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Thematic reports

A/74/148: Domestic violence and the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment


12 July 2019

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In his report, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment examines the relevance of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to the context of domestic violence and, in the light of his conclusions, offers recommendations to States with a view to strengthening their capacity to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in that context.

In this regard, the Special Rapporteur establishes that domestic violence cannot be regarded as a private matter, but constitutes a major human rights issue of inherently public concern that requires examination, inter alia, from the perspective of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. From this perspective, States have due diligence obligations to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by non-State actors.

In his recommendations, the Special Rapporteur calls on States to focus on strengthening the capacity of States to prevent and respond to torture and other degrading treatment in the context of domestic violence. States should ratify, without reservations, all international legal instruments giving effect to the prohibition of torture and ill treatment. They should refrain from promoting violent, discriminatory or dehumanizing narratives and instead criminalize domestic violence, and should also establish accessible help lines, provide legal assistance to victims and ensure their legal systems provide redress. Like war, he said, domestic violence is a menace that traumatizes countless individuals, particularly women and children.

Furthermore, the report emphasizes that, in all cases, the primary objective of any decision, measure or sanction taken in response to domestic violence must be:

a) To prevent further abuse on the part of the same or other likely perpetrators;

b) To prevent re-traumatization or abuse of victims of domestic violence through subsequent procedures, measures and sanctions;

c) To provide victims with rehabilitation and redress, including just compensation and the means, support and protection required to establish and sustain a dignified and protected life without domestic violence or other abuse in the long term.


Domestic violence is perpetrated daily against millions of people through a wide variety of abusive conduct, including excessively controlling behaviour, mental abuse, sexual and physical violence and even murder. 

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2017, approximately 78,000 individuals (64 per cent female and 36 per cent male) were killed by intimate partners or family members. Depending on the country, between 15 and 70 per cent of the female population—and a worldwide average of 30 per cent of women—have suffered intimate-partner violence at some point in their lives, and that between 50 and 75 per cent of children worldwide (up to 1 billion) experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence at home.

Those staggering numbers are exacerbated by the fact that, in general, the exposure of victims to domestic violence continues for many years and often lasts an entire lifetime. Contrary to some perceptions, therefore, domestic violence is neither an exceptional occurrence nor a matter of lesser importance, but in fact represents one of the predominant sources of humiliation, violence and death worldwide; roughly comparable to all of the killing and abuse caused by armed conflict. 

Additional information

  • Statement of the Special Rapporteur on Torture to the General Assembly.

Issued By:

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Delivered To:

the GA at its 74th session, October 2019