Legislating against violence against women:
A Handbook
Division for the Advancement of Women
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations
Violence against women:
The context
October 2006: Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against
women (A/61/122/Add.1 and Corr.1) (available online in all United Nations official
languages: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/v-sg-study.htm)
December 2006: General Assembly resolution 61/143 on the intensification of efforts to
eliminate violence against women
March 2008: Launch of the Secretary-General’s Campaign “UNiTE to End Violence
against Women”, 2008-2015: One of the five key goals of the Campaign, to be achieved
in all countries by 2015, is the adoption of legislation on violence against women in
accordance with international human rights standards (see http://endviolence.un.org)
October 2008: General Assembly resolution 63/155 on the intensification of efforts to
eliminate violence against women
March 2009: Launch of the Secretary-General’s database on violence against women,
which provides the first global “one-stop shop” for information on measures undertaken
by Member States of the United Nations to address violence against women, including
legislation (see http://www.un.org/esa/vawdatabase)
Background to the Handbook
Expert group meeting convened by DAW/DESA in collaboration with
UNODC from 26 to 28 May 2008 in Vienna, Austria.
Brought together 15 experts from around the world, as well as observers,
including the Chair of the CEDAW Committee and representatives of
OHCHR, UNIFEM, IOM, and the IPU, to:
 Analyze different approaches in the law for addressing all forms of
violence against women;
 Assess lessons learned in the implementation of legislation on
violence against women, with particular attention to effectiveness of
legislation; and
 Identify good practices in the law and recommended standards for
legislation on violence against women.
Purpose of the Handbook
 Purpose:
 to serve as a tool for the development, adoption and amendment of
legislation which prevents violence against women, punishes
perpetrators, and ensures the rights of survivors of violence against
women everywhere
 To this end, the Handbook contains:
 a summary of the international and legal policy framework
 a model framework for legislation on violence against women,
including recommendations on the content of legislation on violence
against women, and good practice examples
 a checklist of steps to be taken when drafting legislation
The international legal
and policy framework
 International human rights treaties
 General recommendation no. 19 of the Committee on the
Elimination of Discrimination against Women
 Concluding observations of the treaty bodies
 Other international treaties
 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,
Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations
Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
 Policy documents
 General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against
Women (1993)
 Beijing Platform for Action (1995)
 General Assembly resolutions: 61/143, 63/155
Recommended content of
 What should be included/addressed in the law
Legislative preamble
Monitoring and evaluation
Protection, support and assistance to complainants/survivors
Rights of immigrant women
Legal proceedings and evidence
Protection orders
Family law cases involving violence against women
Civil law suits
Family law
Asylum law
Scope of legislation
 Legislation should:
 acknowledge violence against women as a form of
gender-based discrimination, and that violence may
affect different groups of women differently
 be comprehensive, including provisions regarding
prevention of violence against women, protection and
support for the complainant/survivor, and prosecution
and punishment of the perpetrator
Implementation and monitoring
 Legislation should:
 be implemented in the context of a comprehensive
national action plan or strategy
 provide for a budget to ensure its implementation
 provide for the adoption of rules and regulations, and
the creation of specialized institutions, including police,
prosecutors and courts
 provide for the creation of a specific institutional
mechanism (eg multi-sectoral Task Force) and the
collection of statistical data, including through
involvement of the national statistical office
 The law should contain comprehensive definitions of:
 domestic violence including physical, sexual,
psychological, emotional and economic violence, and an
extensive scope of persons
 sexual assault, incorporating rape, including marital rape
 sexual harassment
Prevention and protection
 Legislation should:
 mandate preventive measures, including awareness-raising
campaigns, educational curricula, and sensitization of the media
in relation to violence against women
 include measures for the protection, assistance and support of
complainants/survivors, including comprehensive and
integrated support services, and rights to support in her
employment and housing and financial assistance
 ensure that immigrant women are not subjected to punitive
actions related to their immigration status when they report
violence, and have the right to apply for independent residency
Prosecution and punishment
 Legislation should:
 detail the duties of police officers and prosecutors and
provide for the rights of complainants/survivors during legal
proceedings, including alternatives to giving live testimony,
and the right to be continuously updated regarding her rights
and the status of legal proceedings
 provide for both emergency and final protection orders, and
criminalize the violation of a protection order
 ensure that sentences imposed on perpetrators are consistent
with the gravity of the crime committed, including by
removing exceptions and reductions in sentencing in cases of
violence against women
Family law; civil law suits; asylum law
 Legislation should:
 ensure that complainants/survivors of violence against women
do not have negative inferences drawn against them in family
law proceedings and are entitled, amongst other things, to
divorce and alimony, and to remain in the family dwelling
 permit complainants/survivors of violence to bring civil
lawsuits, both against the perpetrator, and against third parties
who have acted negligently, such as the police
 provide that violence against women may constitute
persecution and that complainants/survivors of such violence
should constitute “a particular social group” for the purposes
of asylum law.
Checklist for drafting legislation
 When drafting legislation the following steps should be
 Define the legislative goal
 Consult with all relevant stakeholders
 Adopt an evidence-based approach
Further information
 For further information regarding the work of the Division
for the Advancement of Women/DESA on violence against
women: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw
 Contact:
Division for the Advancement of Women
Email: daw@un.org

Guidelines and model framework for legislation on …