Human Rights

Putting Rights into Practice: Addressing Gender-Based Violence

Violence against women is a continuum of acts that violate women’s basic human rights. It includes physical, psychological and sexual harm or threats thereof, and it may be perpetrated within families, within communities or by governments.

One of the most significant achievements in the last decade has been the recognition by the United Nations and a growing number of governments that violence against women is a human rights issue. For instance, the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) recognized that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”

In 1994, the ICPD called on governments to take full measures to eliminate all forms of exploitation, abuse, harassment and violence against women, adolescents and girls. Over the past decade, gender-based violence has gained recognition as a human rights violation that needs to be addressed broadly, through high-level advocacy, mass communication campaigns and legal and civil action, including support for victims.

UNFPA at work

UNFPA advocates widely against gender-based violence in its many forms. It pushes for effective legislation and enforcement for changes in cultural paradigms that allow gender-base violence to continue, and for support and protection of the rights of victims. For instance, the Fund works on many fronts to address domestic violence, including through support of community-based programmes, such as those in Indonesia, Moldova and the Gaza Strip. UNFPA has also piloted a manual to assist reproductive health providers in ten countries address the rights of women who have endured violence. And in many countries, including Peru, Timor-Leste and others, the Fund helps sensitize police to the rights of women who have been abused by their partners.

The Fund has stepped up its response to sexual violence in emergency situations, as a way to protect the rights of vulnerable women and girls who have already faced trauma and despair.

UNFPA also supports the rights of girls and women whose rights are denied through harmful, but culturally tolerated practices, such as sex-selective abortion of girls, child marriage and female genital mutilation. In such situations, the Fund uses culturally sensitive approaches to build community support for the human rights of women and girls. UNFPA also speaks out against institutionalized forms of sexual violence, such as sexual trafficking.

Addressing Domestic Violence in Mongolia

UNFPA was a driving force in a coalition of partners that pushed for the adoption of Mongolia's 2005 Law against Domestic Violence. Beginning in 2002, as a followup to a meeting with parliamentarians, the Fund took part in advocacy and sensitization activities about the issue, including the production and distribution of brochures, posters and a media kit. As part of the effort, a study was also undertaken to look at the ways judicial, legal and administrative institutions resolved cases and issues related to domestic violence.

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