Speech by John Hendra, Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director Policy and Programme, UN Women at the Turkish Government Side Event “Legal Reforms and Best Practices”
Monday 4 March 2013
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Thank you Dr. Acuner, distinguished panelists, ladies and gentlemen.
I am also very happy to be here today, in this panel discussion and we would like to thank the Turkish Government for organizing this important event.
As other panelists have stressed, and as the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women highlighted this morning, laws and their enforcement by States are essential to end impunity, to affirm the rights that all people are entitled to enjoy, and to set out the duties and responsibilities of those charged with their protection.
It’s been 10 years since ending violence against women was addressed by CSW and since then we’ve seen some important progress. We have seen increasing political will and commitment. Over 160 countries have adopted legislation to criminalize and respond to violence against women, and over two thirds of countries have taken steps to make workplaces and public spaces safer for women, including by passing laws to prohibit sexual harassment.
In this context, I would like to also commend Turkey as the first State to sign and ratify the “Istanbul Convention” in March 2012, as well as for its subsequent efforts to establish multi-sectoral services by adopting new national legislation to establish Violence Prevention and Monitoring Centres.
The other panelists have made many important points, and highlighted many examples of good practice. I would like to briefly focus on what UN Women has learned, in our experience supporting more than 57 countries around the world in this critical area, about what works to prevent and end violence against women. I will briefly highlight four critical areas of intervention: laws and policy frameworks, multi-sectoral services, data and evidence, and prevention.
First, to be effective legislation on violence against women must be comprehensive. Laws should aim to prevent all forms of violence against women; ensure investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, and provide protection and support for survivors. Laws and policy frameworks should apply to all settings and contexts, including conflict, post-conflict, and transitional and other settings. They should uphold the human rights of women and girls, whether formal, or customary, systems of justice prevail.
Just as important though is having in place laws that address gender inequality and discrimination, and which uphold women’s rights to education; employment; political participation and a decent standard of living. Laws that affirm women’s right to personal security, privacy and confidentiality, informed and independent decision making including with regard to reproductive health, as well as access to social services and to justice.
Nevertheless, even where legislative frameworks are in place weak and slow implementation often remains a major challenge. Effective legislation on violence against women includes provisions to facilitate its implementation. These measures may include:
• National plans or strategies with clear benchmarks and timelines, which establish accountability and clarify institutional responsibilities.
• Establishing a body or agency to monitor implementation of the law, which involves all stakeholders, including those working with survivors, and
• Most critically, allocation of sufficient budgetary resources to implement all aspects of the law, including capacity building, data and evidence gathering, and public awareness and education initiatives. Funds for services for survivors are key.
Secondly, comprehensive, coordinated multi-sectoral services and responses are essential. All women and girls who experience violence must be able to access a full range of services, police and justice responses, accessible shelters, legal assistance, health care, counseling and support, and 24 hour hotlines. Long-term economic and employment assistance and support to women and girls to integrate within their communities and societies is also critical.
That being said, practice shows that accessibility of services remains an issue, and more needs to be done to ensure services are focused on survivors, and developed in partnership with marginalized and vulnerable women and girls.
Thirdly, data collection and research is critical to inform more appropriate responses, and ensure efforts are targeted where they will have the most impact. Elaborating evidence based standards is a critical starting point to ensure the appropriate quality of services and response is available to survivors. In 2012 UN Women supported data collection in 11 countries, in partnership with other UN agencies, looking at causes, prevalence and specific types of violence that require tailored interventions.
Finally, and most critically, we must boost efforts to prevent violence in the first place. This means as we’ve already heard, addressing the root causes of gender equality and discrimination, as well as the various risk factors that we know contribute to violence against women. Prevention strategies must work to stop violence, raise community awareness and encourage more girls and women to seek protection and support. Prevention strategies also have a key role to play in:
• Changing the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone and perpetuate violence.
• Strengthening the capacities of public institutions such as the police, justice, health and education sectors to better prevent and respond to violence.
• Starting early in the life cycle by engaging young people during their formative adolescent years and working with men and boys to promote and ensure gender equality and respectful relationships.
In short, ending violence against women is an effort that must engage all parts of society, and is a responsibility of all of us. It requires concerted efforts of States to prevent violence from happening, and provide comprehensive short, medium and long term interventions to support those who have experienced it.
The tragic events we have seen in India, and sadly elsewhere all around the world, have rightly provoked outrage. It is simply not acceptable that women and girls in all countries continue to experience violence and abuse, and that the fear of such violence shadows the lives of all women and girls. We hope that we are really seeing a tipping point, and that wide-spread tolerance of violence is finally coming to an end. As the Deputy Secretary-General so eloquently put it this morning at the official opening, “it’s time to channel this outrage into action.”
So let me close by calling on all Member States to do their very utmost to end violence against women, to clearly and robustly implement national commitments, and to strengthen legal systems in line with best practices shared today.