Strengthening police responses to gender-based violence crucial in lead up to Generation Equality Forum in Paris

As the world prepares to meet for the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, key global influencers in law enforcement commit to promoting gender-responsive policing to help end violence against women and girls around the world.

Date: Tuesday, May 25, 2021

UN Women, in partnership with the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), convened a global roundtable to discuss the benefits of gender-responsive policing in ending violence against women and girls.

Data shows that less than 1 in 10 women who seek help after experiencing violence turn to the police, and only a minority of cases of gender-based violence are ever formally reported to the police, with even fewer cases resulting in convictions.

The online event on 21 May included key global and regional decision-makers and influencers from within law enforcement and policing who considered how best to implement the recently launched Handbook on Gender-Responsive Police Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence, and shared good practices from the criminal justice system in responding to violence against women and girls, including increased engagement of senior police leadership and support to survivors’ families.

“Cultural changes inside the police force can have extended impact, affecting more broadly how the justice system interacts with the public,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. “If we are to see real change for women and girls, we must address the many institutional and structural barriers, patriarchal systems and negative stereotyping around gender that exist in security, police and judicial institutions.”

“Professionally trained and equipped female officers can also play a vital role in removing the barriers that women and girls face in navigating complex criminal justice systems. We know that when female officers are more visible, women and girls in the community are more likely to believe that their concerns are being heard and seriously addressed,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Miwa Kato, Director of the Division of Operations at UNODC, agreed adding that policing must do no harm to survivors of violence..

 “We know from our longstanding experience in supporting police institutions across the world that police responses are crucial, not only to protect women and girls from violence, but also to increase the trust that reported cases will be taken seriously and survivors treated with respect and dignity,” said Kato. “Police responses to violence against women and girls must be provided with due diligence and must not cause further harm or secondary victimization to survivors.”

With the Generation Equality Forum in Paris happening next month, strengthening police and justice sector responses is firmly at the centre of the work of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence – a multi-stakeholder and inter-generational partnership with the objective of driving long-term change and end gender-based violence.

In addition to discussing the implementation of the new Handbook that is being rolled out in over 20 countries, the roundtable shared experiences on police responses during COVID-19, as well as the importance of institutional self-reflection and ‘doing things differently’. Participants also emphasized the importance of listening to survivors and understanding their needs and greater investment and emphasis on prevention of violence against women and girls.

“Gender-responsive policing has long been regarded as a vital component of building trust with the communities served,” said Deborah Friedl, President of IAWP. “This principle applies to all countries, and never more so than in these difficult times, when we have seen trust and confidence in law enforcement shaken. Ensuring that our policies and practices encourage equality of protection for all citizens is an essential first step.However, gender-responsive policing also requires an assurance that policies and culture reflect gender sensitivity and inclusion. This ensures that agencies are able to be reflective of the communities they serve.”

Participants at the roundtable included members of UN Women, the IAWP, the UN Police Division, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police, Interpol and the European Network of Policewomen, among others.

“Without effective community engagement, even the most well-trained police personnel will remain ill-prepared to prevent, detect and investigate crimes, especially those happening in the domestic space against women and girls.” Said UN Police Adviser, Luís Carrilho“Working in partnership with the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Gender-based Violence offers a sound cooperation frameworkfor UN Police to work together with national, regional and global colleagues to draw attention to, and actively address, this pernicious form of violent crime."

Current gender-responsive policing efforts are focused on building trust between the police and local communities, improving collaboration with other service providers, and supporting police middle managers to deliver survivor-centred approaches, such as placing the obligation on perpetrators to leave the home, not victims and survivors.

You can find the Handbook here and follow the links for more information on UN Women’s work on essential services and UNODC’s work on police and justice responses to gender-based violence against women.