Gender-based violence

Source: IPS Africa
Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa has launched a new handbook for reporters to support sustained media coverage of gender-based violence beyond 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children. December 2009 (pdf). [see more]
Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality. (U.N. Secretary General's study on violence against women, October 2006).

Every day and everywhere women are killed in sex-related crimes and just for the sake of being women. In recent years, women’s movements from different countries have been denouncing femicides, a concept that aims at accounting for the specific nature of these crimes as well as for their being sexist crimes. "The same as with the concept of violence towards women, this concept has been coined as a result of new approaches, a new understanding of practices that are not new at all. While the concept of sexist violence has been used for several decades, the concept of femicide is more recent: it questions those arguments that tend to excuse perpetrators and consider them as being ‘crazy’ or to regard these murders as ‘passionate crimes’, or else to undermine their importance in the case of conflict or war situations, as if these contexts by themselves could be justifying the violation of the most elementary social rules." (Silvia Chejter, "Femicidios e impunidad", 2005)

Violence against women is recognized as a human rights violation in many agreements and international and regional treaties and national commitments, which should be useful as tools and real guarantees to work towards the prevention of these crimes. As an example, it is worth mentioning the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol, 1979/1999, which calls on States to pursue a “policy of eliminating violence against women” and empowers women to make demands at national level and make their demands to be taken into account; the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993; the chapter devoted to violence against women in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the UN World Conference on Women, 1995; the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), 1998, which includes sexual violence – rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy – within the definition of crimes against humanity and war crimes; the Beijing review (Beijing +5) that calls for the criminalization of violence against women and for the adoption of measures to end violence against women on the basis of racial grounds and included honour crimes for the first time; the United Nations Millennium Declaration, 2000 that proposes "to combat all forms of violence against women”, as well as to support some of the above-mentioned conventions.

However, several years have passed since the signing of those agreements and crimes such as the massive extermination of women, rape, abuse and sexual harassment, domestic violence, trafficking in women and girls, enforced prostitution, sexual slavery, violence in situations of armed conflict, forced pregnancy, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection in favour of male offsprings, honour killings, dowry-related violence, female genital mutilation and other practices and abuses are still being practised with impunity.

By analyzing the advances made in terms of international legislation and the campaigns and activism of women’s organizations, it has been possible to give visibility to the inequality existing between genders and the oppressive structures perpetuating it. Official recognition has been given to violence suffered by women considering it a human rights violation together with the commitment of governments to condenm it. Yet, the implementation of these commitments is left entirely to the will of States. It is there that the limitations of international achievements often become self-evident, since they collide against the lack of political will to prevent, investigate and punish these crimes.

There are some paradigmatic cases: from 1993 until January 2006, more than 430 women were murdered and more than 600 are missing (and presumably murdered too) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a place where all the following become concentrated: border industrialization of “maquilas”, marginalization, immigration, exacerbated male chauvinism, drug trafficking, prostitution, impunity and political and police corruption. In Guatemala, just like in Ciudad Juárez, about two thousand women were murdered between 2001 and 2005. Most victims are aged between 12 and 25 and live in the poorest regions of the country. Methods vary from the use of firearms, and include tortures, violation and later on murder. Together with the growing number of crimes there is also an increase in threats and harassment towards the different organizations that undertake to publicly denounce these massacres.

In addition to these alarming recent facts, war femicides should also be taken into account – many times associated to massive violations – such as those that took place in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, just to mention some of the cases registered in recent decades. At the present time, these crimes are severely sanctioned under the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Violence against women, as shown in these cases, not only represents a form of discrimination but also implies a violation of the rights to life, physical integrity, freedom, security and legal protection consecrated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, among others. These international provisions reaffirm the obligation of States to clarify the truth, to do justice and provide compensation to victims, even when their rights were violated by individuals.

”The issue of violence against women is still characterized by two important aspects: the issue of impunity and the implementation of human rights mechanisms. The latter should ultimately be part of a new vision that incorporates, along with the human rights framework, the connections to the issues and organizations working for peace, economic justice and security”.

“The status of women of all regions and the diverse violations to their human rights, which were previously hidden and silenced, have all surfaced, linking local movements to a global women's movement that continues to grow. It is time to close the cycle of victimization and violence, and open one of empowerment. We need to encourage women to recognize themselves as subjects with rights, who have the capacity to confront a justice system which is highly sexist, racist, classist and homophobic. ("How Effective is a Human Rights framework in addressing Gender-based Violence? February 2004", Ana Elena Obando)

Although the different forms and situations in which women are murdered for the sake of being women can all be gathered under the term “femicides”, this report offers a certain categorization aimed at simplifying their organization.
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      Versión en español
Monday, December 28 2009
Reporting gender based violence: A handbook for journalists
(Source: IPS Africa)
Friday, October 23 2009
The relationship between genocide and femicide in Guatemala
(Source: UpsideDown World)
Friday, May 08 2009
Putting it right: addressing human rights violations against Zimbabwean women
(Source: Research and Advocacy Unit)

Debate and discussion documents

Transitional justice in sexual and gender-based violence (Pamabazuka)

Feminist reflections on gender violence, political power and women’s emancipation (Pambazuka)

Indigenous women stand against violence (Indigenous Women's Forum)

Sexuality, violence against women and human rights: women make demands and ladies get protection (Harvard Health and Human Rights Journal)

The violence against women campaign: Where have we failed? (InfoChange India)

How effective is a human rights framework in addressing gender-based violence?

How effective is a human rights framework in addressing gender-based violence? (WHRNet)

Human Rights Dialogue: violence against women (Carnegie Council)

Gender stereotypes in judicial processes and violence against women in legislation (CLADEM)


The relationship between genocide and femicide in Guatemala (UpsideDown World)

The war against women in Africa (Pambazuka)

Sexual violence and genocide against Tutsi women

Impunity and Women’s Rights in Ciudad Juárez (Carnegie Council)

From Ciudad Juárez to the world (Carnegie Council)

Partner violence

Breaking the code (Third World Network)

Intimate partner violence: results from a national gender-based violence study in Malawi (Eldis)

Researching violence against women: a practical guide for researchers and activists (PATH)

World Health Organization - WHO

Symbolic violence

Symbolic violence within the teaching of criminal law at the University of Costa Rica

UN resources

UN Secretary General's study on violence against women (Women Watch)

Women, peace and security

Second World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Copenhagen 1980

World Conference of the International Women’s Year – 1975 Mexico City (ECLAC)

Commission on the Status of Women

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UNHCHR)

Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women (OHCHR)

Women’s rights, the responsibility of all

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (United Nations)

Conventions and declarations (UNHCHR)

The regional United Nations Commissions

The Beijing Platform for Action and violence against women - 1995

Final Document 2005 World Summit (Millennium +5) (Beijing and Beyond)

World Conference on Women, Beijing + 5, 2000 (U.N.)

World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 1993 (OHCHR)

3rd World Conference on Women, Nairobi 1985 (UNHCHR)


The One Man Can Campaign (Sonke Gender Justice Network)

Not a Minute More: A Call to End Violence Against Women

Stop Violence Against Women (Amnesty International)

November 25: the Mirabal sisters


Missing Young Woman

Take my eyes (Spain)

The Circle - 2000

Once Were Warriors (New Zealand)

Yol (Turkey)

Civil society information resources

Putting it right: addressing human rights violations against Zimbabwean women (Research and Advocacy Unit)

51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) (AWID)

Indian women : background & perspective (InfoChange India)

FEMNET training manual on gender-based violence (African Women’s Development and Communication Network - FEMNET)

Armed conflicts

New Security Council resolution on sexual violence in conflict (AWID)

Peace with sexual violence is still war (Pamabazuka News)

Spotlight on sexual violence in conflict situations (AWID)

Growing clamour against rape and sexual violence in the Congo (AIDS-Free World)

Rape in Darfur (AWID)

Women, Peace and Security (UNIFEM)

Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences (Amnesty)

Guidelines for gender-based violence interventions in humanitarian settings (Inter-Agency Standing Committee - IASC)

Sexual violence

Sexual violence: strengthening the health sector response (WHO)

Legislating against sexual violence: the Kenyan experience (AWID)

Intersection of racism, caste and women's rights

Caste and women's rights in India (AWID)

International organizations involved

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (pdf)

Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos – IIDH

Convention of Belem do Para (CIDH)

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Commission on Human and People's Rights)

African Commission on Human and People's Rights


Reporting gender based violence: A handbook for journalists (IPS Africa)

The God of Small Things

I looked right into the devil’s face


Masculine domination

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