States accountable for investigating and preventing violence against women – UN expert

Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

10 June 2013 – An independent United Nations human rights expert has stressed the need to hold States accountable not only for investigating acts of violence against women but also for failing to prevent such violence.

Despite numerous developments, violence against women remains “endemic” and the lack of accountability for violations experienced by women is the rule rather than the exception in many countries, Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, said in a report presented to the Human Rights Council last week.

“States are required to hold accountable those who fail to protect and prevent, as well as those who perpetrate, violations of women’s rights,” she added.

She noted in a related new release that the responsibility of States is generally based on acts or omissions either committed by State actors or by those whose actions are attributable to the State. But a State may incur responsibility where there is a failure to exercise due diligence to prevent or respond to certain acts or omissions of non-State actors.

Human rights due diligence requires constant investigation and evaluation to assess whether universally accepted human rights principles apply in a State’s own behaviour and in a State’s monitoring of third party behaviour – be they individuals or an organization, she added.

Ms. Manjoo stressed that there was a need to create a framework for discussing the responsibility of States to act with due diligence, through separating that standard into two categories: individual due diligence which States owe to individual victims of violence, and systemic due diligence which requires States’ obligations to create a functioning system to eliminate violence against women.

The report says that States can fulfil the individual due diligence obligation of protection by providing a woman with services such as telephone hotlines, health care, counselling centres, legal assistance, shelters, restraining orders and financial aid. Education on protection measures and access to effective measures can also help fulfil protection and prevention obligations that an individual is owed by the State.

Due diligence can also include ensuring effective investigations, prosecution and sanctions; guaranteeing access to adequate and effective judicial remedies; and treating women victims and their relatives with respect and dignity throughout the legal process.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. They work in an unpaid capacity.


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