40 pairs of red shoes placed in front of the Serbian Government's building as a reminder that more than 40 women are killed every year by their intimate partner in the country, November 15 - Photo courtesy of UN Women
CAIRO – 27 November 2017: National legislations on violence against women vary from one country to another. While some countries have passed only one law, other countries have addressed the practice with many laws.
In the latter case, it is important to make sure that all laws are harmonized and do not contradict each other. In all cases, in order to ensure the effectiveness of the legislation, it must be acknowledged that violence is a form of gender-based discrimination. It should also be recognized that violence affects different groups of women differently, including rural women, women in crisis, disabled women and refugee women. Preventative and protective measures should be taken, as well as measures to prosecute perpetrators.
Addressing the social epidemic of violence against women requires a strong joint action by governments and legislative bodies to build a comprehensive legal framework. This framework provides a basic foundation to ensure every woman and girl is protected from violence, while all perpetrators are prosecuted without impunity.
Parliaments and governments can follow some practical strategies to address violence against women. These strategies must be informed by a thorough assessment of how violence is addressed within the existing national legal framework. It also helps to identify the gaps in order to create a road map for adopting new evidence-based legislation or reviewing existing laws.
To ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of developed legislation, laws should be accompanied by implementation mechanisms, including allocating budgets, providing tools for statistical data collection and establishing monitoring plans to amend the legislation when necessary to respond to new realities. A best practice is to evaluate the impact of a piece of legislation by conducting an assessment after three years of its implementation.
National legislations must also go in line with international standards and conventions ratified by the state, specifically the international conventions on human rights, like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security 1325 and its sister resolution, 1820, as well as any regional legal mechanisms on violence against women.
After ensuring that the necessary legislation is in place to prevent and protect women from violence, governments should make sure that the laws are put to practice.
As much as it is vital to have laws, they are not sufficient unless they are implemented. Parliaments play an important role in overseeing the implementation of policies and programs through existing parliamentary mechanisms and committees, or by setting dedicated parliamentary bodies to monitor the implementation of relevant laws. All monitoring processes should be built on collected sex-disaggregated data attributed to specific indicators and targets, set for each legislation, in order to assess the impact of laws and policies on women.
The overarching umbrella is the strong political will to address a priority political issue like violence against women. This political will is supposed to be translated by parliamentarians through practicing their authority to question and hold governments accountable on implementation, and encouraging civil society actors to play an active role in preventing and ending violence against women.
Raising community awareness of women’s rights and violence against women as a human rights' violation is also an important pillar. Parliamentarians can take the lead in approaching the community to change attitudes and social patterns towards violence against women, as well as utilize the cost of violence as a strong mobilization tool and evidence of the negative impact of the practice on the whole society.
Laws should also be made available and explained for the public. This can be done through campaigns to highlight the practice by media, civil society organizations and the private sector, targeting all segments of society, including women, girls, men and boys.
Furthermore, it is necessary to educate children from an early age about human rights and gender equality. School curriculum and material must be reviewed from a gender perspective to address challenging stereotypes. Parents can also be targeted in parental education programs on women’s rights. In conjunction, tailored capacity-enhancement trainings targeting the judicial system, including judges and law enforcement personnel, are also important.
Last but not least, it is crucial that more women are represented in all decision-making bodies and institutions. This requires a dedicated strategy to promote women’s access to parliament, government, national courts and all state institutions. Also, mainstreaming gender in all government bodies and sectors is vital to secure a coordinated response to violence against women.
On the occasion of the international campaign of activism on violence against women (November 25 – December 10), parliaments could advocate for making violence against women a priority issue at the national level. They could also identify needed steps to strengthen their own effectiveness in combating the practice.
Moreover, parliamentarians could play a role in organizing events, like debates in parliament on violence against women; adopting a parliamentary resolution to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women; reviewing the national progress on fighting violence against women and the remaining challenges; and holding consultations and public hearings on violence against women and on national solutions to eliminate it.
This article is part of Egypt Today’s campaign “Break the Silence ... Say No to Violence” marking the 16-Day campaign of activism against gender-based violence GBV from November 25 to December 10.