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Violence against women – A pervasive human rights violation calls for a binding standard of accountability at the international level

GENEVA (3 December 2014) – The absence of a legally binding agreement at the international level represents one of the obstacles to the promotion and protection of women’s rights and gender equality, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, reiterated today.

More than half-way through the international campaign against violence against women and in anticipation of Human Rights Day on 10 December, Ms. Manjoo reminded the international community that violence against women continues to be a widespread and pervasive human rights violation, and called for the adoption of different norms and measures to fight it around the world.

“Last week, we commemorated the international day for the elimination of violence against women, which is also the start of the 16 days of activism campaign on violence against women. The time has come to move beyond awareness-raising campaigns and the highlighting of statistics.

Violence against women has to be acknowledged as a barrier to the realization of all human rights, and consequently to the effective exercise of citizenship rights. Elimination of violence against women is critical to women’s ability to participate in the civil, political, economic, developmental, social and cultural spheres of their communities as full and equal citizens.

With global estimates reaching epidemic proportions, it is deplorable that combatting violence against women has not yet attracted the same level of focus, commitment and resources as non-gendered crimes.

In spite of the significant milestones achieved in advancing women’s rights and gender equality, at the national, regional and international levels, there remains both continuing and new sets of challenges that hamper efforts to promote and protect the human rights of women. This is largely due to the lack of a holistic approach that addresses individual, institutional and structural factors that are a cause and a consequence of violence against women.

I have identified some of the continuing challenges and called for the adoption of different norms and measures to fight violence against women around the world in my latest reports* to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly. I will continue to raise the matter of the normative gap under international law as regards violence against women.
A different set of legally binding standards with a specific monitoring body negotiated by all members of the United Nations is urgently needed to ensure effective examination and accountability of States’ responses to the systemic and pervasive human rights violation experienced largely by women and girls.

Transformative change requires that the words and actions of States’ reflect an acknowledgement that violence against women is a human rights violation, in and of itself; and more importantly it requires a commitment by States’ to be bound by specific legal obligations in the quest for elimination of this widespread human rights violation.”

(*) Check all the Special Rapporteur’s reports: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Manjoo is a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs 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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