The Madrid Declaration

10th June 1995

We, the signatories, of the Madrid Declaration, believe that: women world-wide are subjected to many forms of violence in spite of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many other international conventions and treaties.  Women are affected by violence in war, in the workplace and at home.  Gender related violence, defined as an assault against the physical and psychological integrity of a person, is based on, and perpetuates the unequal power relations between men and women. 

Women are exploited at work, often without access to trade unions; they are forced into prostitution, harassed, beaten or raped.  In many parts of the world, violence against women has become a deliberate strategy of war. 

Violence against women is : 

  • A crime and a violation of human rights. 

  • An obstacle to social, economic and political development. 

  • An obstacle to peace and democracy. 

  • A challenge to us all. 

Violence against women destroys human dignity, is a block to development and diminishes both men and women.  Men have used and abused positions of power to violate women's human rights.  Now, men in all walks of life must organise to transform their attitudes and combat all forms violence against women. 

Women have formulated political strategies of resistance and organised to bring the issue of violence against women into the public area. 

The Madrid Declaration aims to condemn all forms of violence against women and establish values, behaviour and commitments which could lead to the eradication of violence against women and to action based on the experience and strategies of the women's movement.  Specific emphasis is placed on the involvement and awareness of men. 

SOLIDAR (International Workers Aid) and all signatories of The Madrid Declaration call upon the relevant international organisations, governments, national and local institutions and community based organisations to commit themselves to the following recommendations : 

To ratify or reaffirm without reservation, and implement all UN conventions and declarations relating to the protection and promotion of women's human rights and to provide adequate and additional resources to fulfill their mandates.  These include among others the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Geneva Convention of 1949 and additional protocols. 

To provide resources to combat the root causes of violence at all levels by promoting the understanding and dissemination of information on the causes and consequences of violence against women; programmes and services to alleviate violence against women, including the protection of victims and rehabilitation of perpetrators and develop strategies to prevent gender related violence.  Special attention should be given to changing the attitudes and practice of men. 

To recognise women as political actors by promoting women at all decision making levels locally, nationally and internationally, supporting their self-determination and their political struggles. 

To place special emphasis and resources on prevention through formal and informal education. 

To bring pressure to bear on the mass media not to glorify violence and sexist images. 

Domestic Violence 
The privacy of the home, ethnic and cultural customs and all types of religious fundamentalism must not be allowed to act as excuses behind which the human rights of half the world's population are violated with impunity.  Domestic violence is a public, not a private issue. 

To adopt and strengthen the necessary legal measures to protect women from all forms of domestic and social violence, including physical, mental abuse, harassment and rape. 

To provide the necessary resources to ensure effective justice for women survivors of violence. 

To train and raise the awareness of public servants and officials at work at all levels, on the issues of violence against women and to ensure that women survivors receive adequate attention, support and protection. 

To promote discussion at national and international levels on the means to confront domestic violence. 

The introduction of neo-liberal economic strategies and Structural Adjustment Programmes have worsened the conditions of women due to the reduction of public spending on health, education and social welfare.  Due to women's productive and reproductive roles, this leaves them more vulnerable to violence. 

A further consequence of the globalisation and deregulation of the economy is the gross exploitation of workers, especially women, in the international labour market.  This is particularly evident in Export Processing zones.  Exploitation and violence implicit in the trafficking of women and increased migration must be factors of special concern for labour and trade union movements. 

Northern and Southern trade unions, NGOs and other national and international bodies are urged to : 

Work together to introduce a social clause in the World Trade Organisation guaranteeing basic working rights for all women workers including those in Export Processing Zones. 

Ensure the protection of all women from the abuses and exploitation of trafficking and forces prostitution. 

Secure and advance the labour rights of documented and undocumented migrant workers. 

Provide standards and mechanisms for the prosecution of employers who violate national and international labour standards. 

Utilise and strengthen consumer organisations to promote products which violate women's rights as workers. 

War and Conflict 
We are witnessing an increasing number of armed conflicts around the world, both international and within nation states.  Civilians are most affected by these conflicts, and women are the main victims.  80% of the world's refugees and internally displaced are women and children. 

Decisive action must be taken in zones of war in order to stop any abuse directed at women and children.  Rape and all kinds of sexual violence, torture, sexual slavery, slaughter of women, forced abortion and forced sterilisation are being systematically used as weapons of war. 

We the signatories of the Madrid Declaration urge the international community, national governments and non-governmental bodies to: 

Define all forms of gender specific violence in areas of war and conflict as war crimes, and ensure that individuals who advocate or take part in such acts of violence are tried mechanisms for the punishment of war crimes. 

Ensure women's human rights in war and conflict, in flight, in refugee camps and in countries of asylum.  Women fleeing from situations of political conflict and repression must have the right to asylum on an independent basis, and the right to family reunification.  All efforts should be made to assist them to integrate and enjoy full and equal rights in the countries of asylum. 

Ensure that humanitarian assistance programmes are gender sensitive and include local partners and organisations, with women being central to the design and implementation of these programmes. 

Support and intensify efforts towards peace, conflict prevention and recognise women's central role and accelerate efforts to reduce arms trading in the world. 

We the undersigned and the organisations we represent declare our commitment to take forward the Madrid Declaration. 


(Source : Solidar International Workers Aid)