UN expert urges States to agree to specific legal obligations to fight violence against women and girls

GENEVA, 22 June 2015 – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, called for the creation of a legally binding framework on violence against women and girls within the United Nations human rights system, to ensure State accountability.

“It is time to consider the development and adoption of a United Nations binding international instrument on violence against women and girls, with its own dedicated monitoring body,” Ms. Manjoo said during the presentation of her last report* to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Such an instrument should ensure that States are held accountable to standards that are legally binding, it should provide a clear normative framework for the protection of women and girls globally and should have a specific monitoring body to substantively provide in-depth analysis of both general and country-level developments,” she stated.

Ms. Manjoo noted that the specific monitoring body would also serve an educative function in the quest to protect against and prevent all manifestations of violence against women and girls.

The Special Rapporteur explained that 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. “More importantly,” she said, “it requires a commitment by States to be bound by specific legal obligations in the quest to prevent and eliminate such violence.”

“I believe that an international legally binding instrument would ensure that States are held accountable to standards that are legally binding,” she stressed. “Furthermore, it would also provide a clear normative framework for the protection of women and girls globally.”

In her report, the expert provides an overview of the legally binding provisions, implementing mechanisms and relevant jurisprudence regarding violence against women in three regional human rights systems: the African, European and Inter-American systems.

“While the three regional human rights systems are to be commended for having developed legally binding instruments on women’s rights and/or violence against women and set up, or being on the eve of setting up, monitoring mechanisms, their effectiveness is uneven and some face specific challenges,” Ms. Manjoo noted, expressing concern for the lack of or minimal development within other regions of the world.

She also highlights that in order for the regional systems to reinforce universal human rights standards, as contained in international human rights instruments, a legally binding framework on violence against women and girls is essential within the United Nations system.

“The thematic work I have undertaken on the regional systems has reinforced the concern I had expressed previously in relation to the lack of a legally binding international instrument specifically on violence against women and girls,” she explained.

“This thematic report bolsters the call I made last year before both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly for undertaking an inquiry into the normative gap under international law, in the quest to further strengthen efforts to eliminate violence against women,” the Special Rapporteur said.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/HRC/29/27):  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session29/Pages/ListReports.aspx

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