The Istanbul Convention complies very closely with the UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women (VAW).* Nonetheless, the Convention diverges from the Handbook in a number of important ways. This document summarizes these divergences.
This working paper explores specific articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), and African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR). The following chart examines which articles in these international instruments protect different human rights.
This thesis is born of the question: why do women suffer domestic violence disproportionately to any other group? Why does it continue, in the same form, with the same degree of pain, without rebate? And, if the same harm occurs over and over again, consistent through generations and uniform across borders, why then has the international community not yet developed effective means to address it? This thesis attempts to find a legal answer. This is prefaced, however, by the acknowledgement that the law is only one tool in an array of mechanisms, such as health, economics, and politics, which, if properly combined, could alleviate the pain and difficulties experienced by many victims of domestic violence. The area of law to which I look is international human rights law. My initial motivation for considering public international law arose from the repetition of similar forms of domestic violence around the globe. All over the world women suffer the same type of violence at the hands of their intimate partners and they endure the same feelings of helplessness and isolation when looking to the state for protection. If such violence is universal, it seems then, so too should be the solution. I propose in this thesis that international law, if properly fashioned, can be used effectively as part of this solution. In particular, I maintain that the authoritative enunciation of a norm against domestic violence in international law can improve the way states address domestic violence. I do not propose that individual abusers should be tried by international law. My focus instead is on the extent to which states fail consistently to alleviate domestic violence. This is important because many legal systems appreciate neither the exigency of extreme forms of domestic violence, nor the extent to which women as a group are disproportionately victims of this violence. The result of this lack of appreciation is an almost universal failure to police, prevent and punish domestic violence effectively.3 Due to the socialized normalcy of domestic violence, very few cases are reported or actually prosecuted. Where prosecutions do proceed, victims will often drop their complaints either because they have reconciled with, or because they fear recrimination from, their abuser. Given the disjuncture between the reality of domestic violence and the inefficacy of many legal systems to address it, a revision of the law vis-à-vis domestic violence is needed. Both national and international legal systems are in need of change. This thesis proposes that the international community should adopt a clear and authoritative articulation of a legal right against extreme and systemic forms of domestic violence and a corresponding duty of states to help remedy such violence. This proposition is made on the basis that international law currently does not contain an effective articulation of this right, and that adopting effective global standards in international law for addressing such violence would help improve state enforcement of this right. Under the current state of international law, it is difficult to convince states to prioritize its resources and infrastructures to protect abused women. Articulating clear and effective global standards in international law for addressing extreme forms of domestic violence would provide an important and practical benchmark against which domestic state legislation could be evaluated and re-shaped. Formulating such global standards could place pressure on states to take basic remedial steps against such violence, such as enacting legislation that allows for restraining orders to be made at the same time as a maintenance order, or creating accessible shelters, which will accommodate the divergent needs of women, including their children.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violations. According to a 2013 global review of available data, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Eliminating such violence globally requires intensive efforts, which led world leaders to establish an online tool that increases opportunities to exchange experiences and strengthen knowledge to prevent and stop violence against women. The Global Database on Violence against Women provides easy access to comprehensive and up-to-date information on measures undertaken by United Nations Member States to address all forms of violence against women
The entities of the United Nations system address violence against women through research and normative and policy development. They support Member States and other stakeholders in their efforts and provide services and other assistance to victims of violence, undertake advocacy and awareness-raising activities, implement innovative projects, as well as provide funding to various stakeholders for their activities. This Inventory of United Nations Activities to End Violence against Women is intended to strengthen the knowledge base on work that is being implemented by the system on this critical issue.
In 2004, the Human Rights Committee noted its concern about the high level of domestic violence against women and called upon Morocco to “take suitable practical measures to combat this phenomenon”. In spite of more than ten years of strong civil society advocacy for a comprehensive violence against women law, the Moroccan government has failed to respond and meet its obligation to protect Moroccan women from violence.
Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) are integral to the promotion of human rights in their communities and in fostering regional stability. However, WHRDs often face violent repercussions for their work—including physical attacks, death threats and assassinations. The danger faced by WHRDs is particularly acute in Mesoamerica, where there were 1,375 reported attacks against WHRDs in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala between 2012 and 2013. When assessing how to protect WHRDs, it is important to understand their unique vulnerabilities, which stem from their gender and the subject of their advocacy efforts.
Despite a strong normative international legal framework, available regional protection mechanisms through the Organization of American States(OAS)and the nascent development of national laws, Mesoamerican WHRDs work under perilous conditions while their persecutors operate with impunity. While it is the primary responsibility of States to protect WHRDs,the United States has a legal and moral duty to assist this vulnerable population when their own governments are perpetrators of the abuse or fail to provide protection from attacks. This duty arises from UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and its progeny, which embody principles of binding customary international law, as well as the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, which represents the government’s express commitment to empower women around the world as agents of peace and stability.
On 25 February 2008, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, launched his campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women, covering the period 2008 – 2015, with the overall objective to raise public awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and responding to all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. The Secretary- General called on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, young people, the private sector, artists, the media, the entire United Nations system, and individual women and men, to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.
The Campaign provides a collective platform in an unprecedented level of global mobilization to link a wide range of stakeholders’ initiatives to the Secretary-General’s efforts.
The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belém do Pará (where it was adopted in 1994), defines violence against women, establishes that women have the right to live a life free of violence and that violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It calls for the first time for the establishment of mechanisms for protecting and defending women's rights as essential to combating the phenomenon of violence against women's physical, sexual, and psychological integrity, whether in the public or the private sphere, and for asserting those rights within society.
The Convention obliges States parties to submit to the Secretary-General a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures that they have adopted to implement the Convention within a year after its entry into force and then at least every four years thereafter or whenever the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) so requests. These reports, which may indicate factors and difficulties in implementation, are forwarded to the CEDAW for its consideration.
The Committee has adopted guidelines to help states prepare these reports. According to these guidelines, the initial report is intended to be a detailed and comprehensive description of the position of women in that country at the time of submission; it is meant to provide a benchmark against which subsequent progress can be measured. Second and subsequent national reports are intended to update the previous report, detailing significant developments that have occurred over the last four years, noting key trends, and identifying obstacles to the full achievement of the Convention.