Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
Related Tools

Overview and Compliance with national, regional and international laws

Last edited: October 30, 2010

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  • If the advocacy effort will call upon a government entity to make a change in current law, policy, procedure or regulation; then those responsible should thoroughly review the structure of the government in order to understand the system, procedures and power bases which will affect the effort. Differences in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government will affect advocacy efforts. Advocates should thoroughly examine the balance of power between the branches of government and the designated role for each branch.  Such study will help to inform the advocacy strategy.   
  • For example, when working on a draft domestic violence law in the Republic of Armenia, advocates examined the form of parliamentary government, the procedural rules of the parliament, and the typical and most workable ways of introducing legislation including through individual parliamentarians or through executive branch officials. 
  • In some countries, not all parliamentarians may be elected. Rather, they may be appointed by a political party, in which case the ability of citizens to impact those parliamentarians may be lessened. On the other hand, advocates with strong ties to a particular party may find they have the ability to discuss the advocacy goal with leaders in the party who may in turn, ask parliamentarians in that same party to support the advocacy goal. Whether legislators are elected directly or indirectly or appointed by political parties will influence how much NGOs may influence the process and at what point in the process NGOs may intervene.

Compliance with National, Regional and International Laws

  • A state must protect women and girls in its territory from violence whether it is committed by a public or private actor.  States must also comply with international standards to protect individuals from violence during peacetime or during conflicts and war. (See: Making Rights a Reality:  Campaigning to Stop Violence Against Women, Amnesty International, 8, 2004)  A state may not use culture as a justification for violence against women and girls.
  • Advocates should carefully analyze each of these categories of legal instruments asking critical questions about the protection of the human rights of women and girls provided in existing legislation, the extent to which the government is upholding or denying those rights.  Advocates may review a number of important questions to ask about national legislation, international human rights law, international humanitarian and criminal law, and regional human rights treaties. (See: Making Rights a Reality: Campaigning to Stop Violence Against Women, Amnesty International, 8-11, 2004)


CASE STUDY:  The case of Uganda v. Matovu highlights the important role played by the courts in ensuring that national laws, including at the level of rules and procedures, comply with international legal obligations.  In Uganda, a common law rule dictated that when a victim claims that a defendant has committed a sexual offense against her, the court must recognize that it is dangerous to act upon the uncorroborated evidence of the victim.  Accordingly, the court must undertake additional verification so as to satisfy itself that the victim is a truthful witness. The judge in the case of Uganda v. Matovu, ruling on the issue of a young man accused by a woman of “defilement” found that this rule of evidence was discriminatory against women and was based on a biased assumption that women and girls are likely to lie about sexual violence. The judge recognized that this rule was a violation of Uganda’s obligation not to discriminate under CEDAW as well as a violation of Uganda’s constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the law. The defendant in the case was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. This case makes clear the importance of considering a wide range of laws, policies, and rules for compliance with international law. In particular, ensuring that judges have accurate information about how laws, policies, and procedural rules may violate international obligations is critical to protecting women from violence. See: Jurisprudence of Equality Program Decisions, International Association of Women Judges; Global Justice Center, Legal Tools for the Establishment of Gender Equality through International Law, 18 (2007).