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Designing a qualitative research project or a “situation analysis”

The first step in designing a qualitative research project is to form a general research question. For example: Is the government’s response to violence against women and girls meeting its human rights obligations?

The second step is to outline the key concepts relating to the research question. Key concepts for the question stated above would be: What are the human rights obligations of a state? What are women’s human rights? What is the government’s response to victims of violence against women and girls?

The third step is to find meaningful, valid, and reliable indicators for measuring the concepts, or determining how to measure the human rights violations faced by victims of violence against women and girls. Human rights violations can be measured both positively (e.g. legislation, policies, resources, the work of victim service organizations) and negatively (e.g. the actual incidences).

After deciding the concepts to be analyzed and their related indicators, it is necessary to decide on the context of the research. It is important to adapt the monitoring project to the monitor’s resources (time, money, staff, expertise…). As a general rule, it is better to provide comprehensive and well researched information on a limited phenomenon in a limited area, than to try to say something about everything and to fail to get beneath the surface.

After deciding what information to collect and where to collect it, monitors must decide how to collect it.  There are many ways to collect data in a qualitative research project, and monitors should use more than one approach. For example, by interviewing police and service providers, monitors can obtain information on policies and programs that exist, and also on attitudes towards victims of violence and the barriers victims may encounter. For specific examples of questions see Sample methodology to monitor the government’s response to legislation on violence against women and girls.

Monitors can obtain information on attitudes, policies, and barriers to implementation by reviewing court records or proceedings. See sections on Monitoring court records and Court monitoring. Monitors can also acquire first-hand knowledge of policies and programs by taking part in the daily life of a shelter, or obtain information on attitudes on victims through newspaper analysis. Even if all the different elements do not end up in the final monitoring report, exposure to them will enable monitors to grasp a complex phenomenon.

 Adapted from:  Marshall and Rossman, Designing Qualitative Research, (2006).

 

The Advocates for Human Rights, A Practitioner’s Guide to Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy (2011). This manual provides guidance on how to use a human rights framework to work for social change in the United States. The manual walks practitioners through every step in the human rights documentation process, from establishing the project and objectives to setting up the interviews to writing a report and making recommendations. Each section goes in-depth, posing questions and considerations to readers so they can best structure the process to suit their needs and resources. The manual also helps practitioners plan how to push forward recommendations using strategies from education and lobbying to litigation and international human rights mechanisms. Finally, the manual helps organizations understand how they can use human rights in their work for social change.

CASE STUDY: The Multi-Year Monitoring Project of The Lawyers Collective Women's Rights Initiative, in collaboration with The International Center for Research on Women, on the Implementation of the PWDVA in India.

The Lawyers Collective Women's Rights Initiative, in collaboration with The International Center for Research on Women, completed numerous Monitoring and Evaluations Reports on the implementation of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) (2005) of India. The overarching goal of the reports was to discern whether or not the PWDVA succeeded in protecting the human rights of women victims of violence.

The first report was issued in 2007. LCRWI gathered quantitative and qualitative data on infrastructure and implementation from court filings and orders. They determined the number of Protection Officers appointed and the number of service providers, shelters and medical facilities which had registered under the PWDVA as service providers for women victims of violence. (The PWDVA is gender-specific.) Among the key findings were:

  1. A total of 7,913 applications have been filed under the PWDVA in the period ending 31 July 2007 (first nine months). Most of these proceedings are pending in court.
  2. The primary users of the law are married women. There are also a number of cases wherein reliefs have been granted to widows and daughters.
  3.  The most common form of relief granted was maintenance, followed by protection and residence orders.
  4.  There was a clear need for coordination among government departments to adopt and maintain a multi-agency response.
  5.  Protection officers needed adequate support and training.
  6. The PWVDA itself need adequate government funding for full implementation.

The second report, Staying Alive: Second Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2008 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, was published in 2008.  The LCRWI utilized a combination of qualitative and quantitative data in this report as well, utilizing questionnaires and field visits. They gathered more extensive data from the government ministries of 27 states of India. For instance, not only did they study the number, qualifications, and roles of Protection Officers and service providers, but for 20 states they developed interview templates to determine how they functioned and whether or not they were aiding women's access to justice.  For example, Protection Officers were asked if they recorded a Domestic Incidence Report. By their replies, the monitors were able to draw conclusions on misunderstandings about the PWVDA and about the expansion of Protection Officer roles in a way the law did not envisage (home visits and counseling). They organized a meeting which was attended by Representatives of the nodal Department of every state who then completed questionnaires and presented information on best practices and challenges they were facing in implementing the law.

The monitors analyzed specific aspects of the evolving implementation of the law. They monitored the background of service providers and their specific implementation programs. For example, one state used “Special Cells,” or specially trained social workers, in police stations for victims of violence. The LCWRI determined that the role of the “Special Cell” was a “catalyst” for the implementation of the law, coordinating with police, Protection Officers, and shelters, and providing trainings for police and women's groups. The LCRWI also analyzed the evolving jurisprudence on the PWDVA.  Among the key findings of this report were:

1.     Protection officers have been appointed at the district level in all states. Ten states have appointed Protection Officers at the sub-district level.

2.      Funding for the implementation of the law remained inadequate. 13 of the 27 states in the study had allocated specific budgets for the law, but funding remained too low.
3.     One state, Andhra Pradesh, allocated more funding and offered a supportive infrastructure, including training and awareness programs and coordination among stakeholders.  For more on this state's actions, see the Case study entitled “Andhra Pradesh” in Implementation of Laws.

The second report found that there were still no standard models or protocols for implementing the law. This report concentrated on data from Protection Officers, and provided convincing evidence of the evolution of those officers into effective implementers of the letter and spirit of the PWDVA. It found that more cases were filed than in the previous year, supporting the idea of increased public awareness.

The Third Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2009 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (2009) found that increasing numbers of cases were filed under the act.  However, the courts were not responding with the speed necessary to protect a victim in need of protection, and were “hesitant to grant ex-parte orders even when the circumstances so demand…” p. iii.

In this report, the LCWRI and the International Center on Research on Women examined the knowledge, attitudes and practices around the law among police, protection officers, judges and other key stakeholders. They used this information to identify possible barriers to the law’s implementation. Utilizing a combination of quantitative and qualitative data from multiple data sources, they also asked key questions about women's experiences in using the law at different stages of litigation, and about the factors which impede or facilitate the implementation of the law by the various stakeholders. They studied court orders and judgments. The LCWRI conducted training sessions with the police, judiciary and protection officers and collected data on their knowledge, attitudes and practice both before and after the training sessions.

Again, the monitoring study yielded a wealth of information. They found that a substantial proportion of the judiciary still believed that the welfare of the family should come before that of the woman, and that they were counseling women with the goal of preserving the family above that of safety of the woman. They found that police were confused about some of the provisions of the law.

The monitors used training sessions to achieve both training and monitoring. They noted that valuable information on the trainees’ implementation of the law can be obtained, and training on misperceptions can commence immediately. In a receptive atmosphere and with the support of their peers, interviewees may in fact reveal more about what they are really doing than in a more formal interview setting. The monitors noted that interactive trainings on a regular basis that explicitly address perceptions and attitudes are good practice.

The LCWRI collected data by completion and submission of questionnaires by state departments at a pre-Conference meeting. However, only one of the departments collected national level data, and data was not available from all of the stakeholders. Some states did not return data on some issues despite persistent requests. The monitors rightly concluded that this highlighted the need for a uniform system to collate and record data on cases filed under the PWDVA.

The third monitoring study found that in some states, women weren’t using the Protection Officers. In other states, Protection Officers were overworked. Creative solutions to problems encountered with implementation of the law were noted: the High Court in Andhra Pradesh set a special time for cases to be heard under the PWDVA to facilitate the schedules of the Officers. A general trend of women’s reluctance to use shelter homes nationwide was noted.

The third report made note of progress that has occurred since the first two monitoring reports: At the time of the first one, only the state of Andhra Pradesh had begun to implement effective coordination between government ministries which are required to address issues under the PWDVA. By the second, two more states had appointed Coordination Committees. At the time of the third monitoring report, a number of states had Coordination Committees, some of which were engaged in collecting data and submitting recommendations for the implementation of the PWDVA. Other states were using existing structures and adding coordination duties to their functions. The monitors presented detailed case studies on the implementation of the law in 2 states: Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Funding was still an important issue in the third monitoring report. Monitors noted that Protection Officers, a key part implementing the PWDVA, often try to combine this duty with other duties as Child Protection Officers, and also are not available on nights or holidays. The monitors concluded that independent, funded positions are vital to victim access. Other issues, such as the distinction between rights of ownership in a home and the right to reside there, and whether or not respondents could be females, continue to be concerns which need to be addressed. Importantly, the monitors also noted that police in some states continue to counsel the parties to end the violence and consider the matter to be resolved.

For the third monitoring report, the LCWRI completed an in-depth analysis of court orders and judgments in order to determine the knowledge and practice of the courts with regard to interpretation and use of the law, the nature of reliefs which are granted or denied, and how these reliefs are enforced. They also collected questionnaires from members of the judiciary following training. They asked about the type of domestic violence which occurs, the nature of relief sought, and the reasons for court denial. This information will be vital to improving judicial and Protection Officer training so that women may receive effective protection from the PWDVA. A number of cases on issues arising from specific provisions of the law were analyzed. The monitors also described cases which were landmarks in the implementation of the law.

The LCWRI issued a number of conclusions and recommendations. Among them were:

  • Sexual violence in marriage is not recognized as a form of violence against women.
  • Female relatives of the male perpetrator need to be recognized as proper respondents under the Act.
  • Protection Officers must complete a Domestic Incidence Report for every woman that approaches them to support her record of a history of violence.
  • Clarity on the role of the police is needed.
  • The number of ex parte orders granted is very low. Ex parte orders should be granted as a matter of routine whenever the evidence supports it.
  • Court orders for protection must include direction for order enforcement, and courts need to provide updates to the Protection Officers regarding the orders.
  • Independent and full-time Protection Officers must be appointed with adequate funding for them to perform their critical duties.
  • States should adopt comprehensive systems for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the law.
  • Reporting on specific indicators should be mandatory for all stakeholders.
  • Cases filed under the PWDVA should be subject to a uniform registration requirement to facilitate future monitoring.

Staying Alive: Fourth Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2010 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 built on the previous reports to discern what has worked and what has not. The monitors again examined court orders and judgments, and interviewed stakeholders to determine trends and identify best practices and gaps. The monitors found that a referral system among medical practitioners, Protection Officers, and shelters had begun to work in several states. In addition, a Special Cell at police headquarters in the districts of one state had been formed, with lawyers and social workers appointed to implement services in the Special Cell. Other findings include the increased use of interim relief, important due to the delay in final disposition of cases, and the increased assistance of police in enforcing protection orders in several states. 

The methodology for the fourth monitoring report included:

  • A pre-conference meeting with state representatives to collect data
  • Questionnaires for each state on specific aspects of PWDVA implementation (some states did not return or did not verify the information submitted, thus hindering the findings of the report
  • Meeting and questionnaires for NGOs from numerous states. If the state did not submit substantive documents to support the information gathered from the NGOs, however, the monitors did not use the information in the report.
  • In-depth interviews were conducted with Protection Officers, women who used the law, and service providers based on trends that had become evident from the surveys of the previous year. Because the focus of this fourth monitoring report was to understand how women and Protection Officers interacted, only those Protection Officers who had interacted with women were interviewed, and police stations were selected based on the likelihood of having complaints of domestic violence.
  • Focus groups were conducted with police personnel.
  • Court orders from different regions of the country were analyzed.
    • A matrix of indicators was developed to identify good practices, specific substantive and procedural issues that required clarification, and to evaluate the trends.
    • Information was transferred to the matrix from the court orders.
    • The matrix was analyzed for trends and emerging models of implementation of the PWDVA.
    • Problems encountered in analyzing court orders included: some stated did not submit orders or did not submit them on a timely basis; detailed reasoning was omitted from some orders, affecting their analysis; and some orders did not provide key information about the case.

Based on the findings of the third monitoring report that a lack of infrastructure and budget were cited as reasons why protection orders were not enforced, the fourth monitoring attempted to review the funding provided by each state. The monitors found that state allocations have been marred by insufficient funds, under-allocating of money allocated, and a lack of transparency in allocating the funding. The monitors concluded that their monitoring project has been “largely compromised due to a lack of a comprehensive and uniform data collection and compilation system.” p. xvi and called upon the central government to take the initiative to fulfill its duties under the PWDVA and ensure it effective implementation.

The Fourth Monitoring Report provides an overview of the first three reports, which provides a useful way to track the implementation of the law and problems therewith.

Staying Alive: Fifth Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2011 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 documented a “marked improvement” in the implementation of the PWDVA. p. iii. The methodology of the report focused on collection of evidence in three states: Delhi, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. The districts selected for survey were chosen because they were districts where co-authors LCWRI had conducted capacity-building workshops. Where not all districts could be covered, in accordance with good practices in monitoring, a rural and an urban district were included. In addition, the Knowledge, attitudes, and practices of key stakeholders were surveyed and provided a good evidence base to track the progress of implementation of the law. For example, the survey found that Protection Officers’ attitudes on gender and domestic violence in all three states had become more positive. The authors monitored budgetary allocations and court orders again to provide a full picture of the implementation of the PWDVA. Importantly, the report found that the judiciary is at last often passing orders to stop violence and to provide a safe residence for victims.

Click here for a documentary about this unprecedented monitoring project entitled From Campaign to Monitoring: Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. The documentary highlights the need for governments to implement monitoring and evaluation of gender laws.