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Last edited: December 30, 2011

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  • Operational policies or codes of conduct prohibiting violence against women or addressing specific forms of abuse are usually short, memorable list of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’, developed alongside or as part of a broader institutional policy on the issue. They are important to:

    • establish the standards for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour;

    • reinforce the seriousness of acts and criminal nature of abuse;

    • highlight the individual and institutional responsibility for personnel misconduct; and

    • demonstrate commitment by security institutions to upholding women and girls’ rights and promoting their participation in the sector, which can build trust between uniformed personnel and communities.

  • Codes of conduct should cover violence perpetrated by security personnel against civilians as well as other security personnel.

  • Operational policies or codes should outline: the legal duties of police and military officers, the specific actions and behaviour required by personnel; and establish a clear protocol for institutional responses to ensure obligations are upheld. Toward this end, the contents should:

    • State that the organization supports the rights of every employee to be free from all forms of violence, including harassment (i.e. based on sex, race, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc.), which are completely unacceptable, providing a rationale for the policy.

    • Set out clear rules and standards of behaviour regarding sexual discrimination, harassment, exploitation and abuse.

    • Provide definitions and examples of harassment and other unacceptable behaviour that can be easily understood.

    • Reinforce the seriousness of these acts, and their prohibition by law, which can help to reduce security personnel tolerance of violence against women.

    • Underscore both individual criminal responsibility and command responsibility for such acts, and signal that there will be no impunity – all offenders will be held accountable for acts of violence and disciplined appropriately.

    • Stress that supervisors and managers are responsible for maintaining a violence-free workplace and that they will be held accountable for stopping and appropriately reporting harassment or abuse.

    • Explain the process and timeframe for reporting, documenting, and responding to complaints, which should provide a variety of options and mechanisms for filing cases and assure confidentiality to the extent possible.

    • State that acts of retaliation against complainants shall be considered as additional acts of misconduct; investigated and disciplined accordingly.

    • Describe the levels of discipline that may be imposed for policy violations.

    • State the importance of the policy/code of conduct to demonstrate to the public that security forces are committed to protecting women and girls, and promoting the participation of women in its implementation– which can help build trust.

    • Provide the names and telephone numbers of contact persons if the employee has questions about the policy.

    • Provide information on procedures and contact persons if a code or policy is violated and make it clear that any person reporting misconduct or offences will not be victimized and will receive support.

(Adapted: Denham, 2008. “Police Reform and Gender: Tool 2.” Geneva. DCAF; International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2011; National Centre for Women and Policing, 2001; Hendriks and Hutton, 2008)