Publications by Year: 2016

Meyersfield B. A Theory of Domestic Violence in International Law. Yale Law School Dissertations [Internet]. 2016;(3). Publisher's VersionAbstract


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.


Africa: Legal Grounds: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in African Courts. University of Toronto Faculty of Law [Internet]. 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

These publications include summaries and analyses of cases pertaining to reproductive and sexual rights, including gender-based violence, HIV discrimination, property and family law, abortion, and claims of fetal interests. They examine how African national courts interpret and apply regional and international human rights laws. 

Fahmina T. Fairness creams, skin colour-based discrimination and violence against women: time to stop!. Odhikar [Internet]. 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Ruma (not her real name), a school teacher by profession and a mother of two, living in Dhaka, married Mainul eight years ago. Soon after, Mainul started harassing her, calling her an ‘ugly’ woman – because of her dark complexion.  Her mother-in-law and other members of her husband’s family used to verbally abuse her almost every day, saying that her skin is ‘moyla’ (dirty); and expressed their anger and frustration, and thought that Mainul had bad luck as he was not able to marry a ‘beautiful’ woman–meaning a fair-complexioned woman. Ruma tried very hard to be seen as beautiful in the eyes of her husband and in-laws and experimented to see how she could look fairer. She started buying brand name fairness creams, hoping to make her skin lighter as she started to believe that fair meant lovely, as the advertisements say. She regularly watched fairness cream advertisements on television, read about them on bill boards and newspapers and wanted to be as fair as the models in the advertisements. Unfortunately, nothing really worked or showed much of a result. Her husband and in laws demanded a huge amount of dowry repeatedly – apparently as a retaliation for her darker skin.

Women UN. Global Database on Violence Against Women. [Internet]. 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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

Women UN. Inventory of United Nations Activities to end Violence Against Women. [Internet]. 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

Morocco’s Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Advocates for Human Rights; 2016. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

Narasimhan M, Orza L, Welbourn A, Bewley S, Crone T, Vazquez M. Sexual and reproductive health and human rights of women living with HIV: a global community survey. Bulletin of the World Health Organization [Internet]. 2016;(94) :243-249. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the development of any of its global guidelines, the World Health Organization (WHO) places importance on the values and preferences of the population or individuals that could be affected by the recommendations made within the guidelines. WHO has guidelines on the care, treatment and support for women living with HIV and their children in resource-con-strained settings, but these guidelines were published in 2006 and require updating. As an initial step in the updating process, WHO commissioned a global survey to listen to the voices of women living with HIV and determine these women’s sexual and reproductive health priorities. The main aim of the survey was to ensure that the values and preferences of women living with HIV would inform the guidelines from the very start of its development. The methods and key outcomes of the global survey are described and discussed below.