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Violence Against Women: South African legal expert takes over as new UN Special Rapporteur

GENEVA – South African lawyer Rashida Manjoo, advocate of the High Court of South Africa and academic in the field of human rights, assumed her mandate as the new UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

"Violence against women violates human dignity as well as numerous rights, including the right to equality, physical integrity, freedom and non-discrimination" said Ms. Manjoo, who was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council for an initial period of three years at the 11th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2009.

“I believe that equality and equal protection doctrines demand that we address violence against women, in all its manifestations, as discrimination against women. It is my hope to work within this framework during my mandate,” she stressed.

The new UN independent expert has taught and conducted research at a number of universities. Most recently she was the Des Lee Distinguished Visiting Professor at Webster University, USA where she taught courses in human rights with a particular focus on women's human rights and transitional justice.

Ms. Manjoo has also served as a clinical instructor and as the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow with the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School. She is also a Research Associate in the Law Faculty of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

In addition to her academic credentials, the new Special Rapporteur is the former Parliamentary Commissioner of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), a constitutional body mandated to oversee the promotion and protection of gender equality. Prior to this appointment she was involved in training programs for judges and lawyers at the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

The new independent expert was also involved in setting up both a national and a provincial network on violence against women and is the founder of the Gender Unit at the Law Clinic at the University of Natal as well as the Domestic Violence Assistance Programme at the Durban Magistrates Court (the first such project in a court in South Africa).

Ms. Manjoo succeeds Dr. Yakin Ertürk (Turkey), who served from August 2003 - July 2009, and Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka), 1994 - July 2003.