Monitoring and Enforcement of Laws

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Monitoring and Enforcement of Laws

Thank you to all the Conversation Leaders for their time and commitment to taking part in this important conversation. Please take a moment to learn about the conversation leaders by clicking on their profile photos.

Below is a list of questions to serve as a starting framework for the discussion in this thread:

  • What are the challenges and obstacles in the monitoring and enforcement of laws preventing violence against women (VAW)?
    • What are the solutions to these challenges and obstacles?
  • What are effective methods of monitoring and enforcing laws preventing VAW?
    • Share stories of success
  • What is the role of governments in monitoring and enforcing laws preventing VAW?
    • What role do/should civil society play in holding governments accountable?
  • What is the role of civil society in monitoring and enforcing laws preventing VAW?
    • What role do/should governments play in supporting civil society efforts?
Enforcement of laws is

Enforcement of laws is challenging in many ways:

  • lack of clarity in the law
  • lack of knowledge of the law
  • influence of cultural/societal factors/discrimination
  • lack of resources both in terms of legal structures and accessibility by all
  • poverty/literacy
  • no social support mechanisms
  • any many others

Civil society and the media are key to monitoring implementation of laws, but it is the government's ultimate responsibility to do so.  So often political will is lacking as well as a true understanding of sex equality.  There's also little thought as to how laws are accessed - the law should envisage the survivor and be drafted from the perspective of a person trying to access justice.  That means also in relation to VAW looking at the specificities of discrimination against women and where that discrimination intersects with other factors such as disability or minority status.

Monitoring and enforcement of laws

Hello everyone,

The monitoring of laws in a local or national level is an important step in the process of building democracy and justice, and for this is important the "enforcement" to guarantee a correct implementation of the rights. So, how do we monitor and enforce laws to reduce discrimination and violence against women?

In our experience, it's trascendental to include the mechanisms of monitoring in the text of the law. Par example, in Honduras the first mechanism of monitoring this kind of law was the "Interinstitutional Committee for the Implementation of the Law Against Domestic Violence".- This space is integrated by representatives of all the gubernamental offices related to the law and also women´s and feminists organizations,and here you can see the role of the civil society and government. This committee has a monthly meeting and receive feedback from all the citizens using the law in court, this committee has a technical team and all the info is worked from there, but the political decisions are taken in the committee. Also, for the enforcement of the law is important include a line of budget so you can ensure that politicians are making a real commitment. If you are creating new gubernamental structures or reforming the current ones, you will need money and if you don't include this lines in the law then you will have to fight again for this.

And then, there is the regional and global mechanisms of monitoring human rights, but this is other story. Let's speak about it in other post!

Enjoy the conversation!


Learning from Cases of Girls' Rights

One group that tends to face specific challenges around enforcemnt of law is adolescent girls.  Once their bodies begin to develop, a time when they are no longer a chlld but not yet a women, legal systems, communites and men often treat them differently.  They can subjected to female genital mutilaition, often in preparation for chlid, early or forced marriage, they are made pregnant at a time when their bodies are not fully developed and are often taken out of school.  Sexual violence and exploitation often become the norm.  From taking strategic litiagion cases invovling adolescent girls, we have learned: that girls need knowledge of their rights before they can access them; girls need a supportive environment where they can voice thier concerns/violations of rights without frear of stigma or disbelief; girls who are victims of sexual violence, in particular, need assurance that they will not be re-victimized through the legal system; girls need assurance that access to justice will be swift so that they can continue wiht their lives; and, girls need support services that are girl centered and senstive to their specific needs with a focus on empowering the vicitim and giving her agency and the ability to make her own decisions.


This is a great point and

This is a great point and example from EqualityNow!  Systemic responses to violence against women must continually be informed and revised based-on and in conjunction with the survivors. It is critical to involve NGOs that serve and provide direct services to survivors in the monitoring of enforcement. No protocol or policy should be established without the input of these NGOs and survivors, nor should any changes be made without that same input. Monitoring is critical to ensuring that laws are actually working for women and girls who experience violence.

Girls advocating for and empowering themselves

Thank you for raising this important aspect of the vulnerability of girls. Here is a terrific example of a young Syrian girl in a refugee camp in Jordan advocating against child marriage. There are Jordanian laws to assist in protecting girls' riights and this example provides one example where such intervention proved successful.

Do others have examples they can share?. 

Members tagged in this comment: 
Monitoring States - International Mechanisms

There is a great example from Equality Now! to speak about the institutional tolerance of VAW and it brings me to the question of Brent about what is the role of governments in monitoring and enforcing laws preventing VAW?

  • States have the obligations to guarantee human rights: and from this point is important to take action in the mechanisms of implementation of laws. As Amy said, is important to have protocols and the civil society can make a great work by giving techinical advising to stakeholders in the process.
  • This obligations have a period report per country: and by this all the States wants to have a high score in the acomplishment of human rights. In Honduras, we have an specific office of human rights which is the one going to Switzerland to present the reports about this issue. Currently, in october we have the CEDAW report and we are presenting a shadow report to the UN. Is important to prepare a good report, but also, to prepare a good political incidence strategy in the international level, so at this kinds of spaces we can win some recomendations to our States and then make monitoring of it.
  • Recomendations to States helps us to speak about issues that no one wants to speak about, but when it comes from international community then they have to, abortion par example. So, is important to get ready for this kind of events in the universal system of human rights.
What is role of civil society in monitoring and enforcing laws

The law can be a powerful tool in the hands of civil society.  Civil society can use the law to demand their rights, hold their governments and duty bearers accountable, challenge violations in criminal and civil courts.  More than a tool for prosecution, the law can be a tool for prevention.  Civil society can advocate around the law and use it as a starting point for conversations within communites, including among those the law is intended to protect as well as those whose behaviour it is intended to change;  within government, broadly across sectors; and within the legal system (prosecutors, judges and lawyers), law enforcement and protection services.  Civil society can raise public awareness of the law and the surrounding issues.  Civil society can use the law as an accelerator for social change and demand enforcement where there is impunity.  A law alone can do little to effect change - it must be utilized.


2030 Agenda and Violence Against Women

When we talk about monitoring and enforcement, we always look at commitments made by the state by signing and ratifying international conventions and frameworks. The 2030 Agenda is now the major development agenda of our time and feminist and women's rights organizations have to assess our wins and losses during the negotiations that led to this agenda and see how best we can work together.

ARROW has provided such analysis time and again and here are two of our key publications on this.

Gender, SRHR, and the Post-2015 Agenda

SRHR in the 2030 Agenda: Looking Back, Moving Forward

How did the language on Violence Against Women get negotiated?

Targets referring to discrimination and violence against women (VAW) have the strongest language (5.1 and 5.2). Their language is actually very ambitious, because they aspire to eradicate VAW as well as all forms of discrimination against women.

It must be acknowledged that Member States negotiated two strong targets in Goal 5 (the eradication of all forms of discrimination on women and VAW) in exchange for a weakened content of the SRHR agenda: it was a gain for a very sad loss. It has to be said as well that there is no possible way discrimination against women or VAW will be eradicated without the full recognition and guarantee of SRHR, and therefore the interlinkages will make the difference when trying to advocate for a process of implementation that is truly transformational. 


Exploring Interlinkages of VAW with SRHR, Public Health, etc.
The importance of regarding gender-based violence as women’s rights and sexual rights issue cannot be underscored enough. We also believe that framing gender-based violence as a public health issue and a reproductive health issue may help to expand not only the reporting mechanisms, but also the intervention mechanisms. Thus enable an intertwining and strengthening of perspectives and frameworks by the different sectors working on the issue.
Despite the substantial body of evidence that testifies to the fact that gender-based violence—physical, sexual and psychological—is a significant cause of ill-health and death among women, gender-based violence has not yet been adequately addressed as a public health issue at the national level in many countries.
Gender-based violence continues to be endemic and constitutes an extreme violation of women and girls’ human rights and rights to bodily integrity. These include sexual violence, marital rape, sexual harassment, traditional practices that are harmful to women and trafficking as well as new and emerging forms such as harassment via email and mobile phones. In analysing violence as a manifestation of unequal power relations, women are not the only group that suffers; violence also occurs against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.
Failure of enforcement at all levels

I would like to circle back to a comment Jacqui made at the beginning of this conversation about lack of political will in enforcing laws, as I believe this is the crux of the matter. The organization I work for focuses on direct representation of survivors of sexual violence in the United States, specifically in the city of Chicago. The issue we see time and time again is the failure of the criminal justice system to take reports of sexual violence seriously, instead pushing survivors into seeking two-year civil protective orders that are then never enforced when there is a violation.

It has become clear over the last few years that the reason for this lack of criminal justice response lies in the lack of political will to give this issue the priority it deserves. With gun and gang violence taking centerstage both in the media and in policy, Chicago's mayor and his administration push the police to focus solely on these issues, at the expense of all other crime. However, research continues to show that women and girls, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, are much more likely to suffer sexual violence and its long-lasting effects than gun violence. Unless priority shifts significantly, turning even a small percentage of political will toward addressing sexual violence, we feel the current state of affairs will continue indefinitely.

Has anyone seen effective models of shifting political will or getting VAW placed on a political agenda? What did this look like and what steps need to be taken to emulate its success?

Hi Christine

Hi Christine

I was just at a workshop when we touched upon how lack of political will affects lack of access to justice on so much violence and discrimination against women and girls in the world.  Public mobilisation/media attention can help.  For example we did see public outrage around the Stanford sentencing which we should build on.  Here in London, various advocates have been working very closely with the media to present female genital mutilation in an appropriate, survivor-sensitive way and this has set a very good tone which runs in parallel to strong engagement with government about taking more action.  It's not just the political will that has to change of course, but public attitudes in general (the media can help here too!), away from victim-blaming and seeing the crime for what it is - violence against women.  We need to work to get more women at all levels of power and decision-making in all walks of life and to have diverse and intersectional experiences represented so each can be responded to appropriately rather from the current very narrow perspectives we have.