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

National/ Regional plan of action to combat the maltreatment of widows

Last edited: February 27, 2011

This content is available in


See also National Action Plans and Strategies in the Implementation Section of this Module.

Drafters should require in legislation the development of a national plan of action to combat the maltreatment of widows.

UN Women’s Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women (2012) recommends that national action plans should outline a comprehensive, coherent, and sustained programme of activity that builds evidence and practice over time, including the following elements:

  • Cross-cutting actions to establish governance structures, ensure participation of civil society, strengthen law and policy, build capacity of workforces and organizations, and improve evidence, throughout all aspects of the Plan (see chapter 3.3);
  • A coordinated strategy for the primary prevention of violence against women (see chapter 3.4);
  • The establishment and ongoing improvement of an integrated service, police and judicial response to violence against women (see chapter 3.5);
  • A description of how the Plan will be implemented, including articulation of concrete goals, actions, timelines and implementing entities; links to gender equality machinery and policy; and designated funding sources (see chapter 3.6); and
  • Evaluation, monitoring and reporting of the above (see chapter 3.7).

Additional guidance can be found in the Beijing Platform for Action, which calls upon states to promulgate national plans of action. The Beijing Platform for Action recommends involving broad participation in the plan by national bodies that work on the advancement of women, the private sector, and other relevant institutions, including “legislative bodies, academic and research institutions, professional associations, trade unions, cooperatives, local community groups, non-governmental organizations, including women’s organizations and feminist groups, the media, religious groups, youth organizations and cultural groups, as well as financial and non-profit organizations” (Paras. 294-95). Drafters should ensure that consultation is carried out with widows and civil society and takes into account the current context. The platform also emphasizes the importance of involving actors at the highest political levels, ensuring appropriate staffing and protocols are in place within ministries, having stakeholders review their goals, programs, and procedures within the framework of the plan, and engaging the media and public education to promote awareness of the plan (Para. 296). The plan should also address the roles and responsibilities of actors charged with implementing the plan. In this case, drafters should seek to engage and charge a wide range of actors as machinery for implementation. Relevant institutions include police, prosecutors, the judiciary, social services, children’s and juvenile authorities, equal opportunities offices, crime victim units, education, public health, prison and probationary authorities, disability agencies, administrative boards, immigration bureaus, cultural, religious, immigrant and ethnic community liaison offices, welfare, housing, religious groups, customary and local officials, offices working on issues related to women and girls, and civil society.

Drafters should mainstream women and girls’ human rights across diverse agency policies. They should ensure that other national development plans and poverty reduction strategies incorporate the relevant human rights standards related to women and girls into such programming and budgets. (See: Theme: Addressing Gender Equality: A Persistent Challenge for Africa, Joint AU/ECA Conference of Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs, Aug. 25-29, 2008, p. 3)

Drafters should ensure that national plans and policies on ageing specifically address the needs of widows.  For example, Turkey’s National Action Plan on Ageing (2007) contains important data on widows and sets out specific social protection measures that address their needs. India’s National Policy on Senior Citizens (2011) notes that 50% of women over the age of 80 in India are widows and that they are in need of special attention. 

Tools for developing national action plans:

Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women, UN Women (2012).

The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing Guiding Framework and Toolkit Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing Guiding Framework and Toolkit is a guide for state and non-state actors who are engaged in a process of developing national plans and policies on ageing.


Promising Practice: Sweden has developed an Action Plan for Combating Men’s Violence against Women, Violence and Oppression in the Name of Honour and Violence in Same-sex Relationships. The plan focuses on six main strategies:

  • increased protection and support to victims of violence
  • greater emphasis on preventive work
  • higher standards and greater efficiency in the judicial system
  • better measures targeting violent offenders
  • increased cooperation and coordination
  • enhanced knowledge and competence

It outlines several measures pertaining to each of the six strategies. In developing the plan, the Swedish Government adopted an overarching policy approach that uses a victim-centered approach and draws upon research. Its policy “overrid[es] ministry and agency lines, with the perspective of those at risk as the point of departure and based on the knowledge available on the areas concerned.”


Promising Practice: In 2011, the Republic of Kiribati published a national Action Plan detailing the government’s dedication to ending all gender and sexual-based violence in Kiribati.  The five key Strategic Areas which form the Policy’s main intervention are as follows:

  • Develop National Leadership and Commitments to Eliminate Gender Based Violence
  • Strengthen Legal frameworks, Law enforcement and the Justice system
  • Build Institutional and Community Capacity
  • Strengthen & Improve Preventive, Protective, Social and Support services
  • Eliminate and Prevent GBV through Civic Engagement and Advocacy


Promising Practice: In 2011, the United Kingdom developed a comprehensive Action Plan – A Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls. The plan for preventing violence has four main goals, and lays out a framework for achieving each goal:

  • change the attitudes, behaviours and practices which contribute to Violence Against Women and Girls (“VAWG”) by means of appropriate and targeted challenge;
  • increase public understanding of VAWG by putting in place focused awareness-raising initiatives which include looking at its root causes, hidden nature and economic cost to society;
  • strengthen understanding of the unacceptability of VAWG by ensuring our frontline partners can intervene early to challenge acceptability; and
  • protect vulnerable children by working with frontline partners to make them aware of the tools and systems available to them to ensure the right first response.

The government rightly acknowledged that one of the main difficulties in combatting violence against women and girls is the ability to enforce national legislation and action plans on the local level.  To that end, they also pledged significant resources to “specialist” violence against women services.

The plan also discusses in detail the importance of first response to violence matters, provision of services to victims and the administration of justice to perpetrators.  Finally, the government commits to reviewing the plan of action on a regular basis, stated in the report as six months.


Promising Practice: In 2012, the Pacific Regional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security was established to develop an action plan regarding women, peace and security. The action plan covers the nations of Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The report acknowledges the widespread gender inequality issues that Pacific nations face, including the use of bride price and the prevalence of domestic violence. It addresses the general empowerment of women, and also specifically acknowledges the disproportionate effect that violent conflict and security threats have on the lives and livelihoods of women, including the displacement from land. One of the focus areas of the action plan is: the “Protection of women’s and girls’ human rights during humanitarian crises and in transitional and post-­conflict contexts.”