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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