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View the documentThe Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women
View the documentConvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
View the documentThe Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
View the documentU.N. Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women

In 1993, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women. While not legally binding, the Declaration represents international consensus on government obligations to end violence against women. It offers an internationally accepted framework for efforts by NGOs and Governments to end violence against women. It affirms human rights which are legally binding, such as: the right to liberty and security of person; the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

The Declaration defines violence against women as "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 private life" (Article 1). It applies to violence by non-governmental actors, including violence in the family. Article 2 of the Declaration states that violence against women includes, but is not limited to:

> violence in the family - battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household; dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, and violence related to exploitation;

> violence in the general community - rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere; trafficking in women and forced prostitution; and

> violence perpetrated or condoned by the State - wherever it occurs.

The Declaration directs States not to "invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations" regarding violence against women. It spells out specific legislative, educational, administrative and other measures to be taken by States, including steps to:

> "exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons" (Article 4(c));

> "develop penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to punish and redress the wrongs caused to women who are subjected to violence; women who are subjected to violence should be provided access to the mechanisms of justice and, as provided for by national legislation, to just and effective remedies for the harm they have suffered; states should also inform women of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms" (Article 4(d));

> "consider the possibility of developing national plans of action to promote the protection of women from any form of violence" (Article 4(e));

> work to ensure "to the maximum extent feasible in light of their available resources...that women subjected to violence and, where appropriate, their children, have specialized assistance, such as rehabilitation, assistance in child care, and maintenance, treatment, counselling, health and social services, facilities and programs..." Article 4(g));

> include in government budgets "adequate resources for their activities related to violence against women" (Article 4(h)); and

> ensure that law enforcement officers and public officials involved in the prevention, investigation and punishment of violence against women receive training to "sensitize them to the needs of women" (Article 4 (i)).

Many of these actions are reiterated and expanded upon in the Beijing Platform for Action and in resolutions on violence against women adopted by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women. For example, the Beijing Platform for Action calls on governments to: adopt, implement and periodically review legislation "emphasizing the prevention of violence and the prosecution of offenders; take measures to ensure the effective protection of women subjected to violence, access to just and effective remedies, including compensation and indemnification and healing of victims;" formulate and implement national plans of action; allocate adequate resources within the government budget for activities related to violence against women.