International Treaties and Instruments
These international statements of law and principle provide a foundation for the right to be free from dowry-related violence.
"...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field." (Article 1)
State parties to CEDAW must eliminate this discrimination by adopting “…appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate…” and must agree “To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination…” (Article 2). In addition, states are obligated to take appropriate measures to modify social and cultural patterns that discriminate against women, including customary and other practices “which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women” (Article 5(a)).
“…violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men…” Preamble.
DEVAW calls on states to “condemn violence against women” and notes that states “should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to [the elimination of violence against women]” (Art. 4).
“The American peoples have acknowledged the dignity of the individual, and their national constitutions recognize that juridical and political institutions, which regulate life in human society, have as their principal aim the protection of the essential rights of man and the creation of circumstances that will permit him to achieve spiritual and material progress and attain happiness…” Preamble
It declares that “Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.” Article I. In Article V, it states that “Every person has the right to the protection of the law against abusive attacks upon his honor, his reputation, and his private and family life.” The Declaration also states that “Every person may resort to the courts to ensure respect for his legal rights.” Article XVIII.
“To enact and, where necessary, reinforce or amend domestic legislation to prevent violence against women, to enhance the protection, healing, recovery and reintegration of victims/survivors, including measures to investigate, prosecute, punish and where appropriate rehabilitate perpetrators, and prevent re-victimisation of women and girls subjected to any form of violence, whether in the home, the workplace, the community or society or in custody…” Section 4.
Dowry-related violence may be addressed in the constitutions of states, in criminal codes, civil codes, in administrative provisions, in gender equality provisions and many other contexts. Lawmakers are encouraged to provide protection against dowry-related violence within domestic violence civil and criminal laws that take into account the dynamics of dowry-related violence, including the scope of possible perpetrators, the repeat, low-level injuries, murders disguised as accidents or suicides, the connection between harassment/violence and dowry demands, the explicit or implicit nature of dowry demands, and the need for urgent protective remedies.
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