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Violence against Women
8 November - 3 December 2004
Moderated by UNIFEM


Reaffirming the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted in 1993, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action recognized violence against women as a gross violation of women's human rights and as an obstacle to equality, development and peace. At the crux of this pandemic are "unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women's full advancement".

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action identified three strategic objectives for addressing violence against women:

  • Take integrative measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women
  • Study the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures
  • Eliminate trafficking in women and assist victims of violence due to prostitution and trafficking1

Following the 5-year review of the PfA, the General Assembly marked among achievements since Beijing the broad acceptance that "States have an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons, and provide protection to victims." The GA further noted progress in the follow areas: policy reform, service provision, education programmes for law enforcement personnel and healthcare and social service providers, public awareness campaigns, and research on the root causes of violence and on gender roles. Such efforts have benefited from cooperation between governments and civil society organizations.

However, during Beijing +5 a number of obstacles to further progress were identified. These include an inadequate understanding of the root causes of violence, a lack of comprehensive programmes dealing with perpetrators, and insufficient data to support policymaking. Other shortcomings are the lack of a coordinated multidisciplinary approach and a deficit of programmes focusing on prevention. Discriminatory sociocultural attitudes and economic inequalities were also cited as contributing factors.

In addition to these obstacles, reports by both the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and UNIFEM2 noted that changes in the global environment in the last decade have led to greater vulnerability of women and girls. Conflict and post-conflict situations, inequities and economic shifts associated with globalization, and the spread of HIV/AIDS all present complex challenges for the prevention and elimination of violence against women. Over a four-week period we will discuss achievements of the last decade and explore the implications of our changing global society for bridging the gap between standards and practice.

For the purpose of this e-discussion moderated by UNIFEM we will address the following issues:


1 A separate discussion will be held on trafficking.

2 See Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, Towards an effective implementation of international norms to end violence against women, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Erturk, December 2003, and Not a Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women, UNIFEM 2003.

Week 1 - Responding to Emerging Challenges

The international community has recognized that violence circumscribes women's lives, limiting their options and preventing them from the enjoyment of a broad range of their human rights. In the last ten years women have become increasingly vulnerable to violence. Conflict and post-conflict situations have fomented various forms of violence against women from the use of rape as a weapon of war to domestic violence in the aftermath of war. The spread of HIV/AIDS is fueled in some measure by sexual violence while HIV positive women and girls are targets of violence. The inequities exacerbated by globalization have increased women's vulnerability to violence, particularly in the context of economic migration and trafficking in persons. How have these developments impacted work towards the prevention and elimination of violence against women? How have each of these challenges been addressed as part of ongoing anti-violence efforts? What other developments in the last decade have had either a negative or positive effect on the prevalence of violence against women?

Week 2 - Making Laws Work

While there has been progress in translating international human rights standards on violence against women into national laws and policies, there continues to be serious difficulty ensuring their effective implementation. Obstacles commonly encountered include: insufficient funding; poorly designed laws and policies; lack of sensitization and commitment of judicial and law enforcement personnel; failure to implement measures that address multiple aspects of ending violence against women simultaneously across sectors; and the persistence of discriminatory attitudes regarding violence against women throughout society. How can we ensure improved implementation of laws and policies to punish and eliminate violence against women? What examples do we have of effective implementation, and what factors were critical for their success? What strategies have been employed to stimulate political will, not only in the short term for the adoption of new laws and policies, but also for the long term challenge of effective implementation? What roles have regional and international human rights mechanisms played in promoting the due diligence of States to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women and girls?

Week 3 - Reducing Prevalence

In the last decade, we have witnessed advances in the battle to end violence against women, including the passage of laws and the adoption of action plans and policies that call for improvements in the administration of justice and in the provision of health care and social services. Most measures focus on identifying and punishing acts of violence and aiding victims. While the criminalization of violence against women is an important component of prevention, what other measures have proven effective for the prevention of violence against women? For example, what are the most promising interventions at the community level for altering discriminatory attitudes and practices? What effectively changes people's attitudes about violence directed towards women? An additional challenge is measuring the impact of prevention measures. How can we demonstrate their effectiveness? To what extent, and on what basis, is it possible to measure changes in the prevalence of violence?

Week 4 - Charting the Future Actions for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

This last week will build upon the discussion to date by distilling lessons and priorities for action with attention to what is needed from the global community to move progress towards eliminating violence against women forward.


Selected International Agreements

Selected Regional Agreements

Selected Reports

» View archived discussion

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