16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence

Impunity compounds violence against women

GENEVA (10 December 2013) – Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, to mark the end of this year’s international campaign 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, on Human Rights Day.

“The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is an opportunity to recall that violence against women remains a pervasive problem across the world and requires political will and bold and sustained actions to end this scourge.

The lack of responsiveness, or sometimes indifference, of State authorities to incidences of violence against women, not only is a violation of the State’s due diligence obligations, but it also hinders victims’ right to remedies, including justice. It is a form of encouragement or de facto permission for these violent acts to continue with impunity.

When State authorities know that acts of violence against women are being committed and fail to exercise due diligence to investigate, prosecute and punish them, these authorities must be held accountable for condoning such acts.
All too often I hear about the lack of accountability which further perpetuates a sense of distrust in the authorities and their ability to provide justice and redress to victims. The lack of seeking of necessary services and reporting of violations, is harmful to women, and is also a barrier to the ability of Governments to comprehend the dimension of the problem and to respond accordingly.

States responsibility to act with due diligence includes ensuring effective investigations, prosecution and sanctions; guaranteeing access to adequate and effective judicial remedies; and treating women victims and their relatives with respect and dignity throughout the legal process.

Other key aspects of State responsibility include, ensuring comprehensive reparations to victims and their relatives; identifying certain groups of women as being at particular risk; modifying the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women; and eliminating prejudices.

Accountability, the empowerment of women, and societal transformation, are key factors to challenging the norm of impunity and the lack of effective and sustainable responses for acts of violence against them.

An effective response requires recognizing that State responsibility to act with due diligence is both a systemic-level responsibility, i.e. the responsibility of States to create good and effective systems and structures that address the root causes and consequences of violence against women; and also an individual-level responsibility, i.e., the responsibility of States to provide each victim with effective measures of prevention, protection, punishment and reparation.

States are further obliged to demonstrate visible leadership on the issue of combatting violence against women and must assess and rectify their own systemic failures to prevent violence against women. The failure of the State to respond effectively all acts of violence against women is yet another form of violence against them.

I call on States to intervene to prevent and respond to violence against women, and to ensure accountability for perpetrators, and importantly, transformative remedies for victims.

But I also urge them to hold accountable, not only those who perpetrate the violations of women’s human rights, but also the state authorities who fail to protect women and prevent these violations from occurring.”


Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx

Check the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CEDAW.aspx

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