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United Nations: Special Rapporteur Calls for Holistic Approach to Prevent Violence Against Women

(Oct. 26, 2011) On October 10, 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women appeared before the U.N. General Assembly to present her report on violence against women world-wide. Rashida Manjoo urged the U.N. Member States to fulfill their obligations under international law to prevent such violence and to protect women against all forms of discrimination. She noted, “[w]hether it occurs in times of peace and conflict [sic], the various forms and manifestations of violence against women are simultaneously causes and consequences of discrimination, inequality and oppression.” (UN Expert Urges States to Fulfil Obligation to Prevent Violence Against Women, UN NEWS CENTRE (Oct. 10, 2011).)

Manjoo's report proposed that a holistic approach be taken towards “conceptualizing and addressing” the issue of violence against women. Her four main recommendations associated with this approach are to:

(a) consider human rights as universal, interdependent, and indivisible;

(b) situate violence against women on a continuum;

(c) acknowledge the structural aspects and factors of discrimination, including structural and institutional inequalities; and

(d) analyze social and/or economic hierarchies between women and men and also among women. (U.N. General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, A/66/215 (Aug. 1, 2011) [click on highlighted URL or on hyperlink in box labeled “Attachment”].)

The Special Rapporteur called upon states to combat violence against women through legislative, policymaking, and capacity building measures, stressing that such efforts must address the structural causes of violence at all levels of society. (General Assembly Holds Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, International Service for Human Rights website (last visited Oct. 24, 2011).)

According to Silvia Pimentel, the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), while many States Parties to CEDAW have repealed discriminatory legislation and enacted gender equality laws, challenges remain in terms of their implementation.” (UN NEWS CENTRE, supra.) She stated that “[t]here had also been positive trends in women's political participation, enrolment in educational institutions, and access to employment, even in profession's traditionally dominated by men,” but equal pay for equal work remained a problem for women workers compared their male counterparts. (Id.) Women are still “highly under-represented in top decision-making in both the public and private sectors,” Pimentel added, with “on average only one in six” Cabinet ministers being a woman and “only 30 of the 500 largest corporations in the world [having] a female chief executive.” (Id.)