Creating and Implementing Laws

Photo: UN Women/Pornvit Visitoran

Laws and policies can provide the foundation for a coordinated and comprehensive approach to violence against women (VAW). While a historic number of laws and policies against violence are now in place, these laws may not address all forms of violence and implementation is still lagging behind due to lack of resources. In many countries, marital rape or sexual harassment are not defined and criminalized. Survivors continue to face serious challenges to obtaining justice because of discriminatory attitudes and practices rooted in gender-based discrimination and gender inequality. Police and justice protocols and officials are often not sensitive to survivors’ traumatic experiences . Measures to strengthen effective implementation should include training of officials who handle cases of violence against women, the establishment of mechanisms for monitoring and impact evaluation as well as accountability and better coordination. Committing adequate human and financial resources is also essential.

When brought into alignment with international human rights standards, such as those contained in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), laws and policies can play a positive role in changing attitudes and behaviours in the long term, especially when they are accompanied by complementary strategies for social norms change to end violence and promote gender equality. When laws are passed, funded and implemented, they convey a strong message that violence against women is not tolerated and that it is the right of every woman to live free of violence.

Our Solutions

UN Women works to influence the adoption of advanced and comprehensive normative frameworks on ending violence against women and girls, and partners with Governments and women’s advocates for their implementation through the adoption, strengthening and implementation of national laws, policies and strategies.  

China passed its first law against domestic violence in 2016, with support from UN Women and other United Nations agencies. Efforts then immediately focused on implementation. UN Women supported training on prevention and protection measures for police, court officials, health-care providers, women’s federation members and other service providers in three provinces. Regular training teams were formed at county, township and community levels to raise awareness of the new law and ways to enforce it, such as helping domestic violence survivors speak out and referring them to essential support services.

Photo: UN Women/Fan Wenjun

In three counties, UN Women helped establish a collaborative model in which providers of different services coordinated their assistance to survivors. As a result, the number of survivors who sought such assistance increased dramatically. In Ningxiang County, for example, 116 survivors received legal aid services in 2016, double the number recorded in 2015.

In Viet Nam, UN Women contributed to the Government’s approval and funding of the National Thematic Project on Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response, which was developed to support the implementation of laws in this area. The Government now plans to adopt strategies from UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Places programme as well as from past work on community mobilization and engaging male advocates and volunteers through partnerships with the Da Nang Women’s Union.

In 2018, Afghanistan implemented a new anti-harassment law stipulating jail time and fines for perpetrators. In the same year, Afghanistan revised its penal code to criminalize ‘honour killing’ removing it as a mitigating factor in murder trials. Free legal aid and specialized lawyers are also in place to assist survivors of violence in pursuing legal action. With the help of UN Women, the Government of Afghanistan recently instituted its first online database compiling and offering standardized data on cases of violence.

UN Women, along with other UN organizations and the Governments of Viet Nam and Thailand, created the region’s first comparative study on why survivors of rape fail to get justice. The study, called “Trial of Rape: Understanding the criminal justice system in response to sexual violence in Thailand and Viet Nam has led Viet Nam to adopt new gender-sensitive guidelines for rape trials.

The Government of Fiji, with the Fiji Women Crisis Centre and UN Women, introduced the country’s first service-delivery protocol.’ Instead of “UN Women, along with the Fiji Women Crisis Centre and the Government of Fiji, introduced the country’s first service-delivery protocol.