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

General considerations for imposing penalties or sanctions

Last edited: January 26, 2011

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  • Legislation should provide a clear definition of the harmful practice it is addressing. 
  • Legislation should “provide for effective sanctions against anyone who condones or participates in any ‘harmful practice’, including religious, customary, community and tribal leaders and health professionals, social services providers and education system employees.” See: Good Practices on Harmful Practices Expert Group Report
  • Legislation should include sanctions against religious, customary and tribal leaders if they promote or endorse the perpetration of a harmful practice on a women or girl. 
  • Legislation should include sanctions against medical professionals who have become perpetrators of harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and pre-natal sex selection. 
  • Legislation should penalize parents or family members who perpetrate or aid and abet the harmful practice. 
  • Legislation should provide for penalties of prison time, fines and education. 
  • Legislation should require that sentencing guidelines reflect the gravity of the offense. 
  • Legislation should provide for enhanced penalties if a victim dies as a result of a harmful practice. The perpetrator should be prosecuted under the murder statutes of the penal code. The specific law on the harmful practice should provide a term of imprisonment and fine which is no less severe than what is provided under the murder statutes of the general penal code, with the exception of capital punishment. 
  • Legislation should provide for the principle of extraterritoriality in protecting women and girls from harmful practices that are committed abroad, and allow for extradition of perpetrators of harmful practices. For example, Sweden not only prohibits female genital mutilation within its borders, but also punishes any person residing in Sweden who participates in the female genital mutilation in another country that allows the practice. (See: Sweden: Act (1982:316) on Prohibiting the Genital Mutilation (“Circumcision”) of Women, sec. 3:

Anyone who has committed an offence under the terms of this Act is to be sentenced in a Swedish court of law, even if Chapter 2 Sections 2 or 3 of the Penal Code(describing the limited circumstances in which Swedish courts can prosecute, under Swedish law, crimes committed outside the Realm of Sweden) … are inapplicable.