United Nations Declares Violence Against Women a Human Rights Violation

Thu 12 Oct 2006

Last week the United Nations released a report classifying violence against women as an unacceptable human rights violation, and calling for ...

Last week the United Nations released a report classifying violence against women as an unacceptable human rights violation, and calling for governments to end impunity and take urgent action to prevent gender-based violence. Issued from Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s office, the report entitled, In-depth Study on all Forms of Violence Against Women, named violence towards women by partners, family members, employers, strangers, and state agents as a form of discrimination, and a violation of women’s human rights. The Secretary-General stated that “as long as violence against women continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace” (p. 9). The report aims to provide an overview of various forms of violence against women; information about the root causes and effects of violence against women along with the personal, social and economic costs of violence; and to identify good practice in the provision of services for victims of violence, and prevention initiatives focusing on eliminating violence against women. The report maintains that a knowledge base and tools to prevent violence against women exists, but these need to be used more systematically and effectively. Inconsistent and inadequate data is also hinders the process of identifying and addressing violence against women. International legal norms, standards and policies have been developed, yet the UN report asserts that a problem remains with the implementation of these policies, due to a lack of political will, leadership and resources. Successful examples from around the world are promoted in the report, such as the Duluth coordinated community response to domestic violence, and the one-stop centre for survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence. In the findings, the report asserts that under their international human rights obligations, nation states have a responsibility to protect women, hold perpetrators accountable for their violence, provide justice and remedies to victims, and take more steps to prevent violence against women occurring in the first place. A series of recommendations to states are made in at the conclusion of the report including exercising leadership to end violence against women; closing the gaps between policy and practice; strengthening the data and research knowledge on violence against women so as to inform practice and policy; and working at the international level towards eliminating violence to women, including engaging men in this process. The Executive Director for Human Rights Watch Women’s Right Division in the US, LaShawn Jefferson, said that “The secretary-general's study conveys a very simple message. The individual who carries out any form of violence against women has committed a crime. A government that does not develop, fund and implement all necessary laws and programs to prevent and to punish this violence violates international human rights law.” United Nations. (2006). In-depth study on all forms of violence against women. Geneva, Switzerland: General Assembly, UN. Retreived October 11, 2006 from: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/SGstudyvaw.htm