, and criminal justice and child welfare costs. The only currently available estimates of societal costs of IPV are from the mid-1990s, but suggest that the annual costs even 20 years ago were estimated at $5.8 billion based on medical and mental health services and lost productivity alone.
IPV can be prevented. Primary prevention of IPV, including TDV, means preventing IPV before it begins. Primary prevention strategies are key to ending partner violence in adolescence and adulthood and protecting people from its effects. Partner violence in adolescence can be a pre-cursor or risk factor for partner violence in adulthood. Many strategies to prevent IPV therefore see adolescence as a critical developmental period for the prevention of partner violence in adulthood. It is also important to assist survivors and their children and protect them from future harm. Although there is less evidence of what works to prevent IPV compared to other areas of violence, such as youth violence or child maltreatment, a growing research base demonstrates that there are multiple strategies to prevent IPV from occurring in the first place and to lessen the harms for survivors.39 Strategies are available that can benefit adolescents and adults regardless of their level of risk as well as individuals and environments at greatest risk. A comprehensive approach that simultaneously targets multiple risk and protective factors is critical to having a broad and sustained impact on IPV. Even though more research is needed (e.g., to strengthen the evidence addressing community and societal level factors), we cannot let the need for further research impede efforts to effectively prevent IPV within our communities.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Irina Scherbakova: “Proof that history can be changed”

Irina Scherbakova was born in 1949. She is a civil rights activist, historian, and German scholar. In 1988, she was one of the founding members of Memorial – the first Soviet human rights organization.

Simone Brunner spoke with her:

Ms. Scherbakova, two years ago a book consisting of a dialogue between you and the German historian Karl Schlögel was published under the title Der Russland-Reflex – Einsichten in eine Beziehungskrise [The Russia Reflex – Insights Into a Relationship Crisis]. What is the relationship between Germany and Russia like today?

Unfortunately, it has not improved. For quite a while now we have been witnessing undemocratic developments in Russia, such as the pressure put on civil society and the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in winter 2011/12. The situation then became even worse with the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. There is no trust between Russia and Germany. And without trust, it is simply not possible to call it a good relationship.

There are many people in Germany at the moment calling for more dialogue with Russia.

But dialogue is always two-sided. Even if you fundamentally disagree with one another, there must be a certain basis of trust – a knowledge that the other party is telling the truth and not lying. Unfortunately, this is absolutely not the case in dealings with the Russian side. An honest dialogue only exists among civil society; it is currently not possible at a political level.

You have been working to tackle human rights violations in your country for decades – first in the Soviet Union then in Russia. How did you personally come to be involved in this topic?

Well, it is the main topic of Soviet history! And yet it was not publicly spoken about or reported on; archives were closed to the public. But this topic affected us all – there were millions of victims. It was clear to me that society would not be able to evolve if it did not address this repression.

With the human rights organization Memorial you are still campaigning for more open dialogue on the crimes committed during the Stalin era. Why do you still consider this to be such an important task?

Without this open dialogue it is simply not possible to establish a democracy. Also, we need to pay tribute to the victims. These were the slogans of perestroika. Unfortunately, however, this process has been interrupted – perhaps even undone; today, the victims are forgotten and the crimes suppressed. A positive image of Stalin has re-emerged with memorials to him being erected. A so-called “power vertical” has been created under President Vladimir Putin that is symbolized by these figures from the past, this strong state power. Their revival was necessary to ideologically underpin this development.

You also coordinate the Memorial history competition – an annual contest that encourages students to look into their family history. Memorial was recently put on the list of “foreign agents” by the Russian Ministry of Justice. How is this impacting your work?

We are being vilified as enemies of the state, as enemy agents; state television is being used to stir up public opinion against us. It has also become hard for us to raise money for projects or to cooperate with state-run organizations like museums or theaters. And, not least, it makes our actual work with teachers and students difficult, as they are also put under pressure by being told that it is unpatriotic to work with us.

On August 28, you were awarded the Goethe Medal for your achievements in cultivating the German language and in promoting international cultural exchange. What does this mean to you?

It is a very great but unexpected honor. Exactly 74 years ago, on August 28, 1943, my father was injured in Ukraine during heavy fighting against the German Wehrmacht. He was 19 years old at the time. He could never have imagined that we would one day have this sort of relationship with Germany again – let alone that his daughter would receive such an award! In this respect it is wonderful proof that history, too, can be changed.

You also developed a particular interest in German culture and the German language. Where did this come from?

I think there are two facets to this. One is the fact that German culture and literature has always been very important for Russia – despite the war. The other is, of course, the history of National Socialism. That war shaped my father and his friends; it played a constant and prominent role in the environment in which I grew up. It is certainly no coincidence that Memorial has particularly close ties to Germany. I think it also has to do with our shared history –and, of course, with the positive example set by Germany in how it dealt with its own history.

You met Heinrich Böll when you were working as an interpreter for your father, who was also a literary scholar. What was this meeting like?

Oh, I was still a young student then! (laughs) There were many German writers who had a big impact on me, like Franz Fühmann. I saw how they were trying to shed light on the past and deal with their own traumatic experiences. That’s why Böll was also interesting, as he was one of the most popular authors in the Soviet Union. He told us the sorts of things we wanted to know about the “other side.” I think it was important for Soviet post-war society to discover the humanity that also existed in Germany.

You spoke about an increase in pressure on Russian civil society. What advice would you give young civil rights activists today?

I’m afraid to say that I’m very pessimistic when it comes to Russia’s immediate future. I don’t see a bright future dawning any time soon. In fact, I fear that the pressure will turn into aggression. The Russia we see today is one where no one can feel safe and there is no protection from persecution – regardless of your age, regardless of your authority, and even if you’re a famous director [Russian stage and film director Kirill Serebrennikov was recently placed under house arrest]. But I hope that an enlightened era will dawn again. This is what we must keep working towards.
Simone Brunner
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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Urvashi Butalia publisher, writer and women’s rights activist, India

For over forty years, Urvashi Butalia has worked to give marginalized social groups, particular women, in India a voice. As a feminist activist, she has worked for positive changes in laws relating to women in India and has been closely involved in reforms of laws dealing with dowry, marriage, sexual violence and sexual harassment at the workplace. She is a well-known and highly regarded essayist who writes for both national and international newspapers and magazines in India and abroad. Her particular subject is the situation of women in India on which she has also spoken at many conferences.

Born in 1952 in the northern Indian state of Punjab, Urvashi Butalia studied literature in New Delhi and, for a short time, South Asian Studies in London. She taught at Delhi University for over twenty years and is currently a visiting professor at the newly founded Ashoka University. In 1984, together with Ritu Menon, she founded the first feminist publishing house in India, Kali for Women which, over the years, published books that have become contemporary classics in women and gender studies both in India and elsewhere. In 2003 she set up Zubaan (tongue, voice, language), an imprint of Kali which is today the leading publisher of women’s writing in India. Zubaan publishes works by women from many of India’s 22 languages, translating them into English and Hindi. Zubaan is unique in the Indian publishing landscape for being Independent, political, and completely committed to the cause of women. In its Young Zubaan series Zubaan has pioneered the publishing of books for young people on subjects that still remain difficult to address in India, such as alternative families, death, fundamentalism, disability and more.

Although not directly involved in politics, Urvashi Butalia is well-known throughout the country for her advocacy for the rights of minorities and for urging India and Pakistan to deal with the trauma of their violent pasts and espouse the road to peace. Her book of oral histories of the Partition of India in 1947 The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India is considered the most important work in South Asian history in the past two decades. Based on interviews with witnesses and survivors of the violence of that time, it documents how they lived through the political division of India during which a million lost their lives. This book, which remained on India’s bestseller list for six months, has been translated into many Indian and international languages. Since 1997 Urvashi Butalia has written a regular column on Indian realities in Lettre Internationale.

Urvashi Butalia has participated in numerous international conferences as an organizer and speaker. Recently, she initiated Cross Border Conversations, a conference of European and Indian women writers, with eight European nations taking part. She was responsible for the co-design of a conference series promoting reading in India, which is carried out with the support of the Goethe-Institut, New Delhi. During the #Aufschrei panel discussion for International Women’s Day in 2013, she discussed everyday sexism and sexual violence against women with the British feminist and blogger Laurie Penny, among others, at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin. Urvashi Butalia is the recipient of several national and international awards, including one of India’s highest civilian honours, the Padma Shri, in 2011. In 2002 she was made Chevalier des Artes et des Lettres by the French Republic.

Quotes by Urvashi Butalia  
“The women’s movement in India is one of the strongest in the world. It is very active and diverse. It has neither a dominant figure nor a dominant philosophy. Across the country there are hundreds of women’s groups that gather for specific projects but at the same time are also each pursuing their specific concerns. Since Independence, many laws on women’s rights have been enacted solely due to the dedication of the women’s movement, something that is not seen in other countries at all.” (Interview with Urvashi Butalia, Beate Hausbichler, “Aber wir Frauen leben hier”, Der Standard, 19.03. 2016)

“I’m an optimist. We Indian women will not take a single step backwards. We are ready for change. Things will only move forwards. We have a good base; at least on paper. It’s all the more difficult having a right-wing party in power, although, ironically, more women than ever before are in government. It will not be an easy fight.” (Interview with Urvashi Butalia, Anja Wasserbäch, “Wir sind in einer Umbruchstimmung”, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 23.01.2015)

“Though women still remain second-class citizens in our country, they’re no longer standing outside the door hoping someone will see them, instead they are demanding to be let in and listened to.” (Interview with Urvashi Butalia. Nilanjana Roy, Al jazeera, 30.09.2015)

Quote about Urvashi Butalia  

“Urvashi Butalia is a writer, historian and founder of the first feminist publishing house in India. For many years she has been calling for more severe penalties for rape, dowry murders and violence against women. She has worked hard on her homeland, the old customs and rites, the ways of thinking that have eaten their way into the soul of the country.” (Karin Steinberger, “Das andere Indien,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 26.09.2013)

Publications (selection)

1992: In Other Words: New Writing by Indian Women, editor, with Ritu Menon, Kali for Women, New Delhi
1995: Women and Right Wing Movements: Indian Experiences, with Tanika Sarkar, Zed Books, London
2000: The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India, Penguin Books India, New Delhi
2002: Speaking Peace: Women’s Voices from Kashmir, editor, Kali for Women, New Delhi
2006: Inner Line: The Zubaan Book of Stories by Indian Women, editor, Zubaan Books, New Delhi
2015: Partition: The Long Shadow, editor, Zubaan Books, New Delhi
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

CEDAW: Recommendations on gender-based violence against women 4/4

27. Building on general recommendation No. 19 and the Committee’s work since its adoption, the Committee urges States parties to strengthen the implementation of their obligations in relation to gender-based violence against women, whether in the territory of the State party or extraterritorially. The Committee reiterates its call on States parties to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and examine all remaining reservations to the Convention with a view to their withdrawal.

 28. The Committee also recommends that States parties take the following measures in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, punishment and redress; data collection and monitoring and international cooperation to accelerate elimination of gender-based violence against women. All these measures should be implemented with a victim/survivor centred approach, acknowledging women as subjects of rights and promoting their agency and autonomy, including the evolving capacity of girls, from childhood to adolescence. Also, these measures should be designed and implemented with the participation of women and taking into account the particular situation of women affected by intersecting forms of discrimination.
  General legislative measures

29. Ensure that all forms of gender-based violence against women in all spheres, which amount to a violation of their physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, are criminalized and introduce, without delay, or strengthen legal sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the offence as well as civil remedies.47

30. Ensure that all legal systems, including plural legal systems, protect victims/survivors of gender-based violence against women and ensure they have access to justice and to an effective remedy in line with the guidance provided in the Committee’s general recommendation No. 33 (2015).

31. Repeal all legal provisions that discriminate against women, and thereby enshrine, encourage, facilitate, justify or tolerate any form of gender-based violence against them; including in customary, religious and indigenous laws.48 In particular, repeal:

  • a) Provisions that allow, tolerate or condone forms of gender-based violence against women, including child49 or forced marriage and other harmful practices, provisions allowing medical procedures on women with disabilities without their informed consent, as well as legislation that criminalises abortion,50 being lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, women in prostitution, adultery or any other criminal provisions that affects women disproportionally including those resulting in the discriminatory application of the death penalty to women51.
  •  b) Discriminatory evidentiary rules and procedures, including procedures allowing for women's deprivation of liberty to protect them from violence, practices focused on 'virginity' and legal defences or mitigating factors based on culture, religion or male privilege, such as the so-called ‘defence of honour’, traditional apologies, pardons from victims/survivors’ families or the subsequent marriage of the victim/survivor of sexual assault to the perpetrator, procedures that result in the harshest penalties, including stoning, lashing and death being often reserved to women, as well as judicial practices that disregard a history of gender-based violence to the detriment of women defendants52.
  • c) All laws that prevent or deter women from reporting gender-based violence, such as guardianship laws that deprive women of legal capacity or restrict the ability of women with disabilities to testify in court; the practice of so-called “protective custody”; restrictive immigration laws that discourage women, including migrant domestic workers, from reporting this violence as well as laws allowing for dual arrests in cases of domestic violence, or for prosecution of women when the perpetrator is acquitted among others.

32. Examine gender-neutral laws and policies to ensure that they do not create or perpetuate existing inequalities and repeal or modify them if they do so. 53

33. Ensure that sexual assault, including rape is characterised as a crime against women’s right to personal security and their physical, sexual and psychological integrity.54 Ensure that the definition of sexual crimes, including marital and acquaintance/date rape is based on lack of freely given consent, and takes account of coercive circumstances.55 Any time limitations, where they exist, should prioritise the interests of the victims/survivors and give consideration to circumstances hindering their capacity to report the violence suffered to competent services/authorities.56

34. Adopt and implement effective legislative and other appropriate preventive measures to address the underlying causes of gender-based violence against women, including patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes, inequality in the family and the neglect or denial of women's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as to promote women’s empowerment, agency and voice.

35. Develop and implement effective measures, with the active participation of all relevant stakeholders, such as women’s organisations and those representing marginalised groups of women and girls, to address and eradicate the stereotypes, prejudices, customs and practices, laid out in article 5 of the Convention, that condone or promote gender-based violence against women and underpin structural inequality of women with men. These measures should include:

  • a) The integration of gender equality content into curricula at all levels of education both public and private from the early childhood on and in education programmes with a human rights approach; it should target stereotyped gender roles and promote values of gender equality and non-discrimination, including non-violent masculinities, as well as ensure age-appropriate, evidence-based and scientifically accurate comprehensive sexuality education for girls and boys;  
  • b) Awareness-raising programmes that (1) promote an understanding of genderbased violence against women as unacceptable and harmful and inform about available legal recourses against it encourage its reporting and by-standers’ intervention; (2) address the stigma experienced by victims/survivors of such violence, and (3) dismantle the commonly held victim-blaming beliefs that make women responsible for their own safety and for the violence they suffer. These programmes should target: (a) women and men at all levels of society; (b) education, health, social services and law enforcement personnel and other professionals and agencies, including at the local level, involved in prevention and protection responses; (c) traditional and religious leaders; and (d) perpetrators of any form of gender-based violence, so as to prevent recidivism.

 36. Develop and implement effective measures to make public spaces safe and accessible to all women and girls, including by promoting and supporting community-based measures adopted with participation of women's groups. These measures should include ensuring adequate physical infrastructure, including lighting, in urban and rural settings, particularly in and around schools.

37. Adopt and implement effective measures to encourage all media, including advertising and information and communications technologies to eliminate discrimination against women in their activity, including harmful and stereotyped portrayal of women or specific groups of women, such as women human rights’ defenders. These measures should include:

  • a) Encouraging the creation or strengthening of self-regulatory mechanisms by the media, including online or social media, aimed at the elimination of gender stereotypes relating to women and men, or to specific groups of women, and to address gender-based violence against women that takes place through their services and platforms, 
  • b) Guidelines for the appropriate coverage by the media of cases of genderbased violence against women, and 
  • c) Establishing and/or strengthening the capacity of national human rights institutions to monitor or consider complaints regarding any media that portray genderdiscriminatory images or content that objectify or demean women or promote violent masculinities.57 

38. Provide mandatory, recurrent and effective capacity-building, education and training for the judiciary, lawyers and law enforcement officers, including forensic medical personnel, legislators, health-care professionals,58 including in the area of sexual and reproductive health, as in sexually transmitted diseases and HIV prevention and treatment services; all education, social and welfare personnel, including that working with women in institutions such as residential care homes, asylum centres and prisons,59 to equip them to adequately prevent and address gender-based violence against women. This education and training should include: a) The impact of gender stereotypes and bias, leading to gender-based violence against women and inadequate responses to it;60  b) The understanding of trauma and its effects, the power dynamics that characterise intimate partner violence, the varying situations of women experiencing diverse forms of gender-based violence; this shall include the intersectional discrimination affecting specific groups of women, as well as adequate ways to address women and eliminate factors that re-victimise them and weaken their confidence in State institutions and agents;61 and, c) Domestic legal provisions and institutions on gender-based violence against women, legal rights of victims/survivors, international standards and associated mechanisms and their responsibilities in this context; this shall include due coordination and referrals among diverse bodies and the adequate documentation of this violence, with due respect for women’s privacy and confidentiality and with the victims/survivors’ free and informed consent.  39. Encourage, also through the use of incentives and corporate responsibility models, the engagement of the private sector, including businesses and transnational corporations, in efforts to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence against women, and to enhance its responsibility for such violence in the scope of its action.62 This should entail protocols and procedures addressing all forms of gender-based violence that may occur in the workplace or affect women workers, including effective and accessible internal complaints procedures that do not exclude recourse to law enforcement authorities. This should also address workplace entitlements for women victims/survivors of such violence.


40. Adopt and implement effective measures to protect and assist women complainants and witnesses of gender-based violence before, during and after legal proceedings, including through:
  • a) Protecting their privacy and safety, in line with general recommendation No. 33, including through gender-sensitive court procedures and measures, bearing in mind the victim/survivor’s, witnesses’ and defendant’s due process rights. 
  • b) Providing appropriate and accessible protection mechanisms to prevent further or potential violence, without the precondition for victims/survivors to initiate legal actions, including through removal of communication barriers for victims with disabilities.63 This should include immediate risk assessment and protection, comprising a wide range of effective measures and, where appropriate, the issuance and monitoring of eviction, protection, restraining or emergency barring orders against alleged perpetrators, including adequate sanctions for non-compliance. Protection measures should avoid imposing an undue financial, bureaucratic or personal burden on women victims/survivors. Perpetrators or alleged perpetrators’ rights or claims during and after judicial proceedings, including with respect to property, privacy, child custody, access, contact and visitation, should be determined in the light of women’s and children’s human rights to life and physical, sexual and psychological integrity, and guided by the principle of the best interests of the child. 64
  •  c) Ensuring access to financial aid and free or low-cost high quality legal aid,65 medical, psychosocial and counselling services,66 education, affordable housing, land, child care, training and employment opportunities for women victims/survivors and their family members. Health-care services should be responsive to trauma and include timely and comprehensive mental, sexual, reproductive health services67, including emergency contraception and HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). States should provide specialist women’s support services such as free of charge 24-hour helplines, and sufficient numbers of safe and adequately equipped crisis, support and referral centres, as well as adequate shelters for women, their children, and other family members as required;68
  •  d) Providing protective and support measures in relation to gender-based violence to women in institutions, including residential care homes, asylum centres and places of deprivation of liberty;69 
  • e) Establishing and implementing appropriate multi-sectoral referral mechanisms to ensure effective access of women survivors to comprehensive services, ensuring full participation of and cooperation with non-governmental women’s organizations.

41. Ensuring all legal proceedings, protection and support measures and services to women's victims/survivors of gender-based violence respect and strengthen their autonomy. They should be accessible to all women, in particular to those affected by intersecting forms of discrimination, and take account of any specific needs of their children and other dependent persons.70 They should be available in the whole territory of the State party, and provided irrespective of women’s residence status and their ability or willingness to cooperate in proceedings against the alleged perpetrator.71 States should also respect the principle of non-refoulement.72 42. Addressing factors that heighten women’s risk of exposure to serious forms of gender-based violence, such as the accessibility and availability of firearms, including their exportation,73 high rates of criminality and pervasiveness of impunity, which may be increased by armed conflict or heightened insecurity.74 Efforts to control the availability and accessibility of acid and other substances used to attack women should be undertaken.

43. Developing and disseminating accessible information aimed at women, in particular those affected by intersecting forms of discrimination such as those who live with a disability, are illiterate, or have no or limited knowledge of the official languages of the country, of the legal and social resources available to victims/survivors of gender-based violence against women, including reparation, through diverse and accessible media and community dialogue.

  Prosecution and punishment 

44. Ensure effective access of victims to courts and tribunals; ensure authorities adequately respond to all cases of gender-based violence against women, including by applying criminal law and as appropriate ex officio prosecution to bring the alleged perpetrators to trial in a fair, impartial, timely and expeditious manner and imposing adequate penalties.75 Fees or court charges should not be imposed on victims/survivors.

45. Ensure that gender-based violence against women is not mandatorily referred to alternative dispute resolution procedures, including mediation and conciliation.77 The use of these procedures should be strictly regulated and allowed only when a previous evaluation by a specialised team ensures the free and informed consent by the affected victim/survivor and that there are no indicators of further risks for the victim/survivor or their family members. These procedures should empower the women victims/survivors and be provided by professionals specially trained to understand and adequately intervene in cases of gender-based violence against women, ensuring an adequate protection of women's and children’s rights as well as an intervention with no stereotyping or re-victimisation of women. These alternative procedures should not constitute an obstacle to women’s access to formal justice.

46. Provide effective reparation to women victims/survivors of gender-based violence. Reparation should include different measures, such as monetary compensation and the provision of legal, social and health services including sexual, reproductive and mental health for a complete recovery, and satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition in line with general recommendations No. 28, 30 and 33. Such reparations should be adequate, promptly attributed, holistic and proportionate to the gravity of the harm suffered.78

47. States parties should establish specific reparation funds, or include allocations for gender-based violence against women within existing funds, including under transitional justice mechanisms. States parties should implement administrative reparations schemes without prejudice to victims/survivors’ rights to seek judicial remedies. States should design transformative reparation programmes that help to address the underlying discrimination or disadvantage which caused or contributed significantly to the violation, taking account of individual, institutional and structural aspects. Priority should be given to the victim/survivor’s agency, wishes and decisions, safety, dignity and integrity.

Coordination, monitoring and data collection 

48. Develop and evaluate all legislation, policies and programmes in consultation with civil society organisations, in particular women’s organisations, including those that represent women who experience intersecting forms of discrimination. States parties should encourage cooperation among all levels and branches of the justice system and the organisations that work to protect and support women victims/survivors of gender-based violence, taking into account their views and expertise.79 States parties should encourage the work of human rights and women’s non-governmental organisations.80

49. Establish a system to regularly collect, analyse and publish statistical data on the number of complaints about all forms of gender-based violence against women, including technology mediated violence, the number and types of protection orders issued, the rates of dismissal and withdrawal of complaints, prosecution and conviction rates as well as time taken for disposal of cases. The system should include information on the sentences imposed on perpetrators and the reparation, including compensation, provided for victims/survivors. All data should be disaggregated by type of violence, relationship between the victim/survivor and the perpetrator, as well as in relation to intersecting forms of discrimination against women and other relevant socio-demographic characteristics, including the age of the victim. The analysis of the data should enable the identification of protection failures and serve to improve and further develop preventive measures. This should, if necessary, include the establishment or designation of gender-based killing of women observatories to collect administrative data on gender related killings and attempted killings of women, also referred to as ‘femicide’ or ‘feminicide..

50. Undertake or support surveys, research programmes and studies on gender-based violence against women, in order to, among other things, assess the prevalence of genderbased violence experienced by women and the social or cultural beliefs exacerbating such violence and shaping gender relations. These studies and surveys should take into account intersecting forms of discrimination, based upon the principle of self-identification.

51. Ensure that the process of collecting and maintaining data on gender-based violence against women complies with established international standards81 and safeguards, including legislation on data protection. The collection and use of statistics should conform to internationally accepted norms to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ethical principles.

52. Set up a mechanism or body, or mandate an existing mechanism or body, to coordinate, monitor and assess regularly the national, regional and local implementation and effectiveness of the measures, including those recommended in this document as well as other relevant regional and international standards and guidelines, to prevent and eliminate all forms of gender-based violence against women.

53. Allocate appropriate human and financial resources at national, regional and local levels to effectively implement laws and policies for the prevention, protection and victim/survivor support, investigation, prosecution and provision of reparations to victims/survivors of all forms of gender-based violence against women, including support to women’s organisations.
International cooperation

54. Seek support, where necessary, from external sources, such as UN specialised agencies, the international community and civil society, in order to meet human rights obligations by designing and implementing all appropriate measures required to eliminate and respond to gender-based violence against women.82 This should consider, in particular, the evolving global contexts and the increasingly transnational nature of this violence, including in technology mediated settings and other extraterritorial operations of domestic non-State actors.83 States Parties should urge business actors whose conduct they are in a position to influence to assist the States in which they operate in their efforts to fully realize women's right to be free from violence.

55. Prioritise implementation of relevant Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goals 5 on gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls and 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Support national plans to implement all Sustainable Development Goals in a gender-responsive manner, in accordance with the Outcome Document of the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, enabling meaningful participation of civil society and women’s organisations in the SDGs implementation and follow-up processes, and enhance international support and cooperation for knowledge-sharing and effective and targeted capacity-building.84

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

General obligations of States parties under the Convention relating to gender-based violence against women 3/4

21. Gender-based violence against women constitutes discrimination against women under article 1 and therefore engages all of the obligations in the Convention. Article 2 establishes that the overarching obligation of States parties is to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women, including gender-based violence against women. This is an obligation of an immediate nature; delays cannot be justified on any grounds, including on economic, cultural or religious grounds. general recommendation No. 19 indicates that in respect of gender-based violence against women this obligation comprises two aspects of State responsibility: for such violence resulting from the actions or omissions of (a) the State party or its actors, and (b) non-State actors.

  Responsibility for acts or omissions of State actors 

22. Under the Convention and general international law, a State party is responsible for acts and omissions by its organs and agents that constitute gender-based violence against women.31 These include the acts or omissions of officials in its executive, legislative and judicial branches. Article 2 (d) of the Convention requires that States parties, and their organs and agents, refrain from engaging in any act or practice of direct or indirect discrimination against women and ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with this obligation. Besides ensuring that laws, policies, programmes and procedures do not discriminate against women, according to article 2 (c) and (g), States parties must have an effective and accessible legal and services framework in place to address all forms of gender-based violence against women committed by State agents, on their territory or extraterritorially.

23. States parties are responsible for preventing these acts or omissions by their own organs and agents –including through training and the adoption, implementation and monitoring of legal provisions, administrative regulations and codes of conduct- and to investigate, prosecute and apply appropriate legal or disciplinary sanctions as well as provide reparation in all cases of gender-based violence against women, including those constituting international crimes, as well as in cases of failure, negligence or omission on the part of public authorities.32 In so doing, women’s diversity and the risks of intersectional discrimination stemming from it should be taken into consideration.
  Responsibility for acts or omissions of non-State actors

24. Under general international law, as well as under international treaties, a private actor’s acts or omissions may engage the international responsibility of the State in certain cases. These include:

a) Acts and omissions by non-state actors attributable to the States. The acts or omissions of private actors empowered by the law of that State to exercise elements of the governmental authority, including private bodies providing public services, such as healthcare or education, or operating places of detention, shall be considered as acts attributable to the State itself,33 as well as the acts or omissions of private agents in fact   acting on the instructions of, or under the direction or control of that State,34 including when operating abroad.
 b.) Due diligence obligations for acts and omissions of non-State actors. Article 2 (e) of the Convention explicitly provides that States parties are required to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organisation or enterprise35. This obligation, frequently referred to as an obligation of due diligence, underpins the Convention as a whole36 and accordingly States parties will be responsible if they fail to take all appropriate measures to prevent as well as to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide reparation for acts or omissions by non-State actors which result in gender-based violence against women.37 This includes actions by corporations operating extraterritorially. In particular, States Parties are required to take necessary steps to prevent human rights violations abroad by corporations over which they may exercise influence,38 whether by regulatory means or by the use of incentives, including economic incentives.39 Under the obligation of due diligence, States parties have to adopt and implement diverse measures to tackle gender-based violence against women committed by non-State actors. They are required to have laws, institutions and a system in place to address such violence. Also, States parties are obliged to ensure that these function effectively in practice, and are supported and diligently enforced by all State agents and bodies.40 The failure of a State party to take all appropriate measures to prevent acts of gender-based violence against women when its authorities know or should know of the danger of violence, or a failure to investigate, prosecute and punish, and to provide reparation to victims/survivors of such acts, provides tacit permission or encouragement to acts of gender-based violence against women41. These failures or omissions constitute human rights violations.

25. In addition, both international humanitarian law and human rights law have recognised the direct obligations of non-State actors, including as parties to an armed conflict, in specific circumstances. These include the prohibition of torture, which is part of customary international law and has become a peremptory norm (jus cogens)

26. The general obligations described in the paragraphs above encompass all areas of State action, including the legislative, executive and judicial branches, at the federal, national, sub-national, local and decentralised levels as well as privatised services. They require the formulation of legal norms, including at the constitutional level, the design of public policies, programmes, institutional frameworks and monitoring mechanisms, aimed at eliminating all forms of gender-based violence against women, whether committed by State or non-State actors. They also require, in accordance with articles 2 (f) and 5 (a) of the Convention, the adoption and implementation of measures to eradicate prejudices, stereotypes and practices that are the root cause of gender-based violence against women. In general terms, and without prejudice to the specific recommendations provided in the following section, these obligations include:

a) At the legislative level, according to article 2 (b), (c), (e), (f) and (g) and article 5 (a), States are required to adopt legislation prohibiting all forms of gender-based violence against women and girls, harmonising domestic law with the Convention. This legislation should consider women victims/survivors as right holders and include age and gender-sensitive provisions and effective legal protection, including sanctions and reparation in cases of such violence. The Convention also requires the harmonization of any existing religious, customary, indigenous and community justice system norms with its standards, as well as the repeal of all laws that constitute discrimination against women, including those which cause, promote or justify gender-based violence or perpetuate impunity for these acts. Such norms may be part of statutory, customary, religious, indigenous or common law, constitutional, civil, family, criminal or administrative law, evidentiary and procedural law, such as provisions based on discriminatory or stereotypical attitudes or practices which allow for gender-based violence against women or mitigate sentences in this context.

b) At the executive level, according to article 2 (c), (d) and (f) and article 5 (a), States are obliged to adopt and adequately budget diverse institutional measures, in coordination with the relevant State branches. They include the design of focused public policies, the development and implementation of monitoring mechanisms and the establishment  and/or funding of competent national tribunals. States parties should provide accessible, affordable and adequate services to protect women from gender-based violence, prevent its reoccurrence and provide or ensure funding for reparation to all its victims/survivors.43 States parties must also eliminate institutional practices and individual conduct and behaviours of public officials that constitute gender-based violence against women or tolerate such violence and which provide a context for lack of or for a negligent response. These include adequate investigation and sanctions for inefficiency, complicity and negligence by public authorities responsible for registration, prevention or investigation of this violence or for providing services to victims/survivors. Appropriate measures to modify or eradicate customs and practices that constitute discrimination against women, including those that justify or promote gender-based violence against women, must also be taken at this level.44

c) At the judicial level, according to articles 2 (d), (f) and 5 (a), all judicial bodies are required to refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination or gender-based violence against women; and to strictly apply all criminal law provisions punishing this violence, ensuring all legal procedures in cases involving allegations of gender-based violence against women are impartial and fair, and unaffected by gender stereotypes or discriminatory interpretation of legal provisions, including international law.45 The application of preconceived and stereotyped notions of what constitutes genderbased violence against women, what women’s responses to such violence should be and the standard of proof required to substantiate its occurrence can affect women’s right to the enjoyment of equality before the law, fair trial and the right to an effective remedy established in articles 2 and 15 of the Convention.46

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

General recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women. Scope 2/4

8. This document complements and updates the guidance to States parties set out in general recommendation No. 19, and should be read in conjunction with it.

9. The concept of ‘violence against women’ in general recommendation No. 19 and other international instruments and documents has emphasised that this violence is genderbased. Accordingly, this document uses the expression ‘gender-based violence against women’, as a more precise term that makes explicit the gendered causes and impacts of the violence. This expression further strengthens the understanding of this violence as a social - rather than an individual- problem, requiring comprehensive responses, beyond specific events, individual perpetrators and victims/survivors.

10. The Committee considers that gender-based violence against women is one of the fundamental social, political and economic means by which the subordinate position of women with respect to men and their stereotyped roles are perpetuated. Throughout its work, the Committee has made clear that this violence is a critical obstacle to achieving substantive equality between women and men as well as to women’s enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Convention.

11. General recommendation No. 28 (2010) on the core obligations of States parties indicates that their obligations under article 2 of the Convention are to respect, protect and fulfil women’s rights to non-discrimination and the enjoyment of de jure and de facto equality.  The scope of these obligations in relation to gender-based violence against women occurring in particular contexts are addressed in general recommendation No. 28 and other general recommendations, including general recommendations No. 26 (2008) on women migrant workers, No. 27 (2010) on older women, No. 30 (2013) on women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations; No. 31 (2014) on harmful practices; No. 32 (2014) on the gender-related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women; No. 33 (2015) on women’s access to justice; and No. 34 (2016) on the rights of rural women. The current document cross-references, but does not repeat, the relevant elements of those general recommendations.

12. General recommendation No. 28 on the core obligation of States parties under article 2 of the Convention as well as general recommendation No. 33 on women’s access to justice confirms that discrimination against women is inextricably linked to other factors that affect their lives. The Committee’s jurisprudence highlights that these may include ethnicity/race, indigenous or minority status, colour, socioeconomic status and/or caste, language, religion or belief, political opinion, national origin, marital and/or maternal status, age, urban/rural location, health status, disability, property ownership, being lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, illiteracy, trafficking of women, armed conflict, seeking asylum, being a refugee, internal displacement, statelessness, migration, heading households, widowhood, living with HIV/AIDS, deprivation of liberty, being in prostitution, geographical remoteness and stigmatisation of women fighting for their rights, including human rights defenders.12 Accordingly, because women experience varying and intersecting forms of discrimination, which have an aggravating negative impact, the Committee acknowledges that gender-based violence may affect some women to different degrees, or in different ways, so appropriate legal and policy responses are needed.13

13. The Committee recalls article 23 of the Convention which states that any provisions in national legislation or international treaties other than the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women that are more conducive to the achievement of equality between women and men will prevail over the obligations in the Convention, and accordingly, the recommendations in this document. The Committee also points out that States parties’ action to address gender-based violence against women is affected by reservations they maintain to the Convention. It further notes that as a human rights treaty body, the Committee may assess the permissibility of reservations formulated by States parties14, and reiterates its view that reservations especially to article 2 or article 1615 , the compliance with which is particularly crucial in efforts to eliminate gender-based violence against women, are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention and thus impermissible under article 28, paragraph 2.16

14. Gender-based violence affects women throughout their life cycle17 and accordingly references to women in this document include girls. This violence takes multiple forms, including acts or omissions intended or likely to cause or result in death18 or physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, threats of such acts, harassment, coercion and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.19 Gender-based violence against women is affected and often exacerbated by cultural, economic, ideological, technological, political, religious, social and environmental factors, as evidenced, among others, in the contexts of displacement, migration, increased globalization of economic activities including global supply chains, extractive and offshoring industry, militarisation, foreign occupation, armed conflict, violent extremism and terrorism. Gender-based violence against women is also affected by political, economic and social crises, civil unrest, humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters, destruction or degradation of natural resources. Harmful practices20 and crimes against women human rights defenders, politicians21, activists or journalists are also forms of gender-based violence against women affected by such cultural, ideological and political factors.

15. Women’s right to a life free from gender-based violence is indivisible from and interdependent with other human rights, including the right to life, health, liberty and security of the person, the right to equality and equal protection within the family, freedom from torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, freedom of expression, movement, participation, assembly and association.

 16. Gender-based violence against women, may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in certain circumstances, including in cases of rape, domestic violence or harmful practices, among others22. In some cases, some forms of gender-based violence against women may also constitute international crimes.23

17. The Committee endorses the view of other human rights treaty bodies and special procedures mandate-holders that in making the determination of when acts of gender-based violence against women amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,24 a gender sensitive approach is required to understand the level of pain and suffering experienced by women,25 and that the purpose and intent requirement of torture are satisfied when acts or omissions are gender specific or perpetrated against a person on the basis of sex.26

18. Violations of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced pregnancy, criminalisation of abortion, denial or delay of safe abortion and post-abortion care, forced continuation of pregnancy, abuse and mistreatment of women and girls seeking sexual and reproductive health information, goods and services, are forms of gender-based violence that, depending on the circumstances, may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.27

19. The Committee regards gender-based violence against women to be rooted in gender-related factors such as the ideology of men’s entitlement and privilege over women, social norms regarding masculinity, the need to assert male control or power, enforce gender roles, or prevent, discourage or punish what is considered to be unacceptable female behaviour. These factors also contribute to the explicit or implicit social acceptance of gender-based violence against women, often still considered as a private matter, and to the widespread impunity for it.

20. Gender-based violence against women occurs in all spaces and spheres of human interaction, whether public or private. These include the family, the community, the public spaces, the workplace, leisure, politics, sport, health services, educational settings and their redefinition through technology-mediated environments,28 such as contemporary forms of violence occurring in the Internet and digital spaces. In all these settings, gender-based violence against women can result from acts or omissions of State or non-State actors, acting territorially or extraterritorially, including extraterritorial military action of States, individually or as members of international or intergovernmental organizations or coalitions29, or extraterritorial actions by private corporations
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Friday, September 8, 2017

General recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation No. 19 1/4

The Committee acknowledges the valuable contribution of more than a hundred civil society and women's organisations, States parties as well as academia, UN entities and other stakeholders that provided their views and comments during the elaboration of this general recommendation.  The Committee also acknowledges with gratitude the contribution of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences to this work and to the present document.

1. General recommendation No. 19 on violence against women, adopted by the Committee at its eleventh session in 1992,2 states that discrimination against women –as defined in article 1 of the Convention- includes gender-based violence, that is, ‘violence which is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’, and, as such, is a violation of their human rights.

2. For over 25 years, the practice of States parties has endorsed the Committee’s interpretation. The opinio juris and State practice suggest that the prohibition of genderbased violence against women has evolved into a principle of customary international law. general recommendation No. 19 has been a key catalyst for this process.

3. Acknowledging these developments, as well as the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and of human rights treaty bodies4 and special procedures5, the Committee has decided to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of its adoption of general recommendation No. 19 by providing States parties with further guidance aimed at accelerating the elimination of gender-based violence against women.

4. The Committee acknowledges that civil society, especially women’s nongovernmental organisations, have prioritised the elimination of gender- based violence against women; their activities have had a profound social and political impact, contributing to the recognition of gender-based violence against women as a human rights violation and to the adoption of laws and policies to address it.

5. The Committee’s concluding observations6 and their follow up procedures, general recommendations, statements and views and recommendations following communications7 and inquiries8 under the Optional Protocol to the Convention condemn gender-based violence against women, in all its forms, wherever it occurs. They also clarify standards for eliminating this violence and the obligations of States parties in this regard.

6. Despite these advances, gender-based violence against women, whether committed by States, intergovernmental organisations or non-state actors, including private persons and armed groups9, remains pervasive in all countries of the world, with high levels of impunity. It manifests in a continuum of multiple, interrelated and recurring forms, in a range of settings, from private to public, including technology-mediated settings10 and in the contemporary globalized world it transcends national boundaries.

7. In many states, legislation addressing gender–based violence against women remains non-existent, inadequate and/or poorly implemented. An erosion of legal and policy frameworks to eliminate gender-based discrimination or violence, often justified in the name of tradition, culture, religion or fundamentalist ideologies, and significant reductions in public spending, often as part of “austerity measures” following economic and financial crises, further weaken the state responses. In the context of shrinking democratic spaces and consequent deterioration of the rule of law, all these factors allow for the pervasiveness of gender-based violence against women and lead to a culture of impunity.

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