In 2005, judges and magistrates from Bolvia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay met in Santiago, Chile to discuss violence against women, among other women’s human rights issues. The judges identified several critical factors which stand in the way of the effective implementation of international human rights standards including: the persistent patriarchal system, traditional notions of the nuclear family, perceptions that women’s roles are fundamentally to procreate, the tendency to control women’s sexuality, and unfamiliarity with women’s human rights among other factors. The group also proposed strategies for promoting and protecting women’s human rights, including promoting the immediate implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Belem do Para) and the adoption of specific laws to prevent and eliminate violence against women. See: Final Report of the Judicial Conference about the Application of International Human Rights at the Domestic Level, United Nations, Division for the Advancement of Women, 2005 (Spanish).
In 2003, judges and magistrates from eleven African countries at the conference considered and examined judicial developments and trends in the areas of the human rights of women and girls as relates to nationality, family law, and violence against women, and the extent to which domestic jurisdictions have incorporated international human rights law in their decisions in those named areas. The 2003 conference resulted in important acknowledgements and a declaration of commitments, including the judges’ intent to use CEDAW in relevant decisions interpreting domestic law. (See: Arusha Declaration of Commitments on the Role of the Domestic Judge on the Application of International Human Rights Law at the Domestic Level, United Nations, Division for the Advancement of Women, 2003; Promoting Women’s Human Rights: A Resource Guide for Litigating International Law in Domestic Courts, Global Rights, 25-26, 2006)
The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) has also been honored by UNIFEM for its work in training judges under its Jurisprudence of Equality Program. The program provides training for members of the judiciary, female and male, on the domestic application of international, regional and national law on issues dealing with discrimination and violence against women. Judges are trained by other judges, leading to enhanced credibility of the information. The program has trained judges and magistrates in 21 countries and led to important decisions, particularly in East Africa. In Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda rulings from judges trained in the program have cited to the UDHR, Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and Articles 2, 15, 16 of CEDAW and addressing issues of equal protection of the law, property rights, rape, domestic violence, and divorce. See: Jurisprudence of Equality Program, IAWJ; Jurisprudence of Equality Program Decisions, IAWJ. (See Implementation Section of this Module)
CASE STUDY: Impact litigation, meaning litigation of cases that have the potential to broadly impact conditions for many similarly situated people or to highlight a particular issue, is an important form of advocacy to protect women’s rights. Many civil society organizations partner with international NGOs to litigate high impact, high visibility cases.
For example, in the case of Opuz v. Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the government of Turkey to pay damages to a woman who had suffered devastating domestic violence from her husband and who the state had failed to protect in any meaningful way. Link to CASE STUDY: Obtaining redress for domestic violence through human rights bodies, 68, Domestic Violence section of this Knowledge Asset.
The case marked the first time that the European Court recognized states’ failure to protect women from domestic violence as a form of gender discrimination. The European Court had previously recognized a state’s obligation to provide domestic violence victims with redress in the case of Bevacqua and S. v. Bulgaria. Link to CASE STUDY: Obtaining redress for domestic violence through human rights bodies, 68, Domestic Violence section of this Knowledge Asset.
In the Opuz case, women’s groups from Turkey were engaged and the international NGO INTERIGHTS was a third party intervener before the court. After the ruling, women’s groups in Turkey used the case as a rallying cry for further advocacy, demanding education on issues of gender equality and domestic violence, demanding funding for shelters and police training, and demanding that government ministries take effective action to broadly address gender equity in Turkey. See: Women’s groups urge mobilization on gender equality, Today’s Zaman; Opuz v. Turkey – European court Clarifies State Obligations to Protect Women from Domestic Violence, INTERIGHTS.
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