Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence. Committee of Ministers, Council of Europe. 2002. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence 1 

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 April 2002 at the 794th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Reaffirming that violence towards women is the result of an imbalance of power between men and women and is leading to serious discrimination against the female sex, both within society and within the family;

Affirming that violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms;

Noting that violence against women constitutes a violation of their physical, psychological and/or sexual integrity;

Noting with concern that women are often subjected to multiple discrimination on ground of their gender as well as their origin, including as victims of traditional or customary practices inconsistent with their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Rome Statute. International Criminal Court. 2002. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute) is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998[5][6]and it entered into force on 1 July 2002.[2] As of 6 January 2015, 123 states are party to the statute.[2] Among other things, the statute establishes the court's functions, jurisdiction and structure.

The Rome Statute established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Those crimes "shall not be subject to any statute of limitations".[7]Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are "unable" or "unwilling" to do so themselves. The court has jurisdiction over crimes only if they are committed in the territory of a state party or if they are committed by a national of a state party; an exception to this rule is that the ICC may also have jurisdiction over crimes if its jurisdiction is authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

Bayefsky A. The UN Human Rights Treaty System: Universality at the Crossroads.; 2001. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was constituted decades after most of the human rights treaties were adopted. Treaty body after treaty body was created, without a relationship to a High Commissioner, and without a relationship to each other. The result has been a burgeoning reporting burden, duplication of procedures, little effort to synchronize substantive outcomes, and rudimentary follow-up processes and responsibilities. In the meantime, treaty body members have struggled to preserve their independent expert status in a highly politicized UN environment, which has populated their numbers with many government surrogates and grossly underfinanced their work.

The reforms envisaged in this Report have assumed that improvements not requiring formal amendment will be more easily accomplished. Hence, the recommendations generally assume a six treaty body regime, and focus primarily on offering concrete suggestions for improvements in working methods of the treaty bodies and procedures at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The proposals for bolstering national level partnerships are also made in the context of the current conditions of overlap and a multiplicity of treaty bodies. Follow-up is the key missing component of the implementation regime, and therefore recommendations in this context are developed at some length. While one major reform requiring amendment is ultimately recommended, most of the specific recommendations concerning working methods and OHCHR processes remain relevant to a reorganized treaty regime. 

Violence in the Americas: A Regional Analysis. Organization of American States. 2001. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Document can be located at the bottom of the web page

As a legally binding instrument, the Convention is unique in that it clearly delineates the state’s obligations to protect women’s right to a life without violence. Article 5 of the Convention states that:

Every woman is entitled to the free and full exercise of her civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and may rely on the full protection of those rights as embodied in regional and international instruments on human rights. The States Parties recognize that violence against women prevents and nullifies the exercise of these rights.

Article 7 of the Convention articulates the obligations of States Parties with respect to their role in the protection of women’s right to a life without violence. Specific obligations are listed that flow from the States Parties’ formal undertakings to refrain from committing acts of violence against women; demonstrate due diligence in preventing, investigating, and punishing violence against women; reform existing laws, policies, and administrative practices contributing to violence against women; and ensure that women victims have access to restitution, reparations, and other forms of just and effective remedies. Article 8 of the Convention also specifies that a number of other programs and measures must be adopted to promote public education and awareness, to mobilize communities in the fight against violence against women, and to offer specialized services and assistance to women victims.

The current review focuses on the implementation of the measures and dispositions described in articles 7 and 8 of the Convention. It also considers the efforts that are being deployed, as required by Article 9 of the Convention, to take special account of the vulnerability of women to violence by reason of their age, race, ethnic background, status as immigrants, socioeconomic position, or disabilities, among other factors.

Steinitz M. The Role of International Law in the Struggle against Sex-based and Gender-based Violence against Refugee Women. Submitted to The International Rescue Committee and The Reproductive Health for Refugees Consortium; 2001. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This document introduces international law and its uses in the prevention of sex-based and gender-based violence against refugee women. For this purpose, it includes discussions on the following: 

- What is international law and which are its sources? 
- Is international law binding? 
- What international legal bodies exist? 
- What constitutes violence against women? 
- What are the primary legal documents securing the rights of refugee women? 
- Other governmental and non-governmental organizations dealing with refugee women

Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) - Women in Armed Conflict. United Nations Security Council. 2000. Publisher's VersionAbstract

S/RES/1325 (2000)

The Security Council adopted resolution (S/RES/1325) on women and peace and security on 31 October 2000. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict. The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates, with implications for Member States and the entities of the United Nations system.

Shrader E, Sagot M. Domestic Violence: Women's Way Out. Pan American Health Organization; 2000. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Regional Program on Women, Health, and Development (HDW) of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), with support from Norway and Sweden coordinated the development of the research protocol Domestic Violence: Women's Way Out, in the framework of the HDW Program's subregional project Strengthening and Organization of Women and Coordinated Action between the State and Civil Society at the Local Level to Prevent and Address Family Violence.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1999. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In a landmark decision for women, the General Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted on 6 October 1999 a 21-article Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and called on all States parties to the Convention to become party to the new instrument as soon as possible. 

By ratifying the Optional Protocol, a State recognizes the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -- the body that monitors States parties' compliance with the Convention -- to receive and consider complaints from individuals or groups within its jurisdiction.

The Protocol contains two procedures: (1) A communications procedure allows individual women, or groups of women, to submit claims of violations of rights protected under the Convention to the Committee. The Protocol establishes that in order for individual communications to be admitted for consideration by the Committee, a number of criteria must be met, including those domestic remedies must have been exhausted. (2) The Protocol also creates an inquiry procedure enabling the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. In either case, States must be party to the Convention and the Protocol. The Protocol includes an "opt-out clause", allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure. Article 17 of the Protocol explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms.

The Optional Protocol entered into force on 22 December 2000, following the ratification of the tenth State party to the Convention. The entry into force of the Optional Protocol puts it on an equal footing with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention against Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which all have communications procedures. The inquiry procedure is the equivalent of that under the Convention against Torture.

Etienne M. Addressing Gender-Based Violence in an International Context. Harvard Women's Law Journal. 1995;18 :139. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This Article, exploratory in nature, revisits the feasibility of establishing workable international standards for addressing the dehumanizing violence and discrimination that women suffer by virtue of their gender. It concludes that human rights activists and organizations seeking justice for women must not rely on contemporary international law, but must instead focus on local grassroots and watch group institutions that are intimately aware of the abuses faced by women. Part I examines the nature of abuses against women qua women and looks critically at the United Nations' response to these crises. Part II discusses the deficiencies in public international law, namely the United Nations' Charter and the Women's Convention, and the inherent limitations of the framework of international law in addressing the issue of gender-based discrimination. Part III suggests local and regional solutions, particularly the development of extra-legal strategies and institutions to counter more effectively gender-based abuses and to change public attitudes about gender equity. This Article neither attempts nor claims to solve the problem of international human rights for women. It suggests seeking justice for women in an alternative setting: Human rights for women can be attained more fruitfully through localized structures that both prioritize education, control, and management and seek concrete solutions in the struggle against gender bias.

Chinkin C. Violence Against Women: The International Legal Response. In: Gender and Development. Vol. 3. 2nd ed. ; 1995. pp. 23-28. Publisher's VersionAbstract

*This full article is available through this link. This article may be available free of charge to those with university credentials.

In demanding the right to be free from violence, women are claiming what they are entitled to. Violence against women must be seen as a human-rights issue, and legal instruments created and enforced to guarantee protection for women.

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). The Fourth World Conference on Women. 1995. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Fourth World Conference on Women, 
Having met in Beijing from 4 to 15 September 1995,

1. Adopts the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which are annexed to the present resolution;

2. Recommends to the General Assembly of the United Nations at its fiftieth session that it endorse the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as adopted by the Conference. 

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. United Nations. 1993. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Document can be located under A/RES/48/104

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. It covers physical, sexual and psychological violence as well as violence both at home and elsewhere in society.

The definition of violence against women that the UN presents in the Declaration is currently the most widely accepted definition:

‘Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary  deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’

The Declaration states three categories of violence against women: violence perpetrated by the State, such as violence against women in custody and as part of warfare; violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual harassment, trafficking in women and intimidation at work; and violence in the family and in the private sphere, for example incest and selective abortions).

According to the Declaration, violence against women is rooted in the historically unequal power relations between women and men. It also explains that violence against women is ‘one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.’

The UN member states are therefore urged to legislate against the violence, work preventively and improve the situation of victimised women.

CEDAW General Recommendation No. 19 - 1992 - Violence Against Women. CEDAW. 1992. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Convention in Article 1 defines discrimination against women. The definition of discrimination includes gender-based violence, that is, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty. Gender-based violence may breach specific provisions of the Convention, regardless of whether those provisions expressly mention violence. 

CEDAW General Recommendation No. 14 - 1990 - Female Circumcision. CEDAW. 1990. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends that States parties take appropriate and effective measures with a view to eradicating the practice of female circumcision (FGM) and provides various suggestions for what these activities could be and a requirement to include this in reports. 

Cairo Declaration on Human Rights. The Nineteenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers . 1990. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Nineteenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (Session of Peace, Interdependence and Development), held in Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt, from 9-14 Muharram 1411H (31 July to 5 August 1990),

Having examined the Report of the Meeting of the Committee of Legal Experts held in Tehran from 26 to 28 December, 1989;  Agrees to issue the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam that will serve as a general guidance for Member States in the Field of human rights.

CEDAW. CEDAW General Recommendation No. 12 - 1989 - Violence Against Women. 1989. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends to the States parties that they should include in their periodic reports to the Committee information about:

1. The legislation in force to protect women against the incidence of all kinds of violence in everyday life (including sexual violence, abuses in the family, sexual harassment at the work place etc.);

2. Other measures adopted to eradicate this violence;

3. The existence of support services for women who are the victims of aggression or abuses;

4. Statistical data on the incidence of violence of all kinds against women and on women who are the victims of violence. 

CEDAW - Full Text. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 1979. Publisher's VersionAbstract

On 18 December 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It entered into force as an international treaty on 3 September 1981 after the twentieth country had ratified it. By the tenth anniversary of the Convention in 1989, almost one hundred nations have agreed to be bound by its provisions.

The Convention was the culmination of more than thirty years of work by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a body established in 1946 to monitor the situation of women and to promote women's rights. The Commission's work has been instrumental in bringing to light all the areas in which women are denied equality with men. These efforts for the advancement of women have resulted in several declarations and conventions, of which the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is the central and most comprehensive document. 

Among the international human rights treaties, the Convention takes an important place in bringing the female half of humanity into the focus of human rights concerns. The spirit of the Convention is rooted in the goals of the United Nations: to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity, and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women. The present document spells out the meaning of equality and how it can be achieved. In so doing, the Convention establishes not only an international bill of rights for women, but also an agenda for action by countries to guarantee the enjoyment of those rights.



The American states signatory to the present Convention,

Reaffirming their intention to consolidate in this hemisphere, within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man;

Recognizing that the essential rights of man are not derived from one's being a national of a certain state, but are based upon attributes of the human personality, and that they therefore justify international protection in the form of a convention reinforcing or complementing the protection provided by the domestic law of the American states;

Considering that these principles have been set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States, in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that they have been reaffirmed and refined in other international instruments, worldwide as well as regional in scope;

Reiterating that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free men enjoying freedom from fear and want can be achieved only if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights; and

Considering that the Third Special Inter-American Conference (Buenos Aires, 1967) approved the incorporation into the Charter of the Organization itself of broader standards with respect to economic, social, and educational rights and resolved that an inter-American convention on human rights should determine the structure, competence, and procedure of the organs responsible for these matters, Have agreed upon the following: 

American Convention on Human Rights “Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica” (B-32). Organization of American States. 1978. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The American Convention on Human Rights (aka the Pact of San José) is a multilateral treaty that establishes democratic institutions regarding fundamental human rights for countries in the Western Hemisphere. The treaty entered into force on July 18, 1978.

Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belem do Para”. Organization of American States. 1969. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.