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State responsibility for eliminating violence against women

The 2013 annual report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms Rashida Manjoo, will be devoted to a study on the "State responsibility for eliminating violence against women".

The Special Rapporteur is seeking information in preparation of a global study that analyses the interpretation and implementation of the due diligence obligation by States to be submitted to the Human Rights Council.

Article 4 (c and d) of the UN Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women requires States to ‘exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and in accordance with national legislation punish acts of violence against women whether those actions are perpetrated by the State or private persons.’ The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the work of the Committee reiterates the need for states to take appropriate measures to ensure women are free from all forms of violence. To achieve this, States must develop penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to punish and redress the wrongs caused to women who are subjected to violence. Thus a state not only has a negative obligation to refrain from acts of violence against women, but also has positive duties to prevent and protect women from violence, punish perpetrators and compensate victims of violence. Due to the multiplicity of forms of violence against women, and the fact that this violence often occurs in an intersectional manner, States must adopt more holistic, multi-pronged approaches to effectively implementing their due diligence obligations. State interventions must also be designed at the different levels at which violence occurs, namely at the individual, community, State and transnational levels. The state may be held responsible under international law for the failure to provide reasonable and adequate measures to prevent or address the violations of women’s rights. In essence, due diligence provides a standard of care used to measure whether a state has complied with its international obligations. A determination of compliance will require an assessment of the adequacy of the domestic measures in the state.

The mandate has consistently paid attention to the principle of due diligence over the last seventeen (17) years and is keen to further the discussion and compile emerging practices that have the potential to reach the common goal of elimination of all forms of violence against women.  

The Special Rapporteur notes that various individuals and organisations may wish to develop documents and reports of consultations to submit for consideration. In accordance with the established practice of mandate-holders, the Special Rapporteur welcomes all relevant submissions that NGO’s and other independent experts may wish to transmit for her consideration in preparation of the annual report on due diligence. The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in receiving submission on specific country situations.

The sample questionnaire below highlights the four elements of the due diligence obligation to: 1) prevent acts of violence against women, 2) investigate and punish all acts of violence against women, 3) protect women against acts of violence, and 4) provide remedy and reparation to victims of violence against women. The completion of the questionnaire is not a requirement. However, the elements highlighted in the questionnaire may be useful in the preparation of the reports to be submitted to the Special Rapporteur. Submissions should be sent by 31 October 2012 to vaw@ohchr.org.

Summary Paper on the State responsibility for eliminating violence against women

Sample questionnaire

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General Assembly Resolution 48/104.

Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, Dec 18 ,1979 1249 U.N.T.S. 13