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
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Legislation to mandate adoption of national plan and strategy to eliminate harmful practices

Last edited: January 26, 2011

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Legislation to end harmful practices will be more effective if the following elements are included in the drafting of new laws:

  • Legislation should mandate adoption of a national plan and strategy to eliminate harmful practices.
  • Legislation should ratify international and regional human rights instruments.
  • Legislation should review and ensure constitutional protection provisions.
  • Legislation should include provisions that call for the harmonization of all existing laws, including customary and religious laws, policies, and legislation to accord with the new legislation on harmful practices. When laws conflict, priority should be given to the protection from violence and offender accountability afforded in the new legislation against harmful practices. 

Legislation to end harmful practices will be more effective if the elements in this section are included in the drafting of new laws:

Legislation to eliminate violence against women, including harmful practices, “is most likely to be implemented effectively when accompanied by a comprehensive policy framework which includes a national action plan or strategy.” (UN Handbook 3.2.1)   

  • Where a current national action plan or strategy on harmful practices does not exist, legislation on harmful practices should require that the state draft, adopt and implement a national plan and strategy to eliminate harmful practices. 
  • The national plan and strategy should:
    • contain measurable benchmarks and indicators of progress made towards eliminating harmful practices; and
    • create a framework for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the implementation of the legislation. 
  • Where a national action plan addressing harmful practices already exists, legislation should reference the national action plan as providing the framework for the comprehensive and coordinated implementation of the legislation. 
  • A national plan should include the ratification of international and regional human rights instruments.
  • Legislation should establish the supremacy of the constitution and national law over customary or religious law.
  • A national plan or strategy should emphasize accurate information that will be presented in all applicable local languages and will also be presented to the non-literate. 
  • A national plan should highlight the importance of a coordinated community response to the elimination of harmful practices with communication and collaboration between agencies to set and meet concrete goals. 
  • Legislation should require that child protection services are incorporated into the national plan and strategy. 
  • Legislation should require adequate funding to implement the national plan and strategy.

National Action:

(1) A clear expression of political will and an undertaking to put an end to traditional practices affecting the health of women and girl children, particularly female genital mutilation, are required on the part of the Governments of countries concerned.

(2) International instruments, including those relating to the protection of women and children, should be ratified and effectively implemented.

(3) Legislation prohibiting practices harmful to the health of women and children, particularly female genital mutilation, should be drafted.

(4) Governmental bodies should be created to implement the official policy adopted.

(5) Governmental agencies established to ensure the implementation of the Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women adopted at Nairobi in 1985 by the World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace should be involved in activities undertaken to combat harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women and children.

(6) National committees should be established to combat traditional practices affecting the health of young girls and women, particularly female genital mutilation, and governmental financial assistance provided to those committees.

(7) A survey and review of school curricula and textbooks should be undertaken with a view to eliminating prejudices against women.

(8) Courses on the ill effects of female genital mutilation and other traditional practices should be included in training programmes for medical and paramedical personnel.

(9) Instruction on the harmful effects of such practices should be included in health and sex education programmes.

(10) Topics relating to traditional practices affecting the health of women and children should be introduced into functional literacy campaigns.

(11) Audiovisual programmes (sketches, plays, etc.) should be prepared and articles published in the press on traditional practices adversely affecting the health of young girls and children, particularly female genital mutilation.

(12) Cooperation with religious institutions and their leaders and with traditional authorities is required in order to eliminate traditional practices such as female genital mutilation which are harmful to the health of women and children.

(13) All persons able to contribute directly or indirectly to the elimination of such practices should be mobilized.

  • Uruguay - The Uruguayan Law for the Prevention, Early Detection, Attention to, and Eradication of Domestic Violence (2002) mandates the design of a national plan against domestic violence. (See:  UN Handbook 3.2.1.)
  • Kenya - Article 46 of the Kenyan Sexual Offences Act (2006) requires that the relevant Minister prepare a national policy framework to guide the implementation and administration of the Act, and review the policy framework at least once every five years.

46. The Minister shall -

(a) prepare a national policy framework to guide the implementation, and administration of this Act in order to secure acceptable and uniform treatment of all sexual related offences including treatment and care of victims of sexual offences;

(b) review the policy framework at least once every five years; and

(c) when required, amend the policy framework.

  • MexicoThe Mexican Law on Access of Women to a Life Free of Violence (2007) prioritizes the inclusion of measures and policies to address violence against women in the National Development Plan and obliges the Government to formulate and implement a national policy to prevent, address, sanction and eradicate violence against women.

Section 6 of India’s National Plan of Action for Children 2005 addresses the Rights of the Girl Child. It specifically identifies as goals the end of sex selection, female feticide and infanticide, as well as child marriages. Its objectives include addressing the root causes of harmful practices such as son preference and the elimination of harmful practices that result from son preference such as pre-natal sex selection, female feticide and infanticide. Strategies to reach these goals include advocacy through community and religious leaders as well as government officials, and enforcement of laws that protect the equal rights of the girl child.



6.1.1 Assurance of equality of status for girl child as an individual and a citizen in her own right through promotion of special opportunities for her growth and development.

6.1.2 To ensure survival, development and protection of the girl child and to create an environment wherein she lives a life of dignity with full opportunity for choice and development.

6.1.3 To stop sex selection, female foeticide and infanticide.

6.1.4 To eliminate child marriages.

6.1.5 To ensure the girl child’s security and protect her from abuse, exploitation, victimization and all other forms of violence.

6.1.6 To protect the girl child from deprivation and neglect and to ensure the girl child equal share of care and resources in the home and the community and equal access to services.

6.1.7 To take measures to protect girl children from any treatment which undermines their self esteem and causes their exclusion from social mainstream and also to break down persistent gender stereotype.

6.1.8 To eliminate all obstacles that prevent girls from full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom including equal rights in succession and inheritance.

6.1.9 To ensure equal opportunity for free and compulsory elementary education to all girls.


6.2.1 To remove all social and familial biases and discrimination against the girl child throughout her lifecycle.

6.2.2 To ensure protection and promotion of rights of the girl child with specific attention to age specific needs.

6.2.3 To ensure that the girl child receives equal access to learning opportunities at all ages enabling her to develop a positive self-image as a full participant in society.

6.2.4 To take measures to enable girls to develop their full potential through equal access to education and training, nutrition, physical and mental health care and social opportunities.

6.2.5 To address the root causes of son preference and resultant discrimination against the girl child.

6.2.6 To eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl child which result in harmful and unethical practices, like pre-natal sex selection, female foeticide and infanticide, gender stereotypes, discrimination in care and food allocation, socialization, etc.

6.2.7 To take steps through law, policy and programmes to eliminate all forms of violence against the girl child; and also to provide legal, medical, social and psychological support services and programmes to assist girls who have been subjected to violence.

6.2.8 To take measures to ensure that girls with disabilities have full and equal access to all services, including support to meet their special needs.

6.2.9 To create and sustain a gender sensitive education system to ensure equal education and learning opportunities to girls with the objective of ensuring gender parity at all stages of education.


The above objectives will be achieved by the following strategies: -

6.3.1 Advocacy through social, political and religious leaders and through all government programmes to change attitudes and practices discriminatory towards girls.

6.3.2 Enforce laws that protect the equal rights of the girl child, like Child Marriage Restraint Act, PNDT Act, ITPA, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Child) Act, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act etc. by generating social support and through other necessary action.

6.3.3 Encourage and support non–government organizations and community based organizations to promote positive attitudes and practices towards the girl child.

6.3.4 Take steps to ensure all girls are enrolled in schools and create an environment for their retention and learning achievement.

6.3.5 Take affirmative action for removal of gender discrimination against the girl child and inform and sensitize society about the traditional and customary practices which are harmful to the girl child.

6.3.6. Monitor all clinics and other health centers to prevent sex selection and female foeticide; further, register and monitor all pregnancies to prevent selective abortion.

6.3.7. Promote gender sensitization among all those in authority, including the judiciary, police and local authorities and members of the general public.

6.3.8. Develop and promote day care services in order to relieve the girl child from sibling care responsibilities.This will enable her to access opportunities for her own development.

6.3.9. Take measures to ensure that all girl children receive holistic health care and protection including preventive and curative services covering their health at all ages, including reproductive health information and services.

6.3.10. Address nutrition discrimination against the girl child through sensitization, awareness and outreach programmes to ensure that she has equal access to food allocation within the home.

6.3.11. Take preventive, protective and rehabilitative measures to address the greater vulnerability of the girl child to economic and sexual exploitation.

According to the introduction of the Ethiopian National Policy on Women:

The Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia has declared its unequivocal commitment to the development of women with the announcement of the National Policy on Women in 1993 (referred to as the Women's Policy), and the promulgation of the new Constitution in 1994.

The Policy recognizes harmful practices as a factor in the continued oppression of women and girls: 

One of the contributing factors for the subordinate position of Ethiopian women is the existence of harmful traditional practices that puts women in subordinate position and militates against there equal growth and development. Thus more awareness and sensitization programs in different issues on gender should be addressed and advocacy at different level both at the policy and grass roots is so important and for this reason using different media and strategy through formal and informal methodology is of paramount importance. Unified effort of concerned groups is believed to make an impact and bring the desired attitudinal change. Already advocacy strategy has been designed to be implemented by both government, NGO's and women groups on issues such as FGM and other HTP's and on violence against women including domestic violence.

In addition to advocacy, the Policy addresses the need for capacity building, organization, and participation of various governmental and non-governmental sectors to change attitudes, knowledge and practices.  The Policy also focuses on specific policy and legislative changes that impact the elimination of harmful practices: 

The national constitution has been developed to protect the fundamental rights of women and their interest of access and control over resource, about equality among women and men in marriage. It recognizes the history of inequality and discrimination suffered by women in Ethiopia. Ethiopian women are entitled to remedial and affirmative measures to enable them to compete and participate on the basis of equality with men in political, economic and social life. Women have the right to protection by the state from harmful customs and practices that press them or cause bodily or mental harm. They have equal right to employment, promotion, affirmative action is undertaken to improve the employment status of women through the revision of the civil service codes and existing labour laws. (Emphasis Added). 

Women's access to and control over productive resources including access to farm land, water and forest resources, new policies and program have been formulated and adopted with increased gender consideration and equity.

Thus as regard to property and land rights the constitution states that women shall acquire, administer control, use and transfer of property. With respect to use, transfer, administration and control of land women have as equal access as men to benefit this. Employment, promotion and transfer of pension are explicitly put in the constitution.

Access to family planning education information and capacity building activities are provided in order to prevent harm during pregnancy and child birth and safe guard the mother health.

Concerning maternity leave the constitution also affirms that maternity leave will be provided with full pay and the duration is determined taking into account the nature of the work, the health of the mother and the well being of the child and family.