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

Drafting the Bill, Policy and Systems Change

Last edited: October 30, 2010

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When the goal of the advocacy effort is a new or amended law protecting women and girls from violence, advocates should research whether NGOs may participate in the actual drafting of the language of the legislation. In some countries, NGOs may participate whereas in others, the drafting is left to those in official government positions within the various ministries.

In countries where NGOs may participate in drafting legislation, advocates should begin by describing in plain language the problem to be addressed and what the law should do to address the problem. Advocates may also use examples of language in laws from other jurisdictions, but should ensure that the language is evaluated for its adherence to best practices in protecting women and girls from violence. Advocates should also consult with attorneys with experience in drafting laws to ensure that the draft laws are both technically and legally correct. Advocates should make sure that attorneys who assist in the drafting are faithful to the intent of the legislation. Advocates and attorneys must be willing to listen and learn from each other during the process of drafting legislation so that the language reflects the need identified by the advocates, but also reflects compliance with both substantive and procedural legal principles.


CASE STUDY: When reviewing potential changes to improve Minnesota’s sex trafficking laws, advocates learned that prosecutors had concluded that the existing state criminal law prohibiting the “receiving, recruiting, enticing, harboring or providing by any means an individual to aid in the prostitution of that individual” did not have strong enough penalties. In fact, prosecutors were opting to charge other criminal offenses rather than using the state human trafficking law. Advocates worked closely with government representatives, prosecutors, law enforcement and service providers to draft language to strengthen the law by increasing the criminal sentence where the trafficker was repeating the trafficking offense, inflicting bodily harm on the trafficking victims, holding victims for more than 180 days, or trafficking multiple victims.  Advocates worked with attorneys in the Minnesota Legislature to ensure the draft legislation was in the correct form including omitting a redundant provision in existing law, as was recommended by one of the attorneys working in the legislature.


Policy and Systems Change

Sometimes the advocacy goal is not a new or amended law, but rather improved implementation of a law, a shift in public policy, government policy, or even a shift in the way the government operates. Advocacy on the policy level may target change at a national level or at a local level. The former would likely target those making the law, whereas the latter would more likely target those responsible for enforcing the law. 

An example of advocacy at the national level is the Recommendations for Fighting Human Trafficking in the United States and Abroad Transition Report for the Next Presidential Administration by the Action Group to End Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery, 2008.  The Action Group is comprised of: the Alliance to Stop Slavery and End Trafficking, Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, Free the Slaves, International Justice Mission, Not For Sale Campaign, Polaris Project, Ricky Martin Foundation, Solidarity Center, and Vital Voices Global Partnership.  These organizations worked collaboratively to analyze the existing human trafficking policies of prevention, protection, and prosecution and made recommendations for improvements to the Department of Justice, the Department of State, USAID, the Department of Labor, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Defense.  These recommendations were made in November 2008 to President-Elect Barack Obama.

An example of advocacy at the local level is the effort to encourage law enforcement to adopt "probable cause" arrest policies. These policies enable police officers to make arrests for misdemeanor level domestic assaults without directly witnessing the crime. (See: Law Enforcement Reform Efforts, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights, 2009)

An example of advocacy to improve the implementation of laws is the St. Paul Blueprint for Safety, an inter-agency reform effort that focuses on the responsibilities of criminal justice agencies in protecting victims of domestic violence. The Blueprint includes specific guidance for every agency, including what victims need to be safe, what workers need from each other to do their jobs, and what is required by each worker and agency to hold an offender accountable. See: Implementation Section of this Knowledge Asset.