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Security institutions should ensure ‘zero tolerance’ of all forms of violence against women

Violence perpetrated by security actors, including soldiers and police officers, acting as individuals or groups, ranges from sexual harassment and assault, complicity in sexual exploitation and human trafficking, to perpetrating violence against their partners and family members. These human rights violations are perpetuated by discriminatory institutional cultures where gender-based violence is accepted as a ‘norm’. Personnel at all levels must be held accountable for any abuses they have committed as citizens bound by the same laws and as agents of the state who are obliged to uphold the rights and increase the security of all women and girls. This works to address the culture of impunity and widespread distrust of the police and other security actors that exists in many settings (UN Office for West Africa, DCAF, ECOWAS Gender Development Centre, MARWOPNET, AMLD, 2010). Effective enforcement of ‘zero tolerance’ policies can create greater demand for police services; promotes greater reporting of cases by survivors; and increases cooperation between communities and police, which improves the effectiveness of institutions and contributions of law enforcement in meeting overall security goals. Public communication on institutional efforts to eliminate violence perpetrated by security personnel (either internally or within the criminal justice system) is important to demonstrate accountability and transparency in the sector.