recent years some countries have taken significant steps towards improving
laws relating to violence against women.
July 1991, Mexico revised its rape law in several important ways. A
provision was eliminated that allowed a man who rapes a minor to avoid
prosecution if he agrees to marry her.
Now judges are required to hand down a decision regarding access to
an abortion within five working days.
9 June 1994, the Organisation of American States adopted the
Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence
against Women (also called Convention of Belem do Para), a new
international instrument that recognises all gender-based violence as an
abuse of human rights.
This Convention provides an individual right of petition and a
right for non-governmental organisations to lodge complaints with the
Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
Australia, a National Committee on Violence against Women was established
to co-ordinate the development of policy, legislation and law enforcement
at the national level as well as community education on violence against
1991, the Government of Canada announced a new four-year Family Violence
Initiative intended to mobilise community action, strengthen Canada's
legal framework, establish services on Indian reservations and in Inuit
communities, develop resources to help victims and stop offenders, and
provide housing for abused women and children.
Turkey, a Ministry of State for Women was established, whose main goals
are, among others, to promote women's rights and strengthen their role in
economic, social, political and cultural life.
Legal measures are being adopted towards the elimination of
violence against women.
The establishment of special courts to deal with violence is
Psychological treatment for abused women is also planned, along
with the establishment of women's shelters around the country.
Specially trained female police officers could provide assistance
to victims of violence.
Burkina Faso, a strong advertising campaign by the Government as well as
television and radio programmes on the unhealthy practice of genital
mutilation were launched to educate and raise public awareness about the
dangerous consequences of such an "operation".
A National Anti-Excision Committee was established in 1990 by the
present head of State.
Today, the practice of genital mutilation has been eliminated in
some villages of Burkina Faso.
In others, there has been an incredible drop in the number of girls
excised: only 10 per cent of the girls are excised compared to 100 per
cent 10 years ago.
countries have introduced police units specially trained for dealing with
In Brazil specific police stations have been designated to deal
with women's issues, including domestic violence.
These police stations are staffed entirely by women.
THAT LAWS ARE OBEYED
examples illustrate some steps taken at the national level towards the
eradication of violence against women.
Combating and eradicating this scourge require enhanced and
concerted efforts to protect women at the local, national and
have tended to adopt a passive attitude when confronted by cases of
violations of women's rights by private actors.
Most laws fail to protect victims or to punish perpetrators.
Passing laws to criminalise violence against women is an important
way to redefine the limits of acceptable behaviour.
should ensure that national legislation, once adopted, does not go
State responsibility is clearly underlined in Article 4 of the
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which stipulates
should 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."
approach designed to combat violence must be twofold, addressing the root
causes of the problem and treating its manifestations.
Society at large, including judges and police officers, must be
educated to change the social attitudes and beliefs that encourage male
meaning of gender and sexuality and the balance of power between women and
men at all levels of society must be reviewed.
Combating violence against women requires challenging the way that
gender roles and power relations are articulated in society.
In many countries women have a low status.
They are considered as inferior and there is a strong belief that
men are superior to them and even own them.
people's attitude and mentality towards women will take a long time - at
least a generation, many believe, and perhaps longer.
Nevertheless, raising awareness of the issue of violence against
women, and educating boys and men to view women as valuable partners in
life, in the development of a society and in the attainment of peace are
just as important as taking legal steps to protect women's human rights.
is also important in order to prevent violence that non-violent means be
used to resolve conflict between all members of society.
Breaking the cycle of abuse will require concerted collaboration
and action between governmental and non-governmental actors, including
educators, health-care authorities, legislators, the judiciary and the