Cover Image
close this bookWomen
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentLegal Strategies
View the documentMobilization and Political Advocacy
View the documentTraining and Education for Officials in Government Institutions and for Groups in Civil Society
View the documentResearch and Documentation
View the documentMedia and Communication Technologies
View the documentChanging Male Behaviour
Open this folder and view contentsAppendices

Legal Strategies

Advocates in all regions have adopted law reform and advocacy in the courts as key strategies for ending violence against women. Law embodies the social contract and can catalyze social change by sending a clear message that violence against women will not be tolerated. For example, as one member of the Working Group observed "[t]he criminal justice system response has clearly played a role in educating the public on what is and is not acceptable in our local community." Laws that are drafted to reflect the reality of women's experiences can - if fully implemented - provide justice for women who have suffered violence and even protect against further abuse. Legal representation for women seeking remedies in the courts and support for women victims in the judicial process is a focus for ongoing NGO activity.

Criminal justice strategies

Strategies related to the criminal law and procedures and law enforcement are a central priority for NGOs. Among the criminal justice strategies identified by the Working Group were: the reform of criminal laws and procedures, particularly laws related to domestic violence and rape; the vigorous prosecution of assaults involving minor or no injuries in order to deter assaults that result in more serious injuries or death; the adoption of mandatory arrest policies which require the police to make an arrest in all incidents of domestic violence (an approach intended to take the burden off women to insist on an arrest or to guarantee to press charges before an arrest is made); the establishment of domestic violence courts and special police units or stations that deal with violence against women; the creation of forensic protocols for cases of rape; and the development of resource materials that translate general principles into practical guidelines. Members stressed that such strategies must be one element of a much broader approach. As one member stated: "[w]hile abuses and injustices against women will not be corrected by reforming the criminal justice system alone, it is clear that many crime prevention and criminal justice practices are themselves contributing to the problem and must be changed."

Other areas of the law

Members of the Working Group drew attention to the need for advocacy in other areas of the law as a means of addressing the causes and consequences of violence against women. Examples include: efforts to improve legal protections against discrimination in all areas; challenges to laws that reinforce women's subordination, such as discriminatory inheritance and family laws; and challenges to laws that may have the effect of restricting women's ability to leave violent relationships, such as the prohibition of divorce and immigration laws making women's immigration status contingent on their continued relationship with their husbands. In addition, advocates are targeting specific areas of the law where change is needed to prevent and respond to violence, such as the recognition of gender-based persecution as a ground for political asylum and the prohibition of sexual harassment in laws related to employment and education.

The discussion of legal strategies highlighted these conclusions:

> Legal strategies should be clearly linked, through information exchange and coalition building wherever possible, to other strategies, particularly mobilization and training;

> Law reform should be informed by data and analyses by NGOs and other advocates and guided by careful examination of experience both in the national context and in other countries;

> Law reform and other legal initiatives, including advocacy in individual cases, should be used as a focus for broader public education;

> Research and data collection systems should be created to facilitate information exchange about existing laws, draft laws and experience regarding implementation;

> The effectiveness of legal strategies for preventing and responding to violence should be seen in the context of the status of the rule of law. Absent the rule of law, strategies for law reform or advocacy in the courts will have limited effect on women's lives. Laws on violence against women will lack legitimacy and the supporting framework of legal and political institutions. In such circumstances, laws cannot be enforced to protect women against violence in a manner consistent with human rights.

Mobilization and Political Advocacy

Mobilization and political advocacy are the means to build political will on the part of government to take action against violence and consensus on the part of civil society that violence against women cannot be tolerated.

Global Organizing: 16 Days Campaign

Many members of the Working Group reported on local activities related to the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. The 16 Days Campaign takes place annually from November 25 December 10. It was initiated in 1991 as a part of the Global Campaign for Women's Human Rights and is coordinated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership in the United States. The 16 Days Campaign highlights four significant dates: the International Day Against Violence Against Women, November 25, commemorates the deaths of the Mirabal sisters who were brutally murdered by the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960; December 1 is World AIDS Day; December 6 marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when a man gunned down 14 women engineering students reportedly for "being feminists;" and December 10 is the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Campaign has been adopted by activists at the local and national level as a framework within which their priorities regarding violence against women can be brought to the forefront of public attention. The specific issues highlighted and the campaign tactics used - marches, street theatre, posters and other public information materials, intensive media programming - are determined at the local and/or national levels. In a number of countries, women have used the umbrella of the 16 Days to broaden support for specific legal or policy action by their governments. Media coverage has been a key element in the success of 16 Days activities as a means of educating the public.

The link to the international campaign strengthens these activities by highlighting violence as a human rights violation condemned by the international community as a whole. The international dimensions of the Campaign give heightened visibility to the issues and encourage networking and information exchange among women's groups and other advocates.

Community Organizing

Women are organizing in their communities to provide services for women, initiate public discussion and build community consensus against violence, and demand that community and religious leaders and government officials take action. They have created shelters, legal assistance, job training, counseling and other services where none existed. Their organizing around specific cases has raised public awareness of the nature of the abuse and the need to reform the inadequacies of the justice system. Their demands have led to Government policy and resource commitments, as well as changes in laws. Through dialogue within their communities, they have successfully challenged claims that violence in the family or harmful traditional practices are acceptable expressions of cultural or religious values.

A common theme in the discussion of community mobilization was the need to ensure women's rights to participation in public life. Participation in public life is a precondition for advocacy of specific actions to end violence and it is a means by which women can challenge the denials of rights that are among the root causes of violence. Members of the Working Group emphasized the importance of political participation as a "strategy for helping to end violence against women, if the women elected in parliament or local government have a conceptual understanding of violence against women and see it as a human right issue."

Training and Education

Training and education are a primary focus of NGO advocacy. Members of the Working Group reported on training activities targeted to many different audiences, including: law enforcement officers; judges; lawyers; doctors, nurses and other health care providers; civil servants; high level government officials; religious leaders; women's groups; girls in public schools and youth organizations; and boys in public schools and youth organizations. Elements common to the most effective approaches include: methodologies that take participants' experiences and perceptions as the starting point for dialogue; content and methodologies tailored to the experiences and needs of the target audience; the support of leaders in the group being trained; effective training materials; training in a series of workshops and sessions, rather than single sessions; the participation of senior officials in trainings for government officials, particularly for law enforcement personnel; training partnerships with local groups and/or government agencies where appropriate; the integration of information and analyses about violence against women into general education and training courses; and accessible settings for trainings.

A human rights perspective is an essential element, particularly when training professional groups such as doctors or social workers that might otherwise view violence as an individualized phenomenon. Specific recommendations regarding officials in the justice system as an audience included: training judges as trainers, by identifying those sympathetic to women's rights; incorporating training on violence against women in the general curricula for police recruits and providing ongoing training to officers; and training frontline officials who have extensive contact with women. Specific recommendations regarding training for youth focused on dialogue and creative exercises to assist youth in articulating their own understanding of violence against women as a human rights violation.

In addition to training and education on violence against women, members of the Working Group stressed the continued need for training to assist women in claiming their rights, such as legal literacy programmes, and the need for training to build the advocacy capacities of women's groups.

Service Provision

Women's groups in all regions are engaged in the direct provision of a wide range of services and resources to women who have experienced violence. Among the services offered are: shelter for women and their children; hotlines for crisis counseling of survivors of rape and domestic violence; short-term counseling, including rape crisis counseling; legal aid; information and counseling related to women's health; assistance in accessing health care and other social services; job training; and loans to start small businesses. Service provision is the area of NGO - Government cooperation discussed most frequently in the Working Group. A number of Governments provide funding to support shelters and other services delivered by NGOs. Members of the Working Group identified the need to ensure that Government requirements related to reporting and policies regarding funding are those best suited to safeguarding women's security and ensuring that NGOs can sustain the services offered.

Using Regional and International Law and Proceedures

The adoption, ratification and implementation of human rights instruments was identified by members of the Working Group as a means of reinforcing strategies directed toward national constituencies and institutions. For example, they cited the needs to secure universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the removal of reservations to the Convention and its implementation through law, policy and practice. In the Inter-American regional human rights system, advocates won the adoption and ratification of a treaty that specifically prohibits violence against women and details Government duties to eliminate it. The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women entered into effect in 1995 and has now been ratified by 29 of the 35 Member States of the Organization of American States. It allows women to seek redress before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights once they have exhausted national remedies. States parties must report on their action to end gender-based violence.

A second set of strategies discussed by the Working Group focused on the investigation, prosecution and punishment of abuses against women in situations of armed conflict and of crimes against humanity specific to women. A member of the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice in the International Criminal Court, a coalition of international and national NGOs, reported on its successful campaign to ensure that the Statute creating the Court recognizes crimes of sexual violence and integrates a gender perspective. In addition to preparing legal analyses, mobilizing women's groups, and lobbying governments on gender-specific issues, the Caucus joined other NGOs in demanding recognition of the core principles necessary to ensure a fair, effective and independent Court. Non-governmental organizations have also developed strategies to influence, monitor and respond to developments affecting women at the Ad-hoc International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and the creation of the International Criminal Court. For example, another NGO coalition sponsors monitoring, investigation and training activities focused on the prosecutions by the Ad-hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of cases of sexual violence.

Research and Documentation

Through research and documentation, the severity and scope of violence against women can be exposed to public scrutiny, its causes and consequences can be assessed, and demands for preventive and remedial action can be supported. Members of the Working Group emphasized the needs to assess and further develop research methodologies and to develop stringent guidelines related to ethical and security concerns. Among the other needs that emerged from the discussion were:

> training and capacity-building for women's groups to support their research and documentation initiatives, including training in human rights methodologies;

> research and documentation protocols to protect the security, confidentiality, privacy and other interests of women participating in the investigations;

> educational and awareness-raising components within research projects, aimed at encouraging communities and/or the women whose experiences are the subject of investigation to:

> debate violence against women; explore the reasons for and against research; and discuss how to utilize research findings and reports;

> indepth country studies to support the promote the design and implementation of multidisciplinary programmes on violence against women.

Media and Communications Technology

The use of media was highlighted both as a means of enhancing the effectiveness of other strategies and as a specific focus for anti-violence advocacy. Women's groups are working with established media and creating their own media outlets to promote coverage that exposes violence against women as a human rights violation and challenges the social, cultural and political norms that support it. Media have a key role to play in stimulating public debate, exposing the severity and prevalence of violence against women, and providing a forum for exploring strategies in other areas.

Like the media, communication technologies can be used to broaden public awareness more rapidly and among larger audiences. Information and communications technologies also offer a potentially powerful means of strengthening collective action. Members of the Working Group identified a need for financial and technical support to enable more women's groups and other NGOs to use communication technologies. The


I followed your observations on the all-women police stations with interest. All-women police stations have been set up in a few countries and have been very useful in making the police accessible to women. But then I also feel that in a sense this ghettoises violence against women as a problem that only police women can handle and may become an excuse to postpone gender sensitization of male officials. In any case, women are also part of the same patriarchal culture and cannot be expected to treat women clients differently simply because they are women.

Measures such as the all-women police stations are very good interventions in the short run but in the long run the state should work towards engendering the police force.

Anu Rajan, New Delhi, India
[email protected]