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

Background research

Last edited: October 30, 2010

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The following elements are proposed for NGOs which are conducting monitoring studies independent from governmental offices. Many NGOs, however, utilize government statistics offices for monitoring reports to determine the prevalence of violence against women and girls, reporting rates of crimes of violence against women and girls, and other relevant factors.

Background research

Review of international treaties
As part of background research before a monitoring report is commenced, monitors should determine if the state is a party to important treaties, declarations, and conventions which recognize a woman’s fundamental right to be free from violence. As noted in Domestic Violence in Brazil:  Examining Obstacles and Approaches to Promote Legislative Reform (2010) “International human rights laws and principles can provide an important source of inspiration and a rallying point for social change.” p. 69. For example:

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) outlines an individual’s fundamental right to be free from violence. In Article 3, it provides that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”  In Article 5 it states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In Article 8 it states that “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) also provides that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article 7 It states that states shall provide an effective and adequate remedy for acts violating fundamental rights guaranteed by constitution or by law. Article 2

States parties should take all legal and other measures that are necessary to provide effective protection of women against gender-based violence, including, inter alia:

(i) Effective legal measures, including penal sanctions, civil remedies and compensatory provisions to protect women against all kinds of violence, including inter alia violence and abuse in the family, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace; 24 (t) (i)

 States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination. States should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women and, to this end, should…

(c)Exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons;

(d)Develop penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to punish and redress the wrongs caused to women who are subjected to violence; women who are subjected to violence should be provided with access to the mechanisms of justice and, as provided for by national legislation, to just and effective remedies for the harm that they have suffered; States should also inform women of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms; Article 4

  • If there are relevant regional conventions, monitors should determine if these have also been ratified by the state.


Example: The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) is the first legally-binding multi-country human rights instrument in Europe on violence against women and domestic violence. It obliges states to reform laws, implement practical measures to aid victims, and, importantly, allocate adequate resources for an effective response to violence against women and domestic violence. In addition states must involve all relevant actors in the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, including national parliaments and institutions and non-governmental and civil society organizations. The Convention will enter into force once ten countries have ratified it. Eight of the ten ratifying countries must be Council of Europe member states. An ongoing list of signatures and ratifications can be found here. Available here in 28 languages.


Review of country law and policy
Monitors should research all country laws and policies relevant to the monitoring project. A summary of these laws and policies should be included in the monitoring report.

For example, see: Domestic Violence Legislation and its Implementation: An Analysis for ASEAN Countries Based on International Standards and Good Practices (2009) which provides a detailed analysis of domestic violence legislation in the ASEAN region.

In another example, Monitoring of Court Proceedings (2010) by the Macedonia Women’s Rights Centre-Shelter Centre contains a detailed introduction to the legal system of the Republic of Macedonia.

In 2009, the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children of Australia published Domestic Violence Laws in Australia, a detailed comparative analysis of all state, territory, and New Zealand domestic violence laws. The study compared the definition of domestic violence used by each entity, and analyzed the laws on orders for protection in each location, among other issues. It also noted potential areas of conflict between order for protection laws and the federal Family Law Act (1975).

To prepare for advocating for a new or amended law that addresses violence against women and girls, see the Ongoing Monitoring and Follow-up section of this Knowledge Asset on Advocating for New Laws or the Reform of Existing Laws on Violence against Women and Girls.

Monitors should consider the following in conducting background research:

  • The constitutions of many countries may also contain provisions which support a woman’s right to be free of violence and the duty of a government to provide protection, prosecution and prevention from violence for its citizens.
  • Background research should also address the existence of state legislation on violence against women in the criminal laws, the criminal procedure code, and civil laws.
  • Research into the civil law system should include the family law (including divorce, maintenance or alimony, and child custody provisions), inheritance laws, the rights of minorities, laws regarding property ownershi, and laws regarding religious freedoms. All of these may impact the issue of violence against women and girls.
  • Monitors should also research applicable administrative procedures relevant to cases of violence against women.
  • Monitors should research the organization of the legal system. They should outline the structure of the courts and determine which ones handle cases on the type of violence against women which is to be monitored. Monitors should determine if the courts have the power to strike down unconstitutional laws.
  • Monitors should determine if an action plan on implementing laws on violence against women is in force, and if ministries in a state are working to implement these provisions.
  • Research should include the existence of national campaigns to raise awareness on the specific type of violence against women which is being monitored, and whether the campaign has been integrated into the national educational curriculum.
  • Monitors should determine the existence of concrete time frames and adequate funding for implementation of laws and policies.

Develop contacts around the country
Monitors should work with local partner organizations to develop a wide network of women’s advocacy, human rights groups, and other NGOs which can provide information and assistance in the research.  NGOs can provide insight into the problem being researched and into the way individuals and groups relate to each other in different regions of the country. They can often assist in identifying the appropriate people to interview and in arranging the interviews.  They will also often help with the logistics in planning an investigative mission when the monitors are from outside a community.

Research literature, folklore, and poetry
Literature, folklore, and poetry often reflect societal attitudes about women and their roles.  They may also reflect attitudes about violence against women and its acceptance as normal behavior.