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Government mechanisms

Specific body to monitor legislation

Legislation on violence against women should include a provision which creates a specific body to monitor the implementation of legislation on violence against women.  This body should include members of parliament, national statistics offices, law enforcement administration and ministries for women and health.  It should gather and analyze information on the implementation of the legislation, respond to parliament, and provide a public report of its efforts. The legislation should mandate adequate funding for regular review of the implementation of the legislation on violence against women.

Some countries have included a requirement to monitor all laws on violence against women in their legislation. For example, Spain’s Organic Act 1/2004 of 28 December on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence (2004) created two institutions responsible for monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the law: the Special Government Delegation on Violence against Women and the State Observatory on Violence against Women. Women’s associations also play an important role in the State Observatory as members of this collegiate organization. The government also must provide a report to Parliament about the effectiveness of the law three years after it came into force. See: Evaluacion de la Applicacion de la Ley Organica 1/2004, de 28 de Deciembre, de Medidas de Proteccion Integral contra la Violencia de Genero (2008).

Example: In Spain, The Observatory on Domestic Violence and Gender Violence, a part of the General Judiciary Council, monitors the judicial response to the implementation of the Organic Act 1/2004.  The Observatory:

  1. Analyzes all sentences and resolutions related to gender violence;
  2. Has created an expert group composed by magistrates that proposes activities for the implementation and amendments of the law;
  3. Coordinates the on-going training of members of the judiciary, public prosecutor´s office and civil servers of the general and specialized courts; and
  4. Supports studies and statistics focused on gender violence.

The Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act (2004) of the Philippines established an Inter-Agency Council on Violence Against Women and Their Children and stated: 

“These agencies are tasked to formulate programs and projects to eliminate VAW based on their mandates as well as develop capability programs for their employees to become more sensitive to the needs of their clients. The Council will also serve as the monitoring body as regards to VAW initiatives.” Section 39

 

Case study: The Philippine Multi-sectoral Performance Standards and Assessment Tools for Services Addressing Violence Against Women

In 2008, the Philippine Commission on Women,, in cooperation with the Department of Justice, published Performance Standards and Assessment Tools for Services Addressing Violence Against Women. The performance standards were mandated by Philippine’s constitution and laws. The assessment toolkit is comprised of five volumes which address the capacity and compliance of investigatory services, medical or hospital-based services, psychological services, legal/prosecution services, and local anti-violence against women services using established performance standards.

A separate assessment toolkit was developed for each service area. Each toolkit contains detailed performance standards, an assessment tool matrix, and a baseline report. The performance standards were developed as a tool for direct service providers to respond effectively to cases of violence against women, as a monitoring tool to determine the level of compliance with national policies, and as an advocacy tool for protecting women’s human rights. The assessments were intended to be completed by the agencies themselves, and to generate data on current compliance with the performance standards. The results will then be used for monitoring and evaluation purposes and as an aid in national prioritization and planning.

The performance standards for prosecutors, for example, include: the existence of a focal person or desk to give walk-in clients free legal assistance or referrals; the mandate to give priority to cases of violence against women and children; the requirement to enter the cases into a database; and an established protocol that prosecutors must follow when investigating cases, which includes informing the complainant that she can request a female prosecutor, referring her for possible health problems, handling cases as quickly as possible, and using one prosecutor throughout the proceedings, if possible.

Specific indicators in the prosecutorial assessment tool include:

  • A prosecutor-client ratio is set to ensure that prosecutors can give sufficient time to all cases handled.
  • Prosecutors have a minimum of 30 hours training on gender analysis and causes of VAW.
  • Prosecutors ensure that the complainant is informed of her rights and legal procedures relevant to her case.
  • Interviews are conducted in comfortable, private, and secure rooms.
  • A gender-sensitive and trained counselor is present during the interviews to support the complainant/survivor.

Prosecutors must complete a detailed form to monitor compliance with these protocols and use a form for obtaining client feedback. The Department of Justice utilizes the data to evaluate prosecutor compliance and to create planning, policy and program interventions to meet the standards. The assessment is to be made at regular intervals of 3-4 years. Data is then reviewed and validated. Assessment results are discussed with the prosecutor agency, and action proposals to address identified gaps in service are prepared and discussed. Finally, a summary report is submitted to national and local interagency councils on violence against women and their children.

A baseline report on the first assessment follows the assessment tool. Among the findings: monitors noted that not all prosecutors have had training on managing VAW cases, nor have continuing trainings been scheduled as mandated by law. Separate rooms were not always available for interviews. The prosecutors interacted with other agencies only to the extent that the agencies were providing support to the investigation and prosecution, not in a victim-centered manner.  The monitors also noted that the assessment data collection was unreliable. Importantly, VAW cases were not categorized as such, making long-term statistics on the volume of VAW cases unobtainable.

Many other countries have included specific provisions which describe scope and responsibility for monitoring in their laws on domestic violence.  For example, the Maria da Penha Law (Restrain Domestic and Family Violence Against Women) (2006) of Brazil states that prevention measures will utilize studies, research, statistics and other relevant information on the causes, consequences, and frequency of domestic violence to implement the systemization of data nationwide and the regular evaluation of the results of the measures. (Article 8)

The Domestic Violence Act (1998) of Guyana states that the Director of Human Services in the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security shall be responsible for:

(b) studying, investigating and publishing reports on the domestic violence problem in Guyana, its manifestation and scope; the consequences and the options for confronting and eradicating it in conjunction with the Police Force and other agencies and organizations;…

(e) developing strategies to encourage changes in the policies and procedures in government agencies in order to improve their response to the needs of the victims of domestic violence…Article 44

Governments may require a ministry or the national statistics office to conduct monitoring or they may appoint a Special Commission to monitor the laws. For example, Zimbabwe and Mozambique have created Women’s Rights Commissions to monitor laws on violence against women. (See: Gender-Based Violence Laws in Sub-Saharan Africa (2007), p. 79)

The monitoring body should be independent of other government bodies.  If it is not, it should provide for input from non-governmental organizations which have had experience in issues on violence against women.
(See: UN Handbook, 3.3.1; the Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act (2004) of the Philippines)

One large intergovernmental organization which has monitored violence against women and girls is The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has 56 participating states. In June of 2009, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina completed a monitoring study entitled Trafficking in Human Beings and Responses of the Domestic Criminal Justice System:  A Critical Review of Law and Emerging Practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina In Light of Core International Standards. In July of 2009, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina completed a monitoring report on the implementation of domestic violence laws:

Case study:  Response to Domestic Violence and Co-ordinated Victim Protection in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska: Preliminary Findings on the Implementation of the Laws on Protection from Domestic Violence (2009)

In 2005, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Republika Srpska adopted Laws on Protection from Domestic Violence. Both laws contain protective measures for victims of domestic violence, such as removal of the perpetrator from the home, restraining orders, and prohibitions on stalking and harassment. In 2008 the Human Rights Department of the OSCE Mission to BiH conducted an assessment of the implementation of these laws.

The methodology for the assessment included roundtable discussions with practitioners and interviews with police, prosecutors, judges, and social welfare center professionals.

The monitoring report assessed the classification of domestic violence as a “minor offense,” protection measures, cooperation among officials and NGOs, police response, and data collection, among other topics. The monitors found that most justice system officials had not received training on the domestic violence law. They found that officials do not address victim protection under the domestic violence laws; instead, the perpetrators are often fined. The consequence is that victims remain unprotected and, as a family, are subject to a fine. Orders for protection were rarely issued, and the monitors found that police were concerned about alternative housing for the perpetrator as a prerequisite to issuance of the order, yet this was not a requirement under either law. Even when orders were issued, monitors found that they were rarely implemented. The most common measure ordered was referring the perpetrator to mandatory alcohol and drug treatment programs. Monitors noted that “It is concerning that [this] is the most frequently ordered measure, as this does not provide immediate relief and safety for victims.” p. 13 

The monitors issued a number of conclusions and recommendations under each topic area. For example, in the area of police response, monitors had noted that police often delayed taking a victim’s statement, and utilized few evidence-gathering techniques. Thus, the monitors recommended that police establish guidelines and policies to thoroughly document domestic violence incidents. Finally, specific recommendations were issued to key government agencies, ministries and justice system professionals.

In another example, The Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland: A Scoping Study (2009) assessed the scope of human trafficking in Northern Ireland and recommended that the Northern Ireland government begin a wide-scale consultation with non-governmental organizations on data collection and availability.

The Violence in the Family Prevention and Protection of Victims Laws (2004) of Cyprus established an Advisory Committee for the prevention and combating of violence in the family.  The Committee is charged to:

(a)   Monitor the problem of violence in the family in Cyprus;…

(c)   promote scientific research in relation to violence in the family;…[and]

(d)   monitor the effectiveness of the related services in operation and the application of and compliance with, the relevant legislation. Article 7

In another example, The Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland: A Scoping Study (2009) assessed the scope of human trafficking in Northern Ireland and recommended that the Northern Ireland government begin a wide-scale consultation with non-governmental organizations on data collection and availability.

The Violence in the Family Prevention and Protection of Victims Laws (2004) of Cyprus established an Advisory Committee for the prevention and combating of violence in the family.  The Committee is charged to:

(a)  Monitor the problem of violence in the family in Cyprus;…

(c)  promote scientific research in relation to violence in the family;…[and]

(d)  monitor the effectiveness of the related services in operation and the application of and compliance with, the relevant legislation. Article 7

In other examples, the Law on Access of Women to a Life Free of Violence (2007) of Mexico mandates the creation of a national databank on cases of violence against women. The Law on Measures against Violence in Family Relations (2006) of Albania mandates the Ministry on Labour, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities to “maintain statistical data on the level of domestic violence.”  The Law against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women (2008) of Guatemala requires the national statistical office to compile data and develop indicators on violence against women.

In 2008, AusAID, the Australian government’s overseas aid program, published Violence Against Women in Melanesia and East Timor a regional assessment evaluating the effectiveness of current approaches to addressing violence against women in the areas of Melanesia and East Timor. In additional to an overall regional summary and evaluation, the report also contains country-specific reports and recommendations for five of Australia’s close partner countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and East Timor. Promising practices in the area are also highlighted. The report identifies area practices which have significantly contributed to the low status of women in this region, including bride prices, economic dependence and prioritization of male interests in traditional cultures. Multi-sectoral solutions are also recommended including increasing women’s access to justice, increasing women’s access to support services, and preventing violence through awareness campaigns directed at changing community attitudes.

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