Ensuring women’s access to justice for gender based violence (statements to UN)

During a panel discussion at the UN Human Rights Council, the ICJ delivered an oral statement on the role of men and boys in eliminating violence against women by ensuring women’s access to justice for gender based violence.

The statement was delivered during the first panel of the Council’s annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women. The panel focused on accelerating efforts to eliminate violence against women by engaging men and boys in preventing and responding to violence against women.

The ICJ’s statement was as follows:

Violence against women is a widespread human rights abuse rooted in patriarchal societies and gender stereotypes that are harmful to everyone. As the panel have recognised, the international community cannot address the issue as though it is only a problem for women and we welcome the positive focus on the role of men and boys as beneficiaries and agents of change.

The ICJ remains concerned about women’s access to justice for gender based violence. Strong domestic laws, grounded in an international human rights framework, that are upheld by a robust and independent judiciary, are essential components of tackling the problem.

However, the ICJ has worked with lawyers, judges and civil society to assess the obstacles that continue to face women seeking justice for gender based violence and we know that laws alone are not enough. It must also be acknowledged that many laws are based on patriarchal norms and stereotypes that are intrinsically discriminatory against women seeking justice through the legal system.

Behavioural change is required in not only preventing violence against women but also in ensuring that justice is available to those that have been subject to this violence. Men have a pivotal role to play in working with women to ensure that a gender based perspective is applied to the way laws are accessed and implemented.

We applaud the panellists’ focus on engaging with men and boys to prevent harmful behaviours of violence against women from taking root.

However, we would like to ask what role panellists suggest men and boys have in:

a) ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, and

b) in supporting the justice system in rehabilitating offenders to prevent further acts of violence, without compromising justice and services available to women?

In response to the ICJ’s statement the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women commented that structural problems impact on the effectiveness of laws.

Mr Abhijit Das noted that prosecution was only one means of addressing gender inequality and that engagement with men and boys needed to go beyond this to include the widest number of stakeholders possible, including those men and boys that do not perpetrate violence against women.

Mr Anthony Keedi noted that rehabilitation was a key component of addressing violence against women and must be at the heart of change to prevent cycles of violence from continuing.

The participants in the panel and discussion were:

  • Chair: H.E. Mr Joaquin Alexander Maza Martelli, President of the Human Rights Council.
  • Opening statement: Ms Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner of Human Rights provided an opening statement
  • Keynote speaker: H.E. Ms Karen Ellemann, Minister for Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation, Denmark
  • Moderator: Ms. Lana Wells, Brenda Stafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence, University of Calgary, Canada
  • Panellist: Ms Dubravka Simonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
  • Panellist: Mr Anthony Keedi, Masculinities Technical Adviser, ABAAD Resource Centre for Gender Equality, Lebanon
  • Panellist: Mr Francis Oko Armah, Youth Activist, curious Minds, Ghana
  • Panelist: Mr Abhijit Das, Co-Chair of MenEngage Alliance and Founder of Men’s Action for Stopping Violence against Women, India


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