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UN must prioritise women’s protection amid States’ inadequate action, urges Special Rapporteur

NEW YORK (6 October 2017) - Existing international conventions and treaties designed to protect women from violence are not being sufficiently implemented by governments around the world, and fresh action needs to be spearheaded by the UN, an expert on violence against women has told the General Assembly in New York.

Dubravka  Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, called for a global action plan to help cut through the complex legal framework and bridge the gap between international standards and national laws.

Ms. Šimonović presented a full report on the adequacy of the international framework on violence against women, which she has investigated over the past two years with extensive consultations with other experts in the field.

Opinion was divided between both UN and regional mechanisms experts and civil society organizations, she noted.

Some argued that existing treaties and other instruments should be used to the full, with no need for a separate instrument dealing exclusively with violence against women. Others insisted that a global treaty on women could provide vital new legally binding mechanisms, while a third group supported the idea of a new protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The Special Rapporteur said that amid the different views, a growing consensus had emerged of the need for global action to address gender-based violence against women more strongly and effectively, as well as to accelerate progress.

Recent steps had helped improve understanding of CEDAW and the existing legal framework, she said, but acknowledged that the current international framework was complex, fragmented and in many ways “disconnected” in its implementation by individual countries.

“This problem of lack of implementation and incorporation of the existing legal framework could be more effectively tackled through the creation of a global implementation plan on violence against women,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“I believe that such a global implementation plan on addressing violence against women would fit under the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 5, target 2, and that efforts and resources should be focused on bridging the incorporation and implementation gaps between international standards and national law and policy.”

These steps, she added, should include improving data collection on femicide or gender-related killings of women and other forms of violence, provision of shelters and protection orders, and other implementation strategies.

The Special Rapporteur said that the implementation of the recently adopted CEDAW General Recommendation 35 on gender-based violence against women, combined with the adoption of a new CEDAW protocol, could represent a long-term solution to boost women’s protection and stamp out violence against them.

“This option could also provide a response to all those arguments highlighting the lack of legally binding nature of CEDAW recommendations and the need for strengthening the existing legal and policy framework on violence against women,” she said.

“However, in my view, this is not sufficient to overcome the current lack of implementation of the existing instruments. There [are] significant incorporation and implementation gaps of global and regional instruments on violence against women and women’s rights at the national level.

“This issue should be more vigorously addressed and put at the top of the UN agenda.”

The Special Rapporteur also proposed the creation of an inter-governmental working group to push for the elimination of gender-based violence against women, open to UN Member States, NGOs and international human rights institutions. The working group could start working on the proposed global action plan, she added.

Ms.  Šimonović also urged governments, civil society and relevant UN agencies to start work on a fifth UN World Review Conference on Women, which could focus on violence against women and consider adopting the action plan.


Ms.  Šimonović (Croatia) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015, to recommend measures, ways and means, at the national, regional and international levels, to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences. Ms. Šimonovic has been member of the CEDAW Committee from 2002 to 2014 and server as its Chairperson from 2008 to 2009. She headed the Human Rights Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia and was the Minister Plenipotentiary at the Permanent Mission of Croatia to the UN in New York. She Chaired the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She was also Ambassador to the OSCE and UN in Vienna. At the regional level she co-chaired the Ad hoc Committee (CAHVIO) of the Council of Europe that elaborated the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). She holds a PhD in Family Law and published books and articles on women’s rights and violence against women. Currently she is visiting professor at the LSE Center for Women, Peace and Security.

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
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