Drafting the Legislative Preamble to Laws Addressing Harmful Practices

The legislative preamble sets the stage for the entire piece of legislation. The following elements are important to a strong and inclusive legislative preamble:

  • Legislation should “acknowledge[s] that all forms of violence against women, including all harmful practices, are a form of discrimination, a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, and a violation of women’s human rights.” (See: Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report, p. 11) (emphasis added))
  • A statement that harmful practices against girl children are forms of child abuse;

“ All women, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, culture, educational level, age and religion, enjoy the basic rights inherent to the human person, and are ensured the opportunities and facilities to live without violence, preserve their physical and mental health and their moral, intellectual and social improvement.” Article 2;

  • Legislation should be directed towards preventing harmful practices in all forms and protecting women and girls from harmful practices committed by all perpetrators, including state agents and public agencies, as well as private entities, including family members, community, traditional and religious leaders, and groups of people; 
  • Legislation should explicitly state that harmful practices may not be justified by reference to any custom, tradition or religious consideration, and prohibit customs, practices and social and cultural patterns that discriminate against women and girls and perpetuate harmful practices (See:  UN Handbook 3.1.5);
  • A statement that the state has the duty to prevent harmful practices, to investigate and prosecute cases of harmful practices, to investigate and prevent cases of imminent harmful practices, to protect potential victims, to punish perpetrators of harmful practices, and to give support to survivors of harmful practices; and
  • Legislation should refer to international and regional human rights conventions for a human rights framework to addressing harmful practices.