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Other provisions related to the maltreatment of widows

Statistics Gathering

  • States should collect gender-disaggregated data on the maltreatment of widows, including laws and practices on inheritance, property, widow inheritance, levirate and sororate marriages, forced evictions and property grabbing, on a domestic, regional and international level and cross-compare them to other statistics on crime, gender equality and migration.
  • With respect to property-related discrimination against widows, while the widespread perception is that widows face discrimination in land rights and other ways after the death of a husband, there is often little statistical evidence to support such claims.  Statistics are a key part of developing legislation and other programs targeted at protecting widow’s rights, especially to land and property.  See A. Peterman, Widowhood and asset inheritance in sub-Saharan Africa, June 2011, p. 2, 32.
  • An important part of gathering statistics for the maltreatment of widows requires the establishment of registration systems for births, deaths and marriages. (See: Registration of Marriage and Births) Also, drafters should establish a system for the registration of widow inheritances, forced evictions, property grabbing and forced marriage cases by all agencies, neighborhood, local and regional authorities, public service providers and non-governmental organizations working on the issue.
  • Reliable statistics on the prevalence of violence against women are essential to developing effective legislation and to developing strategies and protocols for the implementation of the legislation. Legislation should require the state to develop a methodology to obtain statistics on each of the types of violence against women. (See: Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists)
  • Statistics on the frequency of acts of violence against women should be obtained from relevant government ministries, law enforcement, the judiciary, health professionals, land title and registration offices, and non-governmental organizations which serve survivors of violence against women. These acts should be disaggregated by gender, age, relationship between offender and survivor, race, ethnicity, and any other relevant characteristics. Monitors should note whether or not such data is publicly available and easily accessed. See: Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Erturk, Indicators on violence against women and state response, A/HRC/7/6/Add.5, p. 19, CENWOR in Sri Lanka, and CORE GAD in Philippines (ESCAP paper, p. 6)
  • Statistics should also be gathered on the causes and consequences of the acts of violence against women. See: UN Handbook, 3.3.2, Guatemala’s Law against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women (2008), Mexico, Law on Access of Women to a Life Free of Violence (2007). Data should also be collected on offenders, including whether and when an abuser re-offends. See: UN Handbook 3.3.2. 
  • Monitors should also determine the number (per population statistics), geographic distribution and use statistics for hotlines, shelters and crisis centers. See:  Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Erturk, Indicators on violence against women and state response, A/HRC/7/6, p. 28, and Raising Voices (Uganda);  see also: We Can End VAW.
  • Monitors must also determine the numbers of cases of all forms of violence against women and girls that are reported to law enforcement officials, and whether or not they are charged, if they go to trial, and how many convictions result.
  • In some states, statistics on many of these issues will be readily available in administrative offices or national statistics or crime bureaus; in others, monitors will need to pose exact and strategic questions to government officials in law enforcement administration who are in a position to provide the information that is required.  This may involve a multi-step process of formal interview requests but it can be well worthwhile.
  • For an analysis of national surveys carried out by the countries at the conference of European statisticians to measure violence against women, see the Economic Commission for Europe, Work session on gender statistics, http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/2006.09.gender.htm

Tools:

Addendum on Developing Transnational Indicators on Violence Against Women to Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, 25 February 2008, A/HRC/7/6/, p. 12-13.

Enhancing Capacities to Eradicate Violence Against Women is a guide to help countries and regional partnerships develop enhanced data collection and surveys to gather information about violence against women. (UN Regional Commissions, 2013).

See: Monitoring of Laws on Violence against Women and Girls

Monitoring

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.
(See: Monitoring of Laws)

Public awareness and education

Drafters should consider provisions to fund public education on widows’ rights and in particular outreach to widows. The United Nations International Widows Day, June 23, which was established in 2010 by General Assembly Resolution 65/189 is one opportunity for global advocacy. The resolution calls on Member States to “relevant organizations of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, to observe International Widows’ Day and to raise awareness of the situation of widows and their children around the world. Raising widows’ awareness of their own rights is an important component of ensuring protection of their rights. Women are more empowered to advocate for their own rights when they are aware of legal provisions and international instruments that apply to them. Reaching out to elderly women can be particularly important in this regard. For example, a study in India revealed that, depending on region, only between 13% and 41% of elderly women were aware of the Protection for Women against Domestic Violence Act and approximately one quarter of elderly participants in the study were not aware of the role of police in enforcing protections against abuse of the elderly. See: Report on Elder Abuse in India, HelpAge India (2010). Legislation should mandate government support and funding for public awareness-raising campaigns on violence against women, including widows, such as:

  • general campaigns sensitizing the population about violence against women as a manifestation of inequality and a violation of women’s human rights; and
  • specific awareness-raising campaigns designed to heighten knowledge of laws enacted to address violence against women, in particular inheritance and property rights, and the remedies they contain.
  • public information campaigns aimed at educating women and girls about available resources.
  • trainings and workshops on estate planning for the public that emphasizes the rights of women in inheritance.
  • education on HIV/AIDS and its prevention in consultation with HIV/AIDS organizations and advocates. Such education should address the interconnection between HIV/AIDS and women’s human rights.
  • Outreach should target and engage religious and community leaders as well as men and boys to increase their awareness about women’s human rights, maltreatment of widows and the law. Public education programs should encourage them to emphasize to their communities that widows’ rights must be protected. It is essential that religious and traditional leaders understand domestic laws related to the maltreatment of widows and how certain practices violate women and girls’ human rights.
  • Legislation should encourage the sensitization of journalists and other media personnel regarding violence against women.

See: Implementation of Laws on Violence against Women and Girls; UN Handbook, 3.5.2, 3.5.4.

Promising Practice: Legislation should support efforts by advocates and civil society to conduct public education activities. The Justice for Widows and Orphans Project (JWOP) in Zambia hosted a call-in radio program on widows and orphans on a weekly basis on Lusaka and national stations. JWOP also created two 13-week programs for television, which presented dialogues with widows and orphans, advocates working on the issue and information about JWOP. A majority of the television programs addressed issues of property and inheritance. The public impact has been positive, and JWOP’s Victims Support Unit reported a large increase in calls, inquiries and accounts of property grabbing during the shows’ running. See: Varga, Christine A., The Case of the Justice for Widows and Orphans Project in Zambia, ICRW, 2006.