Training for Judges

Training for judges on violence against women should be required under law. The U.N. Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women, sec. 3.2.3, recommends that laws mandate:

  • Regular and institutionalized gender sensitivity training and capacity building on violence against women,
  • Specific training and capacity building when new legislation is enacted, and
  • Development and consultation with NGOs and service providers in the process of training development.

For example, in Spain, Article 47 of the Organic Act on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence requires that training courses for judges, magistrates, and others involved in law enforcement include specific sessions on sexual equality, non-discrimination for reasons of sex, and issues of violence against women. Training for judges should include a range of topics from broad gender sensitivity training to specific training on the intricacies of dealing with various types of violence against women cases.

Many organizations provide judicial training related to violence against women and gender equity. [Cross link to judicial training case study in Advocacy chapter at page 15-16] One particularly successful program is the International Association of Women Judges’ Jurisprudence of Equality program, which is focused generally on domestic application of international, regional, and national law on issues dealing with discrimination and violence against women. The New Mexico Judicial Education Center provides on-line training modules for judges relative to specific types of violence against women. Although focused on New Mexico law, the freely available courses include domestic violence, stalking and harassment, and intimate-partner sexual abuse. Another example of issue-specific training comes from Saint Paul, USA, where an interagency Blueprint for Safety in domestic violence cases includes protocols and training memos for judges in the following detailed areas:

  • Compelling a Domestic Violence Victim to Testify
  • Court Administration in Domestic Violence Related Cases 
  • Domestic Violence Risk Assessment Bench Guide
  • Domestic Violence–Related Standard Conditions of Probation
  • Firearm Prohibitions
  • First Appearance of Offender in Court
  • General Standard Conditions of Probation
  • Law Related to Pretrial Release
  • List of Probation Conditions to Consider in Domestic Violence–Related Cases
  • Memorandum on Consecutive Sentencing
  • Memorandum on Legal Considerations in Probation Violations Based on a New Offense
  • Memorandum on the History of Relationship
  • Minimum Sentences in Domestic Violence Cases
  • Pleas
  • Practitioners’ Guide to Risk and Danger in Domestic Violence Cases
  • Pre-sentence Investigations
  • Pre-Trial No-Contact Orders
  • Pre-trial Release
  • Probation Violations
  • Sentencing
  • Special Conditions of Probation to Consider in Domestic Violence–Related Cases
  • Special Evidentiary Issues in Domestic Abuse Trials
  • Trial
  • Using the Probation Conditions List
  • Weekend Post-Arrest Procedures

(See: Blueprint for Safety, ch. 8 (2009))



The Women’s Safety and Security Initiative, funded by UNDP, has focused on supporting implementation of anti-trafficking legislation in Kosovo. In its first year, the program trained judges and prosecutors on the provisions of the new legislation, as well as the dynamics of trafficking and how the abuses suffered by women may impact their ability to cooperate or testify in a criminal prosecution. In its second year, the program trained judges, and prosecutors in coordination with training for police. The training for members of the judicial system focused on interagency coordination and how police, judges and prosecutors can understand each others’ roles and work together, particularly on undercover operations to hold traffickers accountable. Apart from training for members of the judiciary and law enforcement, the program has also trained journalists and regional gender officers and has supported the acquisition of new equipment for police. See: Fact Sheet, Women’s Safety and Security Initiative, UNDP.


Training for Judges in a Variety of Settings
Judicial training should focus on both criminal and civil cases, and should be mandatory for judges in a variety of legal settings including those handling family law matters, immigration, and employment issues. Although many violence against women cases are criminal in nature, civil law plays a huge role. In certain countries, sexual harassment cases are almost all civil in nature. Domestic violence and dowry violence cases also involve significant civil components including protective orders, divorce, and custody issues. Trafficking cases often involve separate immigration proceedings. Judges, prosecutors, and other court personnel in all of these areas need specialized training.

CASE STUDY – United States

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has been a leader in training judges in the juvenile and family court setting to effectively respond to family violence cases. The organization developed The Greenbook, a benchbook on effective intervention in family violence cases, which has been endorsed by the U.S. Attorney General. Under The Greenbook Initiative, the Council also worked with six demonstration sites nationwide to undertake a coordinated community response (CCR) approach to implementing The Greenbook recommendations. The use of The Greenbook and the effectiveness of its guidelines were evaluated in each site, leading to the development of lessons learned and new tools from courts, advocates, and service providers across the United States. The evaluation reports and tools are available on The Greenbook Initiative website.

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