Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women
|The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women|
|Ratified||20 December 1993|
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (abbreviated as DEVAW) was adopted without vote by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 48/104 of 20 December 1993. Contained within it is the recognition of "the urgent need for the universal application to women of the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human beings". The resolution is often seen as complementary to, and a strengthening of, the work of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. It recalls and embodies the same rights and principles as those enshrined in such instruments as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 1 and 2 provide the most widely used definition of violence against women. As a consequence of the resolution, in 1999, the General Assembly, led by the representative from the Dominican Republic, designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The international recognition that women have a right to a life free from violence is a recent one. Historically, their struggles with violence, and with the impunity that often protects the perpetrators, is linked with their fight to overcome discrimination. Since its founding the United Nations has concerned itself with the advancement of women's rights, but did not specifically target the high rates of female targeted violence until 1993. One of the aims of the resolution was to overturn the prevailing governmental stance that violence against women was a private, domestic matter not requiring state intervention. To mark International Women's Day on 8 March 1993, General Secretary, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, issued a statement in preparation of the declaration explicitly outlining the UN's role in the 'promotion' and 'protection' of women's rights:
"The struggle for women's rights, and the task of creating a new United Nations, able to promote peace and the values which nurture and sustain it, are one and the same. Today - more than ever - the cause of women is the cause of all humanity."
Definition of Violence Against Women
Articles 1 and 2 of the resolution provide the most widely used definition of violence against women.
For the purposes of this Declaration, the term "violence against women" means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:
- (a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
- (b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
- (c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
As a consequence of the declaration on 4 March 1994, the Commission on Human Rights adopted Resolution 1994/45 in which it decided to appoint Radhika Coomaraswamy as its first United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, including its causes and consequences. The Special Rapporteur has a mandate to collect and analyse data from governments, treaty bodies, specialized agencies, NGOs, and other interested parties, and to respond effectively to such information. Furthermore, they also have a role in making recommendations on an international, national and regional level, as well as liaising with other Special Rapporteurs, special representatives, working groups and independent experts of the Commission on Human Rights.
Many advocates of Women's Rights as Human Rights have expressed concerns that much of the ground gained by the declaration has been threatened by the rise of more conservative forces within the international community. In March 2003, during a meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women the delegate from Iran objected to the inclusion of a paragraph that called on governments to "condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition, or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence against Women." Representatives from Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan and US also raised objections; making it the first ever diplomatic failure at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Each year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. Human Rights organisations such as Center for Women's Global Leadership, Unifem, Women Won't Wait, Women for a Change, Women's Aid, and other groups join together to speak out against gender violence and to promote the rights and principles of the declaration.
On 10 April 2009, Amnesty International held a demonstration in Narayanghat, Nepal, to highlight the plight of women's rights activists after the Nepalese state failed to protect two activists from violent attacks and, finally, their murder. Despite ratifying the declaration, Nepal had failed to abide by Article 4-c which asserts the clear obligation of states to:
"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."
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