EGM note 2
The report reflects the shared discussion and analysis of the major issues, gaps and challenges identified at the EGM and presents key findings and recommendations. It was intended to build on the individual papers on specific issues provided by experts prior to the meeting, and the background paper prepared by the rapporteur. It provides inputs for the reports of the Secretary-General to the CSW and widely disseminated in preparation to the fifty-seventh session of CSW (CSW57).
EGM notes 3 to 5
The EGM brought together a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and regions including academics, practitioners, representatives from women’s organisations and staff members of the United Nations system.
The experts elected a drafting committee (including two co-chairs) which was tasked to draft the report of the meeting, P miconclusions and recommendations. The following experts were elected to the drafting committee:Sunila Abeysekera (Co-Chair)
Marai Larasi (Co-Chair)
Lara Fergus (Rapporteur)
EGM note 6
Experts noted that violence against women and girls is defined as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women [or girls], including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’ It exists in multiple, interrelated and sometimes recurring forms, and is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women.
EGM note 7
Experts stressed that we are at a critical moment where international bodies, nation states and civil society can and must come together to solidify commitments to ending violence against women and girls, as fragile and – in many places – deteriorating economic conditions, persistent environmental degradation, internal conflicts and wars, all contribute to the exacerbation of violence against women and girls, and violations of their rights.
EGM note 8
Experts noted that the impacts of the global financial crisis, the economic pressures on Governments to reduce funding to social services and programmes, and the ongoing resource constraints faced by conflict-affected and developing countries, all risk limiting or reducing the investment States will make in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls.
EGM note 9
However, they highlighted the enormous costs violence against women and girls entails to States and societies as a whole, in terms of reduced human capital, decreased productivity, exacerbated social inequalities, lowered overall educational outcomes, and broad strains on public services. Violence diminishes women’s and girls’ ability to gain an education, earn a living and participate in public life, and live a life free of fear. It has significant health impacts, including psychological consequences, physical injuries, sexual/reproductive health issues and death. In war-affected settings, violence against women and girls inhibits efforts towards peace-building and sustainable recovery, contributing to the risk of resurgent conflict. In development settings, it hinders progress towards achievement of several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including those relating to education, HIV/AIDS, maternal health and child mortality. It has intergenerational impacts, given that women use disproportionately more of their income toward supporting their families, and because violence diminishes their ability to fully participate in their societies (for example in politics, work or education) they are less able to invest in their children’s futures. One study in Chile found that women’s lost earnings alone as a result of domestic violence cost US$1.56 billion or more than 2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
EGM note 10
Violence against women and girls therefore entails massive costs to the State, and has a dragging effect on all other social and economic development efforts, particularly in humanitarian and development contexts. It is only by lowering the incidence of violence against women and girls, preventing recurrence, and responding effectively to existing violence to minimise ongoing impacts, that the overall costs of such violence to any economy will be reduced. Experts noted that, in the face of such evidence, prevention is not only possible, but central to the social and economic advancement of developed and developing countries alike. It was reiterated that all States have not only a responsibility to significantly strengthen their planning and budgeting efforts for prevention of violence against women and girls, but that doing so will contribute to positive social and economic outcomes.
EGM note 11
Experts brought together experiences from across developing and developed countries, and from humanitarian contexts (arising from conflict and natural disasters), demonstrating that violence against women and girls could be prevented regardless of political, social and economic conditions. Levels of violence against women and girls vary across countries that with similar economic status or political systems – a variation that can be attributed to different laws, polices, practices, norms, behaviours and attitudes that contribute to, justify or excuse violence against women and girls. Such factors must be targeted to prevent and reduce violence within and across all settings.
EGM note 12
Across developing and developed countries alike, more comprehensive, multi-sectoral and sustained approaches were recognised as necessary to achieve such change, with investments commensurate to the enormous scale of the abuse and its impacts. While the allocation of more resources to prevention remained high on the priority list for experts, political will was also identified as a key factor. It was noted that organisations and communities in some developing countries have led the way in testing and expanding new models for prevention, however experts did not believe any State was currently meeting its full normative obligations in this area.
EGM note 13
Experts reiterated that violence against women and girls is a pervasive and systematic human rights violation, caused by – and reinforcing – gender inequality and entrenched discrimination. While most violence against women and girls is committed by non-State actors or individuals (usually men known to the victims/survivors, often husbands/intimate partners or other family members), experts were adamant that laws, policies and practices emanating from the State – as well as from traditional or customary practices – could also result in direct violence against women and girls, fail to respond to it, or create an environment where such violence was tolerated, excused or justified.
EGM note 14
To this end, experts noted that the prevention of violence against women and girls could not be achieved without the full implementation of the existing legal obligation on States – under the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to ‘take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women,’ along with the more detailed obligations relating to the elimination of violence against women and girls outlined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA). Experts emphasised, as central to the latter, the obligation on States to ‘refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations’ to eliminate violence against women and girls.
EGM note 15
A key message from experts was that the call for greater efforts to prevent violence against women and girls is not a ‘new demand,’ but well supported by international legal and normative frameworks. What is new is the emergence, in recent years, of an unprecedented evidence and practice base that provides concrete guidance on the application of proven and effective strategies, and makes prevention of violence against women and girls a tangible and measurable goal. We now know that to effectively prevent violence against women and girls, efforts must go beyond simple awareness-raising projects and instead work to actively (and measurably) transform discriminatory and violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours, community norms, institutional practices and systems, laws and policies, and society as a whole.
EGM note 16
Experts noted that this holistic and comprehensive approach to prevention has the potential to create numerous benefits for communities beyond reductions in violence, because it also addresses the discrimination, inequality and other violence-supportive practices and behaviours that contribute to a range of social ills. Prevention of violence against women and girls is ultimately about building relationships, communities and organisations that are equal, non-violent and respectful of all individuals. It results in the creation of more peaceful, egalitarian and productive societies where women and girls live free from the discrimination, harassment, violence and fear of violence that can block them from reaching their full human potential.
EGM note 17
The focus of the meeting (and this report) was on prevention of violence against women and girls before it occurs, that is, by identifying and addressing its underlying causes and promoting shifts in the social environment that ultimately reduce the number of new incidents of violence against women and girls.
EGM note 18
Experts noted that prevention of violence against women and girls remains a poorly understood concept across sectors and stakeholders. Prevention is often conflated with early intervention or the response to existing violence, or else limited to awareness raising or social marketing campaigns. Simplistic analyses and programmes aimed at single-cause factors such as alcohol abuse, or placing the responsibility to prevent violence on women and girls themselves (such as self-defence programmes) can in some cases do more harm than good, and are not uncommon. Cynical perceptions that violence against women and girls is somehow an inevitable part of society, and that efforts to prevent it are well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective, are also widespread. There is therefore a need to build not only evidence, but shared understandings of the complexity and causes of violence against women and girls, and of how it can be effectively prevented.
EGM note 19
Experts recognised that this transformative agenda engages all levels of the socio-political system, from policy and legislative development, to the development and delivery of programmes and services ‘on the ground’, and the capacity building of the institutions responsible for implementation. Confronting existing social and gendered realities that continue to use arguments based on culture, customs and ‘traditional’ values and practices to justify discrimination and violence against women and girls, and treat them as subordinate and second-class citizens, remains a major challenge in addressing the social and cultural environments that permit violence against women and girls to flourish with impunity. As the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences has noted: ‘no form of interpersonal violence against women is devoid of structural violence – as in all places, such abuse is underpinned by beliefs about the perpetrator’s right to harm another, based on societal notions of gender and rights.’
EGM note 20
Experts were particularly keen to convey that, in prevention terms, violence against women and girls in the private sphere and/or perpetrated by non-State actors could not be considered as something ‘separate’ from the actions of the State. Experts stressed that violence against women and girls – in every context – can be perpetuated by State decision-making mechanisms, laws, policies and practices when these systematically marginalize women and girls and/or fail to promote their rights. These include not only legal policies and programs that fail to criminalize violence against women and girls or adequately punish it, but also State-sanctioned discrimination, for example: excluding women from political participation (such as assemblies, high-level government positions, and key decision-making bodies like constitutional committees); constitutional language that threatens women’s rights (whether existing or developing in emerging State structures); or discriminatory laws, polices and budgets which disproportionately limit women’s and girls’ rights, neglect their voices and concerns, and fail to promote full substantive, as well as formal, equality between men and women.
EGM note 21
State-sanctioned violence and discrimination against women is significantly tied to cultural and social norms that pervade a nation, which are then used to justify, excuse or tolerate violence against women and girls. When laws and policies limit women’s freedoms or deem women as ‘complementary’ instead of ‘equal to’ men, this trickles down to public perception of women and girls and their role in society, and undermines their safety and security within the State. These social and cultural norms are similarly impacted by the respect, or otherwise, of women’s civil and political rights (such as their political participation), and their economic, social and cultural rights (such as their access to work and education). Greater levels of social and economic equality between men and women, for instance, are closely correlated with lower levels of violence against women and girls at the population level. Similarly, greater visibility of women in leadership roles, including in constitution committees, assemblies and high-level posts in government, in peacekeeping troops and in peace-building talks, promotes positive and egalitarian norms and combats gender stereotypes in a way that counters discriminatory and violence-supportive attitudes and the marginalization of women and girls.
EGM note 22
Prevention of violence against women and girls is often conceptualised in terms of awareness raising or community mobilisation, and these are important components. Experts reiterated the importance of grassroots community mobilisation in driving attitudinal and behavioural transformation at the local level. However, in light of the above, experts stressed the more expansive and multi-level nature of effective prevention, in particular the critical role of government to create an ‘enabling environment’ through undertaking policy, legislative and budgetary reform to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and actively address the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and disadvantage that place women and girls at risk of violence. They emphasised the additional role of States in providing support to women’s and other civil society actors, including women, men and youth community and religious leaders and opinion-makers, in their prevention efforts.
EGM note 23
Experts further stressed the importance of continued investment in an effective response to existing violence against women and girls – including through improving legislative, police, justice and service systems – as a fundamental ‘building block’ for prevention, establishing accountability and redress, and protecting women and girls from further violence. Effective response systems are also necessary to ensure support of women and girls who may identify violence in their own lives as a direct result of prevention activity and seek help and redress. Experts acknowledged that a separate stream of work on building an effective multi-sectoral response was being undertaken in preparation for CSW.
EGM note 24
Experts recommended that prevention and response strategies be developed and implemented as a holistic and integrated system that upholds the human rights of girls and women to live in societies, communities and families that are free of such violence. However, while essential, experts noted the evidence that an effective response has, in itself, only a limited impact on reducing the number of new incidents of violence. Specific actions to address the foundations of violence – discriminatory and violence-supportive practices, laws, norms, behaviours and attitudes – are also necessary in order to prevent violence against women and girls from happening in the first place, within and across all settings. These are the focus of discussions and recommendations in this Report.
EGM note 25
The emphasis on economic growth in the development agenda globally has led to growing inequalities and a reduced focus on redistribution. The rolling economic crises currently gripping almost all of the world’s countries has resulted in increased unemployment and poverty, a shortage of housing, and cutbacks in social spending including subsidies for health and education. These multiple crises have in turn fuelled communal and ethnic tensions, mass migration and displacement, rendering millions homeless and poor, and more vulnerable to trafficking and diverse forms of exploitation. In most communities, this also results in the heightened vulnerability of women and girls to violence and exploitation.
EGM note 26
Experts noted the evidence that violence against women and girls is intensified and exacerbated in situations of socio-economic stress, conflict and other crisis situations. In addition to the impact of economic crises described above, global warming and associated rising sea levels and severe weather events, as well as environmental degradation and resource depletion, can all contribute to conditions of social and economic vulnerability, including homelessness and mass migrations. They can also lead to the disaster or crisis situations in which violence against women and girls is known to increase.
EGM note 27
As discrimination based on sex and gender continues to dominate social formations even in the 21st century, experts noted that violence against women and girls continues to be perceived as ‘normal’ in many contexts. The pervasive nature of militarization and the growth of all forms of religious fundamentalisms and other forms of extreme nationalism creates cultures where women are reduced to being symbolic ‘bearers’ of their culture and have their mobility and autonomy restricted in many different ways.
EGM note 28
Exacerbated by the conditions described above (and even without them) women and girls experience daily harassment, abuse, discrimination and violence across the numerous settings in which they conduct their lives, from workplaces, schools and other educational institutions, community and faith organisations and groups, market places, shops, on public transport, in social settings, online and via social media, during flight and while displaced as a result of conflict and natural disasters, and above all in their homes.
EGM note 29
Experts also identified emerging contexts and issues that have an impact on violence against women and girls. For example, experts agreed that the role of new media presents a number of layered and complex challenges, as well as opportunities, for the prevention of violence against women and girls. In the first instance, new media is often a platform for the perpetuation of harmful masculinities and the objectification of women and girls. This can take a number of forms from everyday hyper-sexualised, one-dimensional images of women and girls to hard-core pornography which has moved from the peripheries to the mainstream of the pornography industry. Virtual spaces are also utilised to perpetuate direct attacks on women and girls. This can range from cyber-stalking to the posting of inappropriate images / videos of women. For example, women have increasingly reported incidents of footage of them engaged in sexual activity (filmed both with and without consent) being posted on internet sites without their consent. In a number of cases this has included the posting of footage of actual rapes.
EGM note 30
Violence in the virtual space and the wider issues of how women and girls are objectified in the media has particular implications for girls and younger women, who are much more like to engage with social networking sites, instant messaging, etc. Despite the range of violations, incidents can be hard to prosecute, especially as the internet is not limited to nation spaces. There are also real challenges around balancing the right to freedom of expression with the right to be protected from discrimination.
EGM note 31
Experts also noted with concern the emerging evidence that adolescent girls and young women may also be targeted for sexual violence in the context of serious youth violence (e.g. youth gangs) and/or broader urban violence. They may also be members of gangs themselves and involved in perpetration of violence against other young women and girls within or between gangs. Experts further expressed the concern that adolescent girls and young women were frequently overlooked in policy and programming responses designed for young men, adult women or for children in general, yet the context of their lives may be quite distinct and require specific approaches, particularly given they are the age group at greatest risk of sexual violence.
EGM note 32
In humanitarian crises caused by conflict and/or natural disasters, women and girls are at risk of violence throughout all stages: during crises, during flight from crises, while living in displaced settings, and during and following return. In situations of armed conflict, women and girls can be exposed to violence at the hands of armed actors, including soldiers and military assigned to protect civilians and assist in their safe flight from conflict. They may be recruited into armed groups and serve as sexual slaves to combatants. In some settings women and girls continue to be used as ‘weapons of war,’ subject to sexual assault by all parties to conflict, at times in front of their husbands, children, and other family or community members.
EGM note 33
While much attention has been accorded to sexual violence against women and girls during conflict, they suffer many additional forms of violence in humanitarian emergencies, including sexual exploitation, trafficking, early marriage, and intimate partner violence. Experts noted that all of these forms of violence can be averted or reduced with effective prevention programming from the contingency planning phase through to recovery, and States’ responsibilities to work towards the prevention of this violence are reinforced by a broad normative framework mandating protection of women and girls from sexual and other forms of violence in emergencies. And yet, prevention programming remains weak in virtually every humanitarian setting around the world.
EGM note 34
Experts further noted the evidence that while more than 740,000 men, women, and children die each year as a result of armed violence, the majority of these deaths – 490,000 – occur in countries that are not affected by conflict. The proliferation of small arms increases the vulnerability of women and girls to violence, and exacerbates the seriousness of that violence. This is particularly true in the context of urban/serious youth (e.g. gang) violence (referred to above), but also in the case of violence in the home, where the presence of small arms significantly increases the risk of the victim being killed. The violent deaths of approximately 66,000 women and girls are attributed to armed violence globally each year.
EGM note 35
Experts were finally keen to emphasise that – even within the same geographic or socio-political setting, ‘context’ was not the same thing for different women and girls. Women and girls often experience multiple and intersecting forms of social disadvantage and discrimination (in addition to that based on gender), and this compounds their individual and collective vulnerability to violence. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, has recently noted that theories on violence have often ‘failed to provide a comprehensive understanding of how various forms of discrimination, beyond a male/female gender binary, contextualize, exacerbate, and correlate to high levels of violence in given societies. The lack of an intersectional approach can lead to the reinforcing of one form of discrimination in attempts to alleviate another.’ Factors such as race, ethnicity, caste, class, age, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, geographic location, disability, HIV status or status as a refugee or internally displaced person, will all influence the forms and nature of violence women and girls may suffer, and the relationship of these factors to prevention is discussed in the ‘Key Findings’ section.
EGM note 36
The international community is committed to eliminating violence against women and girls and has recognised – in various global and regional legal and policy instruments – the important role of prevention towards this end.
EGM note 37
Above all, State responsibility for prevention of violence against women and girls through social and behavioural change is supported by the foundational treaty on women’s human rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which establishes signatories’ legal obligation to take ‘all appropriate measures [to] modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.’ General Recommendation 19 of the CEDAW Committee defines violence as a form of discrimination against women, and establishes the obligation of States to act with ‘due diligence’ to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.
EGM note 38
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women enhanced the definition of violence against women and also included protection of women from violence committed in the private domain as being an obligation of the state. Responsibilities of the State to prevent violence, abuse and neglect of girls are further supported by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, requiring States parties to ‘take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse’ including ‘forms of prevention,’ along with its two Optional Protocols.
EGM note 39violence against women throughout the life cycle derives essentially from cultural patterns, in particular the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and all acts of extremism linked to race, sex, language or religion that perpetuate the lower status accorded to women in the family, the workplace, the community and society. Violence against women is exacerbated by social pressures, notably the shame of denouncing certain acts that have been perpetrated against women; women's lack of access to legal information, aid or protection; the lack of laws that effectively prohibit violence against women; failure to reform existing laws; inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote awareness of and enforce existing laws; and the absence of educational and other means to address the causes and consequences of violence. Images in the media of violence against women, in particular those that depict rape or sexual slavery as well as the use of women and girls as sex objects, including pornography, are factors contributing to the continued prevalence of such violence, adversely influencing the community at large, in particular children and young people.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, recognised the complexity of the underlying causes of violence against women and girls, and the need to link prevention and response activities. Paragraph 118 notes that:
EGM notes 40 to 51
Other global policy and legislative / normative frameworks that are currently in place.
EGM note 52
In conclusion, while the normative framework has clearly developed an obligation for States to take holistic, comprehensive, strategic and well-resourced action to prevent violence against women and girls, and while States have increasingly ratified the relevant treaties and in some cases brought these obligations into their legal frameworks, much work remains to be done before the normative obligations will be fully implemented. Gaps remain in terms of resource allocation, legislative and policy development, and systems and mechanisms for coordinated and sustained action.
EGM note 53
In considering the above analysis, experts believed that a significant global shift in perceptions was necessary towards greater recognition of the widespread and systematic nature of violence against women and girls, deserving of more serious attention by States and the international community. Experts returned to and supported the international definition of violence against women and girls in the Declaration, i.e. as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against them, that shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women and girls, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
EGM note 54
However, some experts noted that such violence is not isolated or sporadic, but could be seen as part of a widespread or systematic practice intended to humiliate or degrade an identifiable group. As such, they called for violence against women and girls to be considered a crime against humanity. Others cautioned against linking violence against women and girls to current definitions of crimes against humanity, given the existing limitations of international law and jurisprudence. It was noted that the landmark February 2008 judgement of the Sierra Leone Appeals Chamber of the Special Court in the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council case had set an historic precedent in recognising forced marriage as a distinct category of crimes against humanity in international criminal law. Experts therefore agreed that calling for violence against women and girls to be recognised as a crime against humanity was intended as an aspirational statement and advocacy goal, one which would expand current definitions and understanding of crimes against humanity – in a way similar to the Sierra Leone case – and help drive a global shift in perceptions towards one that recognises the full seriousness of violence against women and girls, and the urgency with which we must prevent it.
EGM note 55
Based on comprehensive discussion at the EGM, review of the papers presented by experts, and an analysis of the global context, normative framework and evidence and practice base, experts agreed on the following key findings. Experts noted the significant development, over recent years, of guidance to States and other stakeholders in the development, implementation and monitoring of policy and programming to prevent violence against women and girls, and again referred to the papers submitted to the EGM as providing further information on current practice. Rather than reiterate that guidance here, experts have confined their findings below to the emerging issues, and those perceived to be of most critical relevance to CSW.
EGM note 56
Experts wished to reiterate, as a finding and central tenet of their recommendations, that prevention of violence against women and girls is a positive endeavour, a precondition for enabling women and men to reach their full potential, and is essential to the creation of healthy, equitable, stable and productive communities, workplaces, schools and universities, faith and cultural institutions, sporting and recreation organisations, and societies as a whole.
EGM note 57
Noting recent research highlighting the unique and catalysing impact of women’s organisations on enduring and effective policy development to end violence against women and girls, experts were unanimous that effective prevention of violence against women and girls was not only often driven by, but required the involvement of women’s organisations, working in partnership with national, provincial and local Governments, communities, civil society groups, donors, the private sector and other non-state actors.
EGM note 58
Experts emphasized the importance of moving away from short-term, ad hoc sensitisation and awareness raising activities and towards more comprehensive, longer-term prevention efforts that are grounded in communities and work systematically to change unequal power relations between women and men. Such social norm change requires working with a cross section of the community from women and men, young people, religious and cultural leaders, health care providers, police, government officials, the media and others, over time and in varied ways, to challenge norms that perpetuate violence and emphasize the positive benefits of non-violence, justice and equality for individuals, families and the broader community. Civil society plays an essential role in mobilising communities to rethink the acceptability of violence and supporting positive change.
EGM note 59
However, while women’s and other civil society organisations and communities themselves have been at the forefront of developing the practice and evidence base for prevention programming, factors such as time, reach and workforce constraints can prevent many good initiatives from being evaluated, expanded or otherwise scaled-up. Research has also shown that those working to end violence against women and girls can themselves face discrimination, hostility, repudiation and even violence, precisely because they challenge traditional notions of the family and gender that contribute to such violence.
EGM note 60
To maximise the impact and sustainability of such work, therefore, Governments have a key role to play in supporting and creating an enabling environment for women’s organisations and others working to prevent violence against women and girls to continue to drive and innovate prevention programming, safe from violence and discrimination themselves. Governments should also activate their reach and mandate to ensure the scale-up, systematisation and embedding of good practice in laws, policies and through public institutions (e.g. schools, social and health services, media and workplace regulation) for long-term sustainability.
EGM note 61
Experts noted that without States taking their full responsibility for sustained, systematic and coordinated policy, programming and investment for prevention, the transformative social development necessary to end violence against women and girls cannot be achieved. Few States worldwide had implemented their obligations to this end. A 2011 review of National Action Plans on Violence against Women found that most policies were limited to responding to existing violence. Those that did contain specific prevention actions largely focussed on raising awareness of new laws or where to access services, with some containing one-off or single-sector prevention activities such as social marketing campaigns or schools-based programmes. Only one identified plan took a long-term, multi-sectoral and holistic approach to prevention, with appropriate institutional support mechanisms and commensurate investment.
EGM note 62
Importantly, one-off, single-sector or small-scale interventions, while they may have some effectiveness for participating individuals, are unable to change the social norms at the community or society level that have a dampening effect on such attitudinal change. Therefore, they can never in themselves decrease prevalence of violence against women and girls across society as a whole. Broad and sustainable change is only achieved when such activities are implemented in a long-term and cumulative way, mutually reinforced across various settings. These should be linked to a prevention framework which is coordinated to ensure that all levels are appropriately engaged, with evaluation and monitoring for continuous improvement. It is particularly essential that all strategies and interventions are supported by policy and legislative reform that promotes gender equality, challenges discrimination, and provides an effective response to existing violence.
EGM notes 63 to 102
Other key findings from the EGM.
Experts stressed the critical importance of women’s organisations, civil society, international institutions, donors and States working together to go beyond ‘ad hoc’ approaches to prevention, and for States to take their responsibility for developing long-term and multi-sectoral strategies so that activity can be coordinated, and evidence built, to achieve real results. With an increased commitment from all actors to such an approach, and corresponding investment, many experts believed violence against women and girls could be ended within a generation. To this end, experts have made recommendations (see below) for a coordinated and target-focussed approach to preventing violence against women and girls, driven by two overarching activities – a Global Implementation Plan – framing the work of international, regional and national institutions (including States) toward the goal of ending violence against women and girls, along with a Global Advocacy Campaign – driven by women’s and other civil society organisations to create momentum and provide accountability for the above.
Also, given CSW’s specific mandate with regards to implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action experts have made further recommendations for immediate implementation, aligned with the BPfA’s strategic objectives of taking integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women, and studying the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures. While the BPfA objectives cover both prevention of, and response to, violence against women and girls, and experts supported full implementation of all of these, the recommendations below build on those areas focussing on prevention.
Finally, experts identified recommendations arising from emerging issues or gaps in the evidence and practice base regarding prevention of violence against women and girls in certain contexts and settings. These include recommendations for prevention in settings affected by humanitarian crises such as conflict and natural disasters; contexts of serious urban or youth violence; with regards to representation of women and girls in the context of mass media as well as in new social media; and in the context of the global financial crisis and shifting geopolitics. In addition to the broad recommendations below that are relevant to all settings, special attention has been given to certain contexts and settings in order to highlight specific strategies for prevention related to these particular areas of concern. Experts have also chosen to highlight certain recommendations specific to preventing violence against girls, including adolescent girls, and young women, as a frequently overlooked group worthy of special consideration.
Experts agreed that while an international legal and normative frame work for preventing violence against women and girls is already in place, there are two major barriers to its implementation. The first is that social and cultural norms and customs are often used as a shroud or excuse for laws, practices and behaviours that are either directly violent and discriminatory towards women and girls, or else contribute to and support violence against them. The BPfA clearly calls on States to ‘refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women,’ and experts were adamant that this entails an active obligation on States to examine their own laws and policies, and challenge the communities, organisations and individuals in their jurisdictions, to eliminate norms and customs that excuse, justify or tolerate violence against women and girls, and which exist in all societies.
A second barrier to full implementation of existing obligations is the lack of a coordinated, strategic agenda at international, regional and national levels for modifying ‘the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women,’ required by CEDAW. This is an essential precondition and support for the sustainable prevention of violence against women and girls. As noted above, such prejudices, practices and stereotypes are rampant in all societies, expressed as much through channels such as media and popular culture, as through institutions more identifiable as the bearers of custom or ‘tradition’ (e.g. faith institutions). A much greater commitment and level of resourcing is required from all States, along with significantly improved coordination of policy, programming and research at global, regional and national levels towards a shared strategic agenda to eliminate these and so meet the legal obligation under CEDAW.
To this end, an overarching recommendation from experts was that Member States commit, at CSW in 2013, to develop a Global Implementation Plan to End Violence against Women and Girls, to be launched in 2015, with a particular focus on prevention of violence against women and girls. This Plan should aim to provide vigilance on established international obligations (particularly the overarching BPfA and CEDAW obligations cited above), and serve as the tool for operationalising these norms into national policy and programming in a coordinated and results-based way.
The The Global Implementation Plan to End Violence against Women and Girls, endorsed and supported by Member States at its launch, would aim to:
- Intensify and scale-up global awareness of violence against women and girls as a global emergency
- Combine the best thinking on how to proceed with concrete pledges for action.
- Mobilise international, regional and national action by governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society.
- Build the foundation for an evidence and practice-informed global prevention strategy.
- Increase resources available to end violence against women and girls.
Development of the plan should be linked to the processes defining the post-2015 development agenda, to ensure that the prevention of violence against women and girls is rightly understood as crucial to the meeting of other internationally agreed development goals, and that targets relating to the prevention of (and response to) such violence are explicitly identified and well situated in the post-2015 development framework.
Development of the plan would require, among other things:
- Identification of a small set of key policy, legal and programme-delivery targets (institutions) at the national level towards which global violence prevention efforts can be directed.
- Detailed review of existing action plans, indicators, recommendations, platforms for action, policy agendas, and recommendations outlined by the Security Council, UN Treaty bodies, the special rapporteurs, and various UN agencies, with a view to closing implementation gaps and building the next stage.
- Creation of a cohesive global community of key stakeholders.
- Designation of strong coordinating mechanisms.
- Development of an accountability framework with indicators to measure State responsiveness to the policy, legal and programme-delivery goals identified and an independent monitoring mechanism.
Development of the plan should include the proactive engagement of new partners (such as the private sector, sporting organisations, religious and cultural leaders, the media and entertainment industry), with a critical eye to the internal structures and methods of operation of such partners to ensure they fully support and in no way undermine the human rights of women and girls.
Experts further recognised the crucial and catalytic role of women’s organisations and called for them to help build support and momentum for the above. A global ‘movement for prevention’ is needed, engaging a critical mass of individuals, groups and institutions working together to create communities and countries that are safe for women and girls and where their rights are respected.
Experts’ second overarching recommendation was therefore that women’s organisations, in partnership with other civil society organisations and identified willing international and regional institutions, States and other relevant parties, lead a Global Advocacy Campaign to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls, as a crucial accompaniment to the development of the Implementation Plan above. The Advocacy Campaign could include the creation of plain language communications materials, mechanisms to share information and practice, avenues for capacity development, and advocacy strengthening, for example through the training of male and female youth and veteran activists and leaders to monitor progress of nations on international agreements, produce reports, and represent women’s and girls’ priorities and interests in international fora. The aim of the Advocacy Campaign would be to create momentum for the Implementation Plan, ensure the consistent promotion of evidence-informed, rights-based prevention activity, and hold international, regional and national stakeholders accountable to women and girls.
While the Global Implementation Plan may take one to two years to develop, there are many areas of work that States have already committed to under the BPfA Strategic Objective D1 – to take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women – and upon which they can and should take immediate action. Below are recommendations elaborated by the experts in line with the growing evidence and practice base on prevention, in support of these existing commitments.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 124(j), calling on Governments to ‘formulate and implement, at all appropriate levels, plans of action to eliminate violence against women,’and Paragraph 124(p)calling for the allocation of ‘adequate resources within the government budget and mobilis[ation of]community resources for activities related to the elimination of violence against women, including resources for the implementation of plans of action at all appropriate levels,’ experts recommend that States work in partnership with funders, international and regional institutions, women’s and civil society organisations and other stakeholders to develop, implement, evaluate and monitor coordinated, multisectoral and sustained prevention strategies, alongside and reinforcing strategies to improve the response to existing violence. Such strategies should
- address the underlying causes of violence against women and girls in norms and practices at socio-structural, community, organisational, relationship and individual levels, and include a performance monitoring framework, and coordination and accountability mechanisms.
- comprise a variety of coordinated interventions to be implemented in a mutually reinforcing way across settings and sectors.
- include the review and revision of policy and legislation to ensure a consistent whole-of-government framework for the prevention of violence against women and girls that promotes women’s and girls’ human rights and gender equality in line with international norms. This review and reform process should ensure law and policy: aligns with and responds explicitly to State obligations under relevant human rights treaties, intergovernmental agreements and international standards/guidelines, repealing and reforming discriminatory laws and criminalizing violence against women and girls; defines violence against women and girls according to international norms, acknowledging that such violence is a form of discrimination and manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, and the recognising the particular vulnerabilities of girls; and recognises that women’s and girls’ experience of violence is shaped by factors such as disability, age, ethnicity, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, marital status, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status, migrant or refugee status and exposure to conflict or natural disaster.
- be supported by multi-sectoral coordination mechanisms, with the involvement of representatives from across government institutions and also civil society, donors and other stakeholders who can aid in implementation. These mechanisms should begin by identifying where existing capacity could be harnessed in particular programmatic areas for immediate impact (e.g. through existing health or education sectors, or existing nongovernment programming), and provide for the development of capacity (e.g. a human rights training curriculum and mandatory training for all elected officials and civil servants at every level of government) across other sectors for mid to longer-term work.
- ensure earmarked budgets are in place in each relevant Ministry – including human and technical resources – to fund such strategies over the short, mid and long-terms. Working to integrate prevention of violence against women and girls into all leading policy and funding frameworks can also provide strategic avenues and a broad base from which to strengthen efforts and secure budgets. Examples of these include poverty reduction and development strategies and national plans, and sector-wide reforms related to education, health, security, justice, HIV and AIDS, peace-building, transitional justice, reconstruction and conflict prevention strategies and frameworks in post-conflict situations, and contingency planning strategies and frameworks in settings affected by cyclical natural disasters.
- set specific targets and include mechanisms for monitoring progress towards them, across implementing institutions, and agencies in international/regional systems. Institutional responsibilities and reporting arrangements against these targets should be articulated, and mechanisms for accountability established. For example, regular and participatory multi-sectoral assessments at the national and local levels, across line ministries and related public sector institutions can strengthen accountability for performance in terms of agreed-upon budgetary commitments and/or related performance on budgetary allocations.
- aim to create an enabling environment for women’s and civil society organisations working on prevention of violence against women and girls. Resource allocation models should maximise collaboration between community organisations, and continuity of funding for programmes where they are shown to be effective through appropriate evaluation (see recommendation 131).
- include – across all settings and frameworks – efforts to engage men and boys in achieving gender equality and preventing violence, informed by the expertise of the women’s sector, and with mechanisms to ensure accountability to women and girls.
Experts further recommend that UN agencies mirror what is recognised as good practice for Governments above, and adopt a coordinated, interagency approach to prevent (and respond to) violence against women and girls, with support from the highest political level (i.e. the Secretary General). As part of the Global Implementation Plan, UN agencies should develop a system-wide workplan building on related system-wide initiatives (e.g. the Secretary Generals’ UNiTE Campaign) and through existing coordination mechanisms, to support and promote national implementation of, monitor progress against, and advance the international normative framework. Regional institutions should similarly develop and implement coordinated workplans to support Member States implement regional normative frameworks for prevention of violence against women and girls, monitor progress against these frameworks, and advance the frameworks themselves. Such workplans might include strategies to:
- Expand normative interpretations and understandings of prevention activity – beyond awareness-raising, education and sensitisation of the media – to make linkages with and encompass positive obligations on States to promote gender equality and change social norms contributing to gender stereotyping, discrimination and violence against women and girls, across all levels, jurisdictions, sectors and settings.
- Provide policy guidance, technical advice and knowledge management to support States develop, implement and monitor holistic, systemic and sustained approaches to prevention.
- Ensure coordinated and sustained national and regional programming for prevention across different agencies and funding streams, and in different settings, such as conflict-affected contexts, natural disasters, low, middle and high-income countries (e.g. through UNDAFs, humanitarian funding streams, and in cooperation with regional bodies).
- Ensure outcomes and targets for prevention of violence against women and girls are a key component of the post-2015 development agenda.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 124(k) ‘Adopt all appropriate measures, especially in the field of education, to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, and to eliminate prejudices, customary practices and all other practices based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes and on stereotyped roles for men and women’, experts recommend that States:
- Develop, implement and monitor compulsory education promoting human rights and gender equality, challenging gender stereotypes, discrimination and violence against women and girls, and building skills for equal and respectful relationships and for peaceful conflict resolution, at all levels of schooling, from kindergarten to the tertiary level and in non-school educational settings.
- Review teaching and learning materials to support the above, elaborating relevant curricula and materials in partnership with specialists on violence against women and girls, and ensuring that such education is gender-sensitive, comprehensive and fully integrated and includes assessment and reporting measures.
- Provide for specialized training and resources for teaching and support staff to deliver the above curricula, implement gender-sensitive approaches to instruction through non-violent pedagogy, and support students who may disclose violence.
- Support schools, tertiary institutions and other educational settings to promote broader ‘whole-school/institution cultures’ of equality, non-violence and respect, through engagement of leadership, events and extracurricular activities, and involvement of the community, as well as through policy and practice reform such as instigating institution-wide bans on all violence – including corporal punishment – and protocols and procedures for responding to violence, discrimination, bullying and harassment, whether in the staff-room, the classroom or elsewhere on the school/institution grounds.
- Monitor and support girls’ completion of secondary schooling which multiple studies suggest is strongly protective against domestic and sexual violence.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 126(a), calling for the development of ‘programmes and procedures to eliminate sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women in all educational institutions, workplaces and elsewhere,’ experts make a number of recommendations to States, employers, trade unions, community and youth organisations and non-governmental organisations, as appropriate:
- Review regulatory frameworks, codes of conduct, protocols and procedures, of workplace, educational institutions, sporting clubs, community and faith organisations, the military, police and other organisational/institutional environments, to ensure they work to eliminate discrimination and harassment, and build organisational environments that are safe and inclusive of women and girls, and encourage women’s and girls’ participation and leadership.
- Foster collaboration between employer and other organisations, and with women’s and other civil society organisations – especially those with expertise in engaging men and boys for gender equality – to recognise the role of organisations/institutions in prevention of violence against women and girls. Such a role is not only limited to addressing violence, discrimination and harassment within the organisation itself, but also extends to the organisation/institution as a ‘change-maker,’ capable of contributing to the transformation of attitudes, practices and social norms in their communities and society as a whole.
- Develop and implement awareness-raising and bystander capacity-building initiatives for employees or other members of the organisation, especially those aimed at supporting men to proactively challenge men’s violence or early warning signs of such violence.
- Identify women and men who can act as positive role models and ambassadors for prevention among employer and other organisations.
- Ensure protection and regulation in both the private and public sector for migrant workers to help combat harassment, discrimination and trafficking incidents.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 125(e) calling for the organisation, support and funding of ‘community-based education and training campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women as a violation of women's enjoyment of their human rights and mobilis[ation of] local communities to use appropriate gender-sensitive traditional and innovative methods of conflict resolution,’ experts recommend that States, local authorities, civil society organisations, communities and community organisations, promote gender equal and non-violent relationships, families and communities through new and existing holistic prevention efforts, services, programmes, events and grant/funding initiatives; prioritise prevention of violence against women and girls in grassroots efforts, urban and municipal planning; and implement legislative, regulatory and community-based programming initiatives to prevent violence and harassment of women and girls in private and public spaces.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 125(f), recognising, supporting and promoting ‘the fundamental role of intermediate institutions, such as primary health-care centres, family-planning centres, existing school health services, mother and baby protection services, centres for migrant families and so forth in the field of information and education related to abuse’ experts recommend that States and partner organisations:
- Develop, implement and monitor programmes combining respectful relationships skills building and counselling support for children and young people, especially those who have been exposed to, or are identified as at risk of, violence.
- Develop, implement and monitor intensive early-intervention programmes for children and young people demonstrating violence-supportive attitudes and/or who are using violence, recognising that this may be a result of prior victimisation and using a model that empowers them with the skills and inner resources for non-violent conflict resolution and healthy relationship-building.
- Develop, implement and monitor positive and non-violent parenting programmes, including those specifically targeting fathers/men.
- Integrate issues of gender equality and prevention of violence against women and girls into health and social welfare programmes including sexual, reproductive and maternal health, HIV-AIDS programmes, and programmes promoting equal, respectful and non-violent intimate and family relationships.
- Support the role of these sectors in identifying women and girls at risk of violence and referring them to early intervention or response services.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraphs 125(d) and (e), supporting ‘initiatives of women's organisations and non-governmental organisations all over the world to raise awareness on the issue of violence against women and to contribute to its elimination,’ and organising, supporting and funding ‘community-based education and training campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women as a violation of women's enjoyment of their human rights and mobilise local communities to use appropriate gender-sensitive traditional and innovative methods of conflict resolution, ’experts recommend that States, including local governments, with community organisations, non-governmental organisations, educational institutions, the public and private sectors, particularly enterprises, and the mass media, as appropriate, develop and implement – in concert with wider strategies above – social marketing, communications and holistic community mobilisation efforts addressing the underlying causes of violence against women and girls, such as through the promotion of positive, respectful and non-violent masculinities; challenging gender stereotypes; raising awareness of the unacceptability of violence; and promoting critical thinking within the community on violence against women and girls as a manifestation of inequality and a violation of women’s human rights.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 126(d) calling for ‘special measures to eliminate violence against women, particularly those in vulnerable situations, such as young women, refugee, displaced and internally displaced women, women with disabilities and women migrant workers, including enforcing any existing legislation and developing, as appropriate, new legislation for women migrant workers in both sending and receiving countries, ’experts recommend that States, employers, trade unions, community and youth organisations and non-governmental organisations, as appropriate, recognise the multiple vulnerabilities of women and girls to various forms of violence throughout their life cycle, and identify clear prevention activities and budgets for this work.
In line with UNSCR 1325, experts recommend that States ensure they have and implement action plans on women, peace and security, including comprehensive strategies to address the proliferation of small arms and armed violence, whether in conflict, post - conflict or ‘peacetime’ settings. Such initiatives should specifically include:
- The support of arms control and disarmament initiatives and policies that take into account the needs and perceptions of both men and women, namely through consultation and threat assessment, and provide adequate incentives for participation, namely in regular campaigns of gun registry and civilian disarmament.
- The harmonisation and implementation of laws that address domestic violence and firearms and ammunition – banning individuals with a history of violence from access to firearms, and ensuring guns are seized and gun licences suspended in domestic violence cases.
- The improvement of the police officers’ capacity to conduct psychosocial evaluations, along with strengthened police training on violence against women and girls and the role of firearms, reaching beyond those working in special victim units.
- The conduction of risk analysis in all centres for victim support, including assessing the presence of a weapon in the home.
In line with the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV and AIDS, and the 2010 UN AIDS Agenda for Accelerated Country Action on Women, Girls and HIV and AIDS, integrate a focus on promoting gender equality, addressing gender based violence and engaging men and boys for gender equality into national AIDS plans.
There are also several areas of work that States have already committed to under the BPfA Strategic Objective D2 – to study the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures – upon which immediate action can be taken. Below are recommendations elaborated by the experts in support of these existing commitments.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 129(a) calling on Governments, regional organisations, the United Nations, other international organisations, research institutions, women's and youth organisations and non-governmental organisations, as appropriate, to ‘promote research, collect data and compile statistics, especially concerning domestic violence, relating to the prevalence of different forms of violence against women, and encourage research into the causes, nature, seriousness and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of measures implemented to prevent and redress violence against women’, experts make several recommendations:
States should ensure the systematic collection, disaggregation (by gender, age and other characteristics), analysis and dissemination and use of data, including through supporting civil society organisations, academics and other actors engaged in research, to inform policy and strategy development on prevention. National statistical agencies and relevant ministries such as those of health or justice, should apply internationally agreed upon technical and ethical standards, ensuring consistency of concepts, regularity of data collection, and wide and timely dissemination of data. Government’s national machineries for the advancement of women should be closely associated with such efforts. Collaboration between producers and users of data should be strengthened by having users involved in all stages of data collection and dissemination. Data collection on violence against women and girls should be age-disaggregated and carried out in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including advocates and agencies providing services to women and girls, policymakers, legislators and researchers. It is also necessary that data be collected in a way that respects confidentiality and the rights of research participants and does not jeopardize their safety.
International and national institutions, in partnership with research organisations, academia, and other civil society groups, should work together to identify gaps and improve research and data collection to inform prevention work, particularly in the following areas:
- Documenting the prevalence and characteristics of all forms of violence against women and girls, including violence experienced by particular groups of women and girls (such as women with disabilities, indigenous women, or women affected by armed conflict and/or natural disasters, to name a few), with implications for prevention programming. ext for first item here.
- Identifying risk and protective factors (for both victimisation and perpetration) and causal pathways for all forms of violence against women and girls.
International and regional institutions, in partnership with research organisations and academia, should examine processes for identifying and establishing intergovernmental agreement on common indicators to measure progress on the prevention of violence against women and girls at the international, national and local levels should be developed. Such indicators should be appropriate to the context and include both impact indicators that measure the reduction in levels of violence as well as indicators that measure short and medium term progress, such as changes in social norms, or organisational and community practices.
States, donors and international/regional institutions should provide for the regular and comprehensive evaluation of projects and programmes on prevention, with feedback mechanisms for continuous improvement. Evaluative data on the effectiveness of prevention strategies in low and middle income countries should be developed and utilized in order to facilitate the replication, scaling up and institutionalization of the most effective interventions. Evaluations should be sensitive to the long-term and complex nature of the social change required for prevention, seeking to measurer not only reductions in levels of violence (which will only be apparent in the longer-term), but also shorter term indicators of change such as the shifts in attitudes, norms and practices referred to above.
- Evaluation should include a variety of methods including surveys, qualitative studies, administrative statistics/data and participatory approaches.
- Methods used should be appropriate to the context and scale of the interventions.
- Where appropriate and feasible, longitudinal studies should be conducted to enable measurement of change over time.
- Evaluation should include also include measures of cost-effectiveness and feasibility of scaling up.
International and regional institutions, in partnership with research organisations and academia, should work together to develop practical tools and resources to support States and programmers in the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of prevention activity, for example:
- Monitoring and evaluation tools that are practical and feasible for small-scale organisations and in low resource settings, including those affected by conflict and/or natural disasters.
- Multi-dimensional evaluation strategies capable of capturing the learnings and outcomes from holistic and multi-sectoral strategies.
- Tools for the collection and analysis of comparable statistical and qualitative data across countries relevant to prevention, building on existing methodologies such as the WHO Multi-country study, the ICRW and Instituto Promundo International Men and Gender Equality Survey and the P4P multi-country Change Project surveys, and research learnings emerging from the previous recommendations.
- Methodologies for cost-benefit analyses of prevention activity, covering not only the saving of longer-term reduced prevalence of violence itself, but also the mid-term social and economic benefits of increased institutional capacity, early intervention, increased gender equality, etc, and guidance for costing and financing prevention strategies.
International and regional institutions, civil society organisations, States and research institutions should support the development of ‘learning labs’ to produce new knowledge, design, test and share innovative approaches for the prevention of violence against women and girls. An international research and programming centre/institution for prevention might be envisaged to this end, providing guidance, tools and oversight for the activities described above, and potentially playing a role in the independent monitoring of the Global Implementation Plan.
Emerging evidence and practice have highlighted further issues for prevention of violence against women and girls only partially covered by the existing normative framework, and experts have identified specific areas of action responding to these (detailed under the sub-headings below).
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 125(j) calling for awareness raising on ‘the responsibility of the media in promoting non-stereotyped images of women and men, as well as in eliminating patterns of media presentation that generate violence, and encourage those responsible for media content to establish professional guidelines and codes of conduct’ and on ‘the important role of the media in informing and educating people about the causes and effects of violence against women and in stimulating public debate on the topic,’ experts recommend that States, including local governments, community organisations, non-governmental organisations, educational institutions, the public and private sectors, particularly enterprises, and the mass media, as appropriate:
- Strengthen regulatory frameworks with regard to media, advertising imagery, texts, games and other popular culture mediums which portray women or girls in a discriminatory, degrading or stereotypical way, or which glorify violent masculinities.
- Engage all media agencies that currently produce, or provide platforms for the distribution of, material/content which objectifies girls and women and/or which promote/distort messages around violence against girls and women, through a partnership approach, for example co-regulation. This includes the internet, mass media, music and games industries, and advertisers.
- Build partnerships with journalists and other media professionals for the prevention of violence against women and girls and the promotion of gender equality, such as through training, guidelines and awards.
- Include dedicated resources in national media outlets for organisational and content development supporting gender equality and non-discrimination.
- Support advocates such as victims/survivors of violence, men committed to non-violence, and high-profile people to respond to enquiries from journalists and speak at events on issues of violence against women and girls, and to promote messages of gender equality and non violence.
- Promote inclusion and visibility of women at national conferences and in local and national media to challenge negative gender stereotypes and promote images of women leaders, intellectuals, politicians, etc.
- Use the media to educate, inform and engage citizens on women’s rights, in particular engaging women voters on women’s issues.
In addition to the recommendations made in line with BPfA’s Paragraph 125(j) above, wider and long term action is needed to address the role the media currently plays in contributing to, maintaining and reinforcing, gender stereotypes. Experts recommend that all stakeholders above take immediate interim action to provide children and young people with media literacy skills as a core aspect of school curricula. This should aim to build gender analysis skills to interrogate the status quo (i.e. the objectification of girls and women), critique constructions of gender roles and offer alternative interpretations and framings of the content that they are engaging with on a daily basis.
In line with BPfA’s Paragraph 129(d), encouraging ‘the media to examine the impact of gender role stereotypes, including those perpetuated by commercial advertisements which foster gender-based violence and inequalities, and how they are transmitted during the life cycle, and [to]take measures to eliminate these negative images with a view to promoting a violence-free society,’ experts recommend that international/regional organisations, States, research institutions, civil society partners and media organisations, as appropriate:
- Commit to the research and development of urgently needed guidance (and where appropriate, regulatory action) for the prevention and prohibition of discrimination against women and girls and gender stereotyping across all media. This includes guidance on both the development and the distribution of material.
- Fully implement the Convention for the Rights of the Child (Article 17) which recognises the importance of mass media and calls on states to develop ‘appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being.’
- Recognise that media is an influential mechanism that can make a real difference to a larger project of preventing violence against women and girls. As such, work with media should not just be focussed on limiting harm, but should also be focussed on media making a positive difference e.g. responsible reporting of violence against women and girls which provides accurate information and a gendered analysis (i.e. one which interrogates dominant masculinities and recognises and challenges male privilege).
- Engage with the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as he considers issues of balancing the right to freedom of expression with the right to be protected from discrimination, with a view to contributing to and building on his recommendations to support prevention of violence against women and girls. Similarly, engage with the International Telecommunications Union as it considers the issue of internet regulation at its December 2012 conference.
Given the likely negative impact of the global financial crisis on levels of violence against women and girls, and the subsequent economic, health and social costs of such increased violence (in terms of reduced productivity, strains on services, etc.), experts recommend that States, international and regional institutions, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders, should proactively and collaboratively work to protect women’s and girls’ right to live free of violence, in order to ‘stem the tide’ of negative economic, health and social impacts arising from such violence and their subsequent further costs to the State.
International and regional organisations, donors, development agencies, philanthropics and other non-governmental organisations should ensure that allocations of aid funding in the wake of the crisis support programmes to prevent (and respond to) violence against women and girls and promote women’s human rights.
International and regional institutions, civil society organisations and established donors should engage emerging middle income countries and new donors in the development of the new Global Implementation Plan to End Violence against Women and Girls and encourage a rights-based approach to aid investment that prioritises prevention of violence against women and girls through this international, target-focussed framework.
Experts recommend that States, non-governmental organisations, international/regional institutions and other stakeholders as appropriate:
- Support investigations into the relationship between violence against women and girls and armed violence, especially thestrategies of gender-based violence used within and between rival armed groups and the use and threat of gender-based violence in the private sphere by members of armed groups, especially with guns. Research should also be undertaken on the link between intimate partner / domestic violence and armed violence, including the collection of data on the role of firearms in violence against women and girls.
- Increase collaboration between those working on violence against women and girls and those working on arms control at the local, national and international public policy levels.
- Develop, implement and monitor policies and programmes aimed at preventing and/or reducing armed violence specifically against girls and women locally and nationally that include gender-responsive protection measures in child and adolescent law and education systems.
- Develop, implement and monitor tailored strategies for girls and women who are involved in/associated with armed violence, and for girl children and adolescents at risk, with their active participation at all stages.
- Strengthen crime prevention policies to ensure a review of, and action on, the differential impact of urban violence on violence against women and girls, and by the same token, explicitly consider the impact of urban, serious youth (e.g. gang) or armed violence in policies or strategies for the prevention of violence against women and girls.
- Invest in knowledge creation and data collection on the typologies and motivations of young men’s and women’s involvement in armed and violent criminality, especially in contexts with significant gun violence rates, as well as research on armed violence victims/survivors and witnesses, recognising that the decision to join gangs and other armed groups may be fuelled by social exclusion, family violence and violence experienced while in prison or at the hand of state security forces.
- Support the strengthening of community policing initiatives, including specially trained officers with a focus on youth and family violence, violence against women and girls, and on human rights. Promote greater collaboration between police forces and other security sectors for community-based prevention efforts.
- Integrate, strengthen and expand professional and vocational training programmes into socio-educational, juvenile justice and prison systems that are designed according to needs-based assessments, and including curricula on the gendered drivers and consequences of gun violence. Encourage and facilitate community reintegration approaches, including through supporting work with communities to prevent stigmatisation of youth who wish to reintegrate themselves into the community in a non-violent way.
- Engage urban young people in the development of public policies across key areas such as employment, revitalisation of marginalised neighbourhoods and housing, and cultural initiatives. Build the capacity of institutions and civil society organisations to harness the potential of young people to foster change, and position them as active protagonists in programme development, implementation and monitoring.
Humanitarian crises related to conflict and natural disasters
Experts noted the lack of documented prevention strategies for settings affected by conflict and/or natural disasters, and the consequent improvised, small-scale, and/or issue-specific nature of prevention activities in these settings. They emphasised that it is critical that States – and the humanitarian, peacekeeping, civil society and development actors with whom they engage – institute broad, well-coordinated measures to prevent violence against women and girls in all stages of humanitarian intervention, and ensure that those measures incorporate strategies that reach the most vulnerable, as well as monitoring and evaluation components in order to develop an evidence base for good practice. To this end, experts recommend that States and their humanitarian partners:
- Integrate prevention into all contingency planning for humanitarian emergencies, and develop early warning systems to assess and avert the risk of violence against women and girls. Contingency planning and early warning strategies should engage women and girls in the affected communities in order to anticipate protection needs and develop, for example, community alert networks, safe spaces for women and girls, access to reproductive and sexual health care, widespread information about the illegality of violence against women and girls and the consequences for perpetrators.
- When a crisis strikes, immediately institute protections across all areas of humanitarian response, according to the IASC Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. Collect disaggregated data to identify the particular security needs of women and girls and develop targeted tools and guidelines to facilitate protection from and prevention of violence against women and girls, including protection from sexual exploitation and abuse committed by humanitarian actors against beneficiaries of humanitarian aid. Work with international and local human rights organisations to monitor the activities of armed groups to ensure that they adhere to the rules of combat, and are prohibited from, and held accountable for, violence against women and girls. All peacekeeping operations must act in accordance with the standards set forth in the UNSCRs on Women, Peace and Security.
- After the initial emergency has passed and when working towards reconstruction, collaborate to expand prevention efforts and facilitate durable solutions for lasting peace and security. This includes incorporating prevention of violence against women and girls as an integral component of post-conflict and post-disaster action plans, including national action plans on Women, Peace and Security, and throughout all transition and recovery strategies. Ensure these action plans are multi-sectoral and supported by widespread protective legislation as well as capacity building across all key sectors to monitor and address risks for violence.
- In the reconstruction phase, undertake programming to build social and economic assets of women and girls in order to limit their future exposure to violence, through, for example, education, livelihoods, lifeskills, and leadership. Support women’s and girls’ empowerment in new and existing constitutions, bolstered by national mechanisms, government programs, and civil society partnerships, particularly women’s organisations addressing violence against women and girls. Identify and address risks related to perpetration of violence, particularly amongst boys who have been exposed to violence and in terms of limiting the availability of small arms.
- In post-conflict settings, ensure the inclusion of women and girls in peace-building efforts at the national and local levels. Include elements addressing violence against women and girls committed during conflict in all peace agreements. Ensure that survivors have safe access to on-going care and treatment in all conflict-related transitional justice and reparations programmes. Include an emphasis on the special needs of women and girls who were part of fighting forces in programmes for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, and efforts to prevent future violence against women and girls, including by demobilised male soldiers. Work with families and communities to overcome prejudice and discrimination against women ex-combatants and women heads of household. Ensure an end to impunity by integrating prevention of (and response to) violence against women and girls into all security sector and justice reform.
Experts recognised that girls, including adolescent girls, and young women are often excluded from, or ‘squeezed into,’ interventions which are focussed on adult women, on boys and young men, or on children in a gender-neutral way. Experts concluded that an emphasis on prevention work specifically tailored to the needs, experiences and aspirations of girls, adolescent girls and young women is urgently needed; acknowledging the complexities of the current landscape that they are required to negotiate. Experts made the following recommendations to States, women’s and civil society organisations, international and regional institutions, public and private sectors, as appropriate:
- Develop, implement and monitor tailored prevention activity with adolescent girls and young women that takes an empowerment, not protection, approach, and explicitly address their needs and rights, informed by the voices of adolescent girls and young women themselves. The onus is often placed on girls and young women to avoid / stop violence from happening to them rather than on developing widespread and embedded activities which challenge the social norms that permeate their lives. Prevention programmes should therefore address what is happening around young people (e.g. social pressures, media messaging and so forth) rather than purely on helping young women to ‘manage’ their adolescence (and the risks of violence this is assumed to entail) more effectively.
- Support all adolescents and young people to understand the nature of consent and coercion, and the impact of social and environmental factors on individual ability to truly provide consent (e.g. with key messages such as ‘your yes is only as good as your ability to say no’). The issue of consent, and especially sexual consent, is complex and is widely misunderstood among many adults. Yet adolescent girls and young women are often expected to be able to negotiate this difficult terrain which is focussed exclusively on the nature of a ‘no’ rather than the expectation that what is required is a strong, enthusiastic ‘yes’. This in turn reinforces notions of female passivity (the object of pursuit) and male aggressor (the pursuer). Such activities would have relevance to a number of areas from teen relationships to forced marriage.
- Ensure a gender dimension is incorporated into multi-sectoral legislative, policy and programmatic development to prevent (and respond to) violence against children, taking into account the specific needs, vulnerabilities and voices of girls of all ages.