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The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women was the first international human rights instrument to deal exclusively with gender-based violence (GBV). Although non-binding on countries, the Declaration uniformly defines GBV as "any act. . . 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 deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life." Another international consensus statement, the Platform of Action from the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing), explains that GBV includes physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family or within the general community, including battering; sexual abuse of female children; dowry-related violence; marital and non-marital rape; traditional practices harmful to women; sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere; trafficking in women; and forced prostitution. Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State is also GBV.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is a treaty that requires countries to prevent and prohibit GBV. Although the Convention itself does not specifically address violence against women, the Convention?s monitoring body, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, has stated that GBV is gender-based discrimination prohibited by the Convention. The Committee?s General Recommendation (GR) 19 specifies that GBV is violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. GR 19 cautions States Parties to take all appropriate measures to eliminate gender-based violence, especially in the home.
Links to Reproductive Health
GBV places in jeopardy women?s lives by putting them at risk of sickness or death from physical and mental trauma. GBV often involves unprotected sex that is coerced through force or the threat of violence. Women suffering GBV are thus also exposed to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and unwanted pregnancy.
Human Rights Implicated
Relevant Human Rights Documents
A country that sanctions, permits, or does not deter GBV violates international human rights treaties the country has ratified. Such treaties could include CEDAW (mentioned above); The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. These three treaties have been signed by most countries and have bodies that review countries? compliance with their treaty obligations.
The Beijing Platform of Action provides
countries direction in how to comply with human rights treaties addressing
Key Human Rights Arguments You Could Use
Under international human rights law, states are required not only to avoid violating human rights, but also to prevent and respond to human rights abuses. This concept of state responsibility also obligates countries to prevent and punish rights violations by private actors. The following three doctrines must be considered when dealing with violence against women by private actors:
Advocates should call for countries? due diligence in investigating and punishing acts of violence; the existence of a national legal system criminalizing and providing sanctions for GBV is not sufficient. States must ?pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women? and ?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.? Victims of gender-based violence must also be assured adequate compensation from their abusers. In GR 19, the Committee for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (the CEDAW treaty body) recommends measures states should take to provide effective protection of women against violence. Similarly, The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (or the Convention of Belem do Para) provides State Parties a detailed list of duties to prevent and punish GBV.
If a country?s law enforcement discriminates against the victims in cases involving violence against women, then advocates may ask an international treaty body or court to hold the State liable for violating international human rights standards of equality. CEDAW requires State parties to ?pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women.? This obligation includes a duty to ?refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation? and ?to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.?
Depending on the severity and the circumstances, GBV can constitute torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment actionable under human rights treaties such as The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Some GBV involves the four critical elements that constitute torture: (a) it causes severe physical and or mental pain, it is (b) intentionally inflicted, (c) for specified purposes and (d) with some form of official involvement, whether active or passive. Rape, for example, is a form of torture, and courts have required used CAT to require countries to prevent and punish rape.
Legal Remedies You Could Try
Subjecting a country to international scrutiny is an effective way of pressing a country to modify laws and policies that permit human rights abuse. The international legal system offers advocates several ways to address GBV in their own countries.
This Topic was written by Genevieve Grabman, JD, MPH, in collaboration with Anne K. Eckman, PhD and POLICY's Gender and Human Rights Working Groups. Questions and comments should be directed to email@example.com.
 This analysis is taken from Radhika Coomaraswamy, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Combating Domestic Violence: Obligations Of The State, 6 Innocenti Digest 10 (2000), available at http://www.unicef-icdc.org/publications/pdf/digest6e.pdf.
 See Veláquez Rodríguez v. Honduras, 4 Inter. Am. Ct. HR, Ser. C, No.4, para. 167 (1988).
 Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Eleventh Session, General Recommendation 19, Official Records of the General Assembly, Forty-seventh Session, Supplement No. 38 (A/47/38), Ch.1.
 See Veláquez Rodríguez at 174 (requiring Honduras to ?take reasonable steps to prevent human rights violations and to use the means at its disposal to carry out a serious investigation of violations committed within this jurisdiction, to identify those responsible, to impose the appropriate punishment and to ensure the victim adequate compensation?).
 CEDAW, Art. 2.