"Addressing Violence Against Women in the Commonwealth Within States' Obligations Under International Law"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
Commonwealth Law Bulletin
Publication Type
Journal Article

This article examines international human rights standards with respect to redressing violence against women. It first sets out the international and regional instruments and jurisprudence relevant to determining international standards. It notes that, while there is no single convention explicitly on violence against women, the consistent language is such that these instruments in conjunction with the work of expert bodies (notably the Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women) provide a blueprint of recommended actions and strategies for governments, inter-governmental organisations and NGOs to ensure the human rights of women free from violence. The article then discusses the widely accepted understanding of gender-based violence against women as ‘violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’. The article adopts the framework of understanding states’ obligations through the typology of the obligations to respect, protect and fulfil women’s right to be free from violence. In particular, the obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent such violence, to protect women against such violence, to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of such violence and to provide reparation to the victims of such violence. It recognises the importance of legislation that defines violence against women and criminalises its various manifestations. However, it also recognises that legal reform is not of itself an adequate approach and that legislation must operate in an effective system. It thus highlights the importance of a holistic, multisectoral and comprehensive national strategy that includes addressing the ways that law enforcement personnel, judges and prosecutors are influenced adversely by gender stereotypes and prejudices.

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