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…from the Human Rights Instruments

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3)

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

(The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5)

The above-cited rights are also articulated in Articles 6, 7 and 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has become international law binding on all states which have signed and ratified this instrument.

Gender Based Violence is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women's ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men.

(Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation 12, 1999, para. )

Violence against women exists in various forms in everyday life in all societies. Women are beaten, mutilated, burned, sexually abused and raped. Such violence is a major obstacle to the achievement of peace...

(Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, 1985, Part III, para. 258).

The contemporary women's movement has made significant progress in highlighting the global pervasiveness of violence against women and girls in all its forms. Their efforts have yielded, among other developments, the recognition by the United Nations that violence against women is a human rights violation and that the state has a responsibility to end gender-based abuses even where the violence is perpetrated by non-state actors.

(Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights, 1993)

1. …[A]ny act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Violence against women shall be understood to encompass, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family and in the community, including battering, sexual abuse of female children, dowry related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence, violence related to exploitation;
  2. …sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.
  3. …and violence perpetrated or condoned by the State.

(U.N. General Assembly Resolution 48/04 Containing the ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women’, 1994, Article 1)

Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The longstanding failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in the case of violence against women is a matter of concern to all States and should be addressed.(…)

(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 112)


Review the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (see Appendix).

How does the Declaration define ‘violence against women’? Would you add anything to these definitions?

Does this country have laws regarding violence against women? Do they reflect the standards described in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women you just read? If not, describe the differences. Do people respect these laws? Are the laws enforced by the police and courts?

Read the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Torture Convention. In what ways is violence against women similar to torture?

Might it be possible to use the Torture Convention to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women?

Gender Violence -A Global Human Rights Problem

Over the past twenty years, violence against women has gone from being a private concern to being a societal problem, a matter of fundamental human rights protected by international human rights instruments. As was pointed out by Cecilia Blewer (from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women) at the Beijing +5 review meeting, violence is always about status: men use violence to keep other men subordinate; they use violence to keep women subordinate; men and women use violence to keep children subordinate.

Violence against women is the most common human rights violation. Some cultures consider it acceptable, desirable even, as part of a well-ordered society, that women as well as children be chastised and kept in line through physical violence. In other cultures, domestic violence is considered deplorable, 'uncivilized', the author of the violence is despised, yet neighbors and relatives consider it 'impolite' to intervene in what is considered a 'private' matter. In still other cultures, it is technically a crime, but there is a taboo against acknowledging it; a woman's victimization is a source of shame for her rather than for the society that pretends not to notice.

Societies often tend to blame or in some way stigmatize women for the violence that men do to them, whether it be honor killings, rape, battering, dowry violence or prostitution. In all societies, reporting some crimes against women may be discouraged by the response such a report attracts. For example, when a prostituted woman reports violence against her, she comes into contact with the police: this may lead to more rape or to arrest and the violence of imprisonment. There is little reason for this vulnerable population to believe that the system of justice will work for them, so prostituted women remain silent. "Respectable’ women on the other hand, often fear that being the victim of sexual violence raises questions about their morality.

The vision of international human rights was meant to include the prevention and prohibition of all physical violations of the human person. At the time of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), violence against women was recognized as a violation of human rights. But it took the international community four decades more to tackle head-on the problem of enforcement by bringing to bear the human rights framework on women's ‘private’ experiences. It took the work of "feminist activists to (use) this analysis in international human rights discourse and demonstrate that violence against women is inevitably linked to the historical inequality between men and women (...) removing the political, economic and cultural structures which oppress women is (...) the only way to eradicate male violence."

Until this turn was taken, pervasive violence against women weakened at the roots any attempts to make a solid reality of women's equality of human rights. It was important to have a vocabulary for women to articulate experiences of violence such as rape, sexual terrorism but also of domestic violence which many still resist seeing as the violation of a fundamental human right. By defining violence against women in terms of human rights, we raise the level of expectation about what can and should be done about it. It makes the state and civil society accountable; the problem is seen as a matter of legitimate public policy. Thinking in terms of human rights has encouraged a buildup of energy through major campaigns by women's organizations, paralleled in some cases by men’s initiatives calling for systematic policies to criminalize gender violence, and to empower women seeking remedies.

International Milestones Addressing Violence Against Women

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership has documented the official milestones of this mounting rejection of the 'ancient tradition' of gender violence:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1981

CEDAW guarantees women equal rights with men in all spheres of life, including education, employment, health care, the vote, nationality and marriage. The CEDAW Committee was established to review state reports on women’s status.

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights, 1993

The Vienna Declaration affirms that women's human rights are a fundamental part of all human rights. Essentially that ‘women's rights are human rights’. The Vienna Declaration:


• refutes the distinction between public and private spheres,

• declares for the first time that women's human rights must be protected not only in courts, prisons and other areas of public life but also in the privacy of the home.

• The 1993 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women for the first time provides a definition of violence in Article 1 and includes psychological violence in the definition.

Establishment of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, 1994

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights appointment of Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy (of Sri Lanka) as Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women was a significant result of women’s pressure on governments and the international system itself. The challenge facing NGOs is to support the work of the Special Rapporteur in such a way as to enable the commission to achieve its goal of ending all manifestations of violence against women. The women's movement, a natural constituency of the Special Rapporteur, has a critical role the Rapporteur’s mandate effective. All activists and advocates for the human rights of women can contribute to the work of UNHCR and the Special Rapporteur.

International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), Cairo, 1994

...Women's rights are an integral part of all human rights (...) population and development programmes are most effective when steps have simultaneously been taken to improve the status of women.

( )

Women's empowerment in politics, government and other professions but also in personal relationships was a central theme. Recommended actions for Governments included prohibiting the trafficking of women and children, promoting discussion of the need to protect women from violence through education and establishing preventative measures and rehabilitation programmes for victims of violence.

( )

Human sexuality and gender relations are closely interrelated and together affect the ability of men and women to achieve and maintain sexual health and manage their reproductive lives. Equal relationships between men and women in matters of sexual relationships and reproduction, including full respect of the physical integrity of the human body, require mutual respect and willingness to accept responsibility for the consequences of sexual behavior"

(ICPD Programme of Action, 7.34)

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, 1995.

The Platform for Action recognizes that "all Governments, irrespective of their political, economic and cultural systems, are responsible for the promotion and protection of women's human rights." The document specifically states that violence against women is one of 12 critical areas of concern and an obstacle to the achievement of women's human rights.

(Adapted from The Intimate Enemy: Gender Violence and Reproductive Health, Panos Briefing No. 27, March 1998.)


What forms of violence against women occur in your community and country?

To what would you attribute the gender violence you and your group know about?

Can you document and classify the violence? Are there different forms of violence now than earlier? Do you or others feel that violence against women is diminishing or getting worse?

Have you or someone you know been a victim of gender-based violence?

How do people you know feel about it? What do they say about it? Is there a difference between what they feel and say?

The issue of violence against women has created a focus around which women have been able to mobilize. It has created unprecedented public awareness, and influenced policy and standard-setting. Some analysts even feel that the struggle against gender-violence really was the 'glue' of the international women's movement? Why do you think this would be the case?

Had you been aware of the landmarks listed above? Are you aware of programs and policy initiatives in your country to fulfill the norms set by these documents?

Is there, or has there been, public information to enlist the citizens of your country in the movement to eliminate violence against women?

Make a list of groups and individuals working on this issue. Review the list, considering possibilities of collaboration in planning or taking action.

Are human rights organizations in your country dealing with the issue of violence against women? Or has it remained a separate issue?

Sixteen Days Of Activism Against Gender Violence

Running like a thread through the early 1990’s, we find the Global Campaign launched by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University in the USA, to confront violence against women. Its first activity was a petition that circulated from 1991, collecting more than a million signatures from 148 countries by 1995. Petitions are notoriously double-edged tools, and may amount to little more than an expressive gesture of concern. But in this case, as it was circulated, it became an organizing tool in local situations, a tool for advocacy at the national and international levels, a seed for strategic alliances and a focus for human rights education.

The second element in the campaign— its keystone actually— was the inauguration of a powerful annual event, "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence", that is now observed in many countries the world over. Its dates were chosen for their symbolic linkage of violence against women and human rights.

It starts on November 25th, the date of the murder (1960) of the Mirabal sisters by the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic; in 1981 the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean had declared November 25 International Day Against Violence Against Women.

The 16 Days end on December 10, International Human Rights Day, anniversary of the signing of the UDHR in 1948. During this 16 Day period there also takes place World AIDS Day (December 1) and, on December 6, the anniversary of the 1989 Montreal Massacre, when a man gunned down 14 women engineering students for "being feminists".

From the very outset, sponsoring organizations tried to connect local activities to the global movement, as a powerful lobbying tool for their call to eliminate gender-based violence.

The Courts of Women

For two years prior to the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the Asian Women's Human Rights Council, together with many local women's groups in the Asia Pacific region, organized public hearings on real life testimonies of violence against women: in Pakistan, Japan, India, at the ICPD in Cairo, on to Lebanon, once again in India and afterwards in Nepal. These public hearings prepared a universal hearing termed the Court of Women during the Beijing Conference.

The Court constituted a "sacred space where women’s voice would be heard to express their anger and sadness, their outrage at their societies indifference... They could say what these crimes mean (and seek) reparation."


Court of Women - Testimonies on Violence against women in the Arab world

Beirut, Lebanon, 28-30 June 1995.

With the participation of women from 14 Arab countries representing Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, the Yemen, Mauritania, Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait and Sudan, an Arab Court of Women was held in Beirut on 28 through 30 June, 1995. It was an event unique in its kind, in which creative symbolism and real life testimonies combined to expose and bring to trial the various forms of violence perpetrated against Arab women. The reason for choosing this symbolic kind of court lies in the very nature of the violence against women - a violence long silenced, never talked about, let alone denounced under the prevailing judicial systems. So much so that the traditional process of justice has proved unable to define this type of offence, to remove it from the narrow framework of personal and domestic issues and to bring it out to the public awareness as an offence liable to prosecution and rule of law.

To bring to light the multifarious character of violence against women, the program of the Court of Women included a wide range of aspects and cases and various procedural approaches. The first day of court proceedings was devoted to an analysis of the cultural roots underlying this violence on the one hand, and discussion of the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women as well as the attitude of Arab countries towards this Convention on the other hand.

On the second day, the symbolic court sat under the presidency of a panel of judges comprised of women of diverse backgrounds and expertise and proceeded in the presence of a large audience to the hearing of testimonies from the victims of violence from all over the Arab countries telling their tragic ordeals and laying bare the shameful face of their silenced agonies. On the third day, several workshops were organized to try and answer the question of how to unify Arab women's efforts to find solutions to all related legal, political and social issues; how to empower women so that they can effectively confront the violence inherent in sex segregation, a scourge which ethics, history, politics and economics are jointly set to justify and even to present as a mark of civilization while it is nothing but a primitive conduct based on sheer barbaric values.

(El Taller Justice Through the Eyes of Women- testimonies from the Court of Women Beirut, Lebanon, June 1995 El Taller@gn.apc.org )

An Egyptian Mother’s Reflection on Male Violence


The Courts of Women re-opened a theological debate among Muslim scholars on the supposedly Koranic sources of the repression of women, unequal divorce practices, the condoning of marital violence, and the imposition of female circumcision. Muslim women have also engaged in an exceptionally fruitful reflection on the issues of domestic violence.

Among the rich materials coming out of the Cairo Legal Research and Resource Center, we find this provocative reflection on mothers’ role in enabling chronic male violence, and on the psychological price men and women pay whenever male violence is nurtured.

In earlier eras, women played an important role in fostering horseback riding and its popularity. Every camp contained women who helped prepare their men for war, awakening feelings of courage and steadfastness, and bringing about feelings of excitement. Most of the time, women volunteered to carry out this task, or took it spontaneously upon themselves. Thus their love was restricted to those men who had excelled in their knighthood and those who had achieved military victories. The clear role of the women was not limited to the encouragement of men. Women instilled these feelings in their own sons, almost breast feeding them those values, although they knew they might be pushing them into a road that would eventually kill them, or at best have them injured.(...)

Women were involved in, had been adopted by a well built system that divided roles between men and women, where women had actually been producing the tools of war (human beings who were made into tools of war).

In our modern day, — women still teach their sons the values of revenge [al-tar], even if there is no blood spilled. The idea of revenge is transformed from a concept of revenge, to the power and violence of a reaction against any aggression, even if only verbal — amused approval when the first signs of violence appear, no matter how strong they were, and no matter how much they hurt those who surround them.

Women's energy was directed, maneuvered, and captivated in such roles, Stored damaged energy — ready to explode—quickly found its outlet with the little children, whose food women prepared. That was done so that the little boy could afterwards play a small part of the role that the mother wished she herself could have played.

(...) the special authority that mothers have over their boys is quite complicated, and it becomes hard to separate its constituent elements. The mother relies on her son to realize her dreams, and pushes him to become a man... a man who confronts, collides, and initiates the attack. He is the tool through which she can achieve what she herself could not accomplish, despite the fact that she owns all its prerequisites.

(...) The woman never thought for a day of telling her daughter about such values while raising her in a completely different way, specifically to become a copy of herself. The mother tries hard to obey the rules of the system which involves teaching her daughter how to constrain her energy, to subdue it, and to delay it so that it can be released into that male to whom she transfers her deposit after the process of storage and the suffocating atmosphere surrounding her has already damaged and ruined it. The woman has never thought of rejecting the exportation, to her son and daughter, because she simply does not realize that there is a possibility for her to reject it in the first place. (...) Nevertheless she senses the distortion that has hit her, and she sees her own internal being diminishing, (...) That is why it is not strange that women are the ones who oppress other women. For the greatest oppressions are those in which the oppressed adopt their oppressors’ means.

Our societies have succeeded enormously, not only as far as the oppression of women is concerned, but on all levels of oppression.... considered by some to be the by-products of the suppression of women.(...)

This is what women foster through their role in raising their children, and through their relationships with their husbands, whom they expect often subconsciously to pay the price of the historic suppression of their energies by taking over responsibilities, especially financial ones. Thus, women have taken on the appearance of cats whose owners have to flatter them, and men have acquired the appearance of the lion, the protector (....).

(source: The Art of Creating Violence 1999 LRRC- website, www.geocities.com/~lrrc/Women/gihan.htm permission requested)

Violence Against Women Brings Grassroots into Focus

As the tribunals spread to other areas, they helped develop a powerful synergy and made the issue of violence against women the first "women’s issue" to genuinely override all divisions of nation, education, religion or class, playing an important role in unifying the global women’s movement.

The issue of violence, even in a private setting, is an issue of the fundamental arrangements of power, i.e., a political issue. Focusing on violence against women created a crucial linkage between the personal and the political, and therefore between governmental and non-governmental power and organization. Through the issue of violence, ordinary women, who were not intellectuals, lawyers or politicians, were brought onto the main stage of human rights, giving form to a vitally needed dimension of political and civil human rights.

Workshops held at the Beijing Conference were the crest of a massive swell of concern which took a variety of forms. Under the title, From Private Problem to Community Concern: Preventing Domestic Violence Before It Begins, these workshops showcased some of the world’s most innovative grassroots organizations: working on public awareness and prevention as well as crisis-intervention and systemic intervention; focusing on changing attitudes about violence against women; promoting cultural intolerance of abuse; and creating a climate in which such violence is unacceptable.

Jagori group, which organized single women from the poorest section of Delhi into a Single Women's Group, was founded to counter the negative stereotyping of single women and to challenge marriage as their only option. The group gives members an opportunity to discuss and look for solutions to violence, sexual abuse, police harassment, forced caste marriages, desertions and dowry demands. Members of the Single Women's Group confront men who abuse their wives, using peer pressure and shame to change behavior.

From China , the Jinglun Family Center, organizer of China's first domestic violence hotline, includes domestic violence awareness, education for abusers, violence prevention training for community mediators, and the family kinship network. The Center also focuses on establishing a comprehensive social network in cooperation with trade unions, women's federations and the Youth League.

A panelist from Brazil described the network of women-run police stations that responds to violence and sex related crimes against women.

New Zealand's Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project works specifically among the indigenous Maori population and ensures their representation in domestic violence organizations.

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre consciously working within a framework of human rights and development presented their domestic violence awareness and prevention efforts consisting of weekly radio talk shows, drama groups and concerted efforts to work with conservative organizations.

Zimbabwe's Musasa Project described efforts to educate the general public through workshops, seminars, street theatre and community dialogues to restore "community spiritedness" in addressing violence against women.

Ireland' s Women's Rights Are Human Rights Bus Project, a traveling education and awareness work camp, discussed an experience visiting nine towns over three weeks, holding workshops and public events in each town, with the bus serving as a public information and education center, part of their "Zero Tolerance" nationwide outdoor advertising campaign and petition drive.

The press aired stories of dowry-related abuses in India, domestic violence, work-related violence, forced prostitution, sexual murders, domestic worker-abuse etc. In all strata of society, in all countries The World Bank issued discussion Papers, Violence Against Women: The Hidden Health Burden, with numerous studies on the prevalence of domestic violence worldwide. A U.N. Human Development Report 1995 says: "[[S]tudies in Bangladesh, Brazil, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Thailand show that more than half of all murdered women were murdered by present or former partners . . . . Cross-cultural evidence from Africa, South America, several Melanesian islands and the United States established marital violence as a leading cause of female suicide."

(Source: Fourth World Conference on Women-- in-UNIFEM Currents June 1999)

gaining hope: examples from africa

Florence Butegwa founder and co-ordinator of the WiLDAF network (Women in Law and Development in Africa) has pointed out that African women developed a very strong symbiotic relationship to the Centre for Global Leadership’s domestic violence campaigns, and has helped to shape it. The campaign in turn fed into a pre-existing, very active set of individuals and organizations. Butegwa she points out the problem of legal rights in the domestic sphere has been a long-standing concern of African women. The issue has been made more acute by worsening economic conditions, the marginalized and disadvantaged position of women in society, and the limited resources with which governments and NGOs are working. These worsen chronic, endemic violence against women and further illustrate the systemic interrelationships among all the twelve of the BPFA’s Critical Areas of Concern. In any case, there was in Africa a potential constituency ready to jump into the Global Campaign as soon as it was launched. "16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence" became a national tool for mobilizing women in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, and Uganda. In all of these countries the campaign was used to develop and adapt training tools and educational materials on human rights instruments.

In Kenya ,The Coalition Against Violence in started organizing in 1995, after a workshop whose participants identified gender violence as a priority concern. A very successful first campaign demonstrated the possibility for effective cooperation between women's organizations, and the increased impact of pooling resources.

The 1995 campaign consisted of a procession, an all night vigil, a workshop and a public tribunal. The 1996 Kenyan workshop focused especially on the provision of support services to survivors of gender violence. A directory of support services was made available to survivors, and data on the extent and severity of the problem publicized through the media. One special feature of the 1996 campaign was the compilation of a scroll in memory of women who lost their lives to gender violence. The scroll included the names of victims, their ages, dates of death and the circumstances of their killing. In honoring them, the coalition hoped to create a perpetual reminder that these deaths were crimes, but also that they could have been prevented. To mark the end of the 16 days, a "mock" tribunal was held where women gave heartrending personal testimonies on the various forms of violence that they had suffered.

Individual initiatives by some NGOs supplemented those of the coalition, for instance training by the Kenyan Medical Women's Association. In some areas of Kenya, widows are expected and may be forced to marry their brothers-in-law. Not infrequently, they find themselves in very tense household situations, where wife beating and marital rape are common. So the Kenyan Medical Women's Association began to train women's leaders in one of these areas to counsel the victims of domestic crimes and give them legal advice. The potential leaders were given access to paralegal trainers in family law and to a growing network of lawyers in Western Kenya using the Federation of Women Lawyers' Resource Centre in Kisumu as a basic resource.

A network of women's NGOs in Tanzania undertook a research project on femicide, which led into their commemoration of the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence’. Activities included street marches with posters, placards and special T-shirts made for the day. A vigil was held in memory of murdered women whose names had been collected through a small survey conducted by the Tanzania Gender Network Programme. These names were sewn onto a quilt and publicly displayed as a focal point of the vigil. Educational activities included awareness raising workshops in the rural areas and translation of the Beijing Platform for Action into Swahili, thus making it accessible to more women's groups. Significant educational endeavors have also been carried out by the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA), which uses its magazine, radio programmes, brochures and workshops to conduct a major media campaign informing women about their rights and educating lawmakers about the issues involved.

In Sudan, after the Beijing Conference, a number of local NGOs developed action plans, ran consciousness-raising campaigns through the media and other channels, focusing on women's right to live free from violence within Islamic law. In January, 1998, the Mutawina Group organized the very first full-scale seminar in Sudan to discuss some of the culturally sensitive issues related to violence against women.

Uganda is a case of several years’ buildup, with a steady increase in the number of organizations using the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence’ (...) as a way to mobilize local women's groups.

Uganda's 1995 observation of the '16-Days' was the culmination of a two-year process in which the network sought public support to lobby the Ministry of Justice to draft legislation on domestic violence. The petition collected over 8,000 signatures.

On "Victim's Day", posters were unveiled to publicize the formation of a Police Victim Support Unit, which has enabled the police to shift attention from solely protecting life and property and look at the chronic plight of the victims of domestic violence as well. Under this programme, police officers mostly women, and some men, have been trained with the help of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). These partnerships between NGOs and government agencies have been among the most effective in reducing violence against women.

The Bulawayo Women Lawyers Association drafted a Family Violence Bill, with copies circulated to all key members in the justice system. During the 1996 campaign, a one-day workshop was held with representatives of the justice system to discuss how the details of finalizing and enacting such a bill. A seminar was held to discuss legislation on domestic violence, and was attended by network members as well as by representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Law Reform Commissions and the Attorney General's Office.

The theme for 1996 campaign was "Breaking the Silence" with which the network of organizations intended to encourage women to speak out against violence. At a public tribunal, four women gave testimony on the kinds of violations they had survived. The judges at the tribunal commented that the testimonies illustrated society's having failed these victims; that the whole society stands accused of neglecting the prevention, prosecution and protection of the human rights of women. They added that the state, too, had failed to promote the rights of women, in spite of having acceded to a number of international human rights instruments. The media was used effectively to publicize the official launch of the event on prime time news and the network of women's organizations participated in five live programs.

Kampala African Human Rights Workshop Against Women Trafficking (1997) focused on the trafficking in women as a violation of their fundamental human rights. This African workshop, in turn, was part of a larger campaign leading to the Global Evaluation Conference in 1999. Similar workshops were organized for Asia and Latin America.

These workshops were intended:

• to familiarize women activists with existing international human rights instruments, their potential applications and limitations in halting trafficking in women;

• to learn how to use a human rights framework to document the abuses involved in trafficking of women;

• to share effective lobbying techniques and strategies for use at the national and international level;

• to share knowledge about making strategic use of the U.N. system and its agencies as part of the overall campaign.

In South Africa, rape and other forms of gender violence have become serious problems in the schools. It was decided to address the problem from the time children enter the education system. A curriculum explores conditions and situations that are perceived as "normal" male violence. Teachers, administrators, parents and the community are called upon to reflect upon their own perceptions and attitudes in this regard. The community at large is being involved in a range of activities that can address these problems throughout the education system. The Ministry of Education received recommendations for setting up a Gender Equity Unit within the Department of Education, with offices in all provinces. The Ministry pledged its commitment to make all educational institutions safe environments, where girls and women may study without fear.

In Zimbabwe, the ‘Sixteen Days of Activism’ cemented a network of over 20 organizations and 40 individuals working together, using the event to focus public attention on domestic violence, and to actively lobby Government for law and policy reform to prevent and punish it. For the Beijing Conference, Zimbabwe W’s resource center conceived Zimbabwe Women’s Voices an impressive record of women’s experience and reaction to gendered violence, assembling in a beautiful book the voices of women from all walks of life

Mauritius - Developing an Integrated Strategy

Women's organizations in Mauritius challenged their government to honor the Beijing Declaration and the commitments to combat gender violence they made to the Platform for Action. These NGOs approached the problem of violence against women in an integrated way, focusing on (a) comprehensive strategy based on the "three P's": active Prevention of crimes of violence against women and children; Provision of adequate support services for women and children; appropriate legal Protection for women and children suffering from violence. Accordingly in 1997 Parliament enacted The Protection From Domestic Violence Act, a piece of legislation, which is proving to be an effective tool for achieving the three P's.

Further legislation against work place-sexual harassment is under development. Sexual harassment has been given recognition as a form of violence against women requiring an amendment to the Criminal Code. The proposed amendment provides that

.... any person who, by abuse of the authority conferred upon him and by his functions, harasses another person by means of orders, threats or constraints in order to obtain favors of a sexual nature, shall commit an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years and to a fine not exceeding Rs100,000.

Where it is averred that the victim of the sexual harassment is a minor or a mentally handicapped person, the person charged shall on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than 1 year and to a fine.....

(Source: Pramila Patten Report for PDHRE)

Good Practices Conference- Nairobi, 1999

In March 1999, UNIFEM-Eastern Africa held a two-day regional conference, entitled "Good Practices Towards Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls in Africa." Experts and activists discussed lessons learnt from different sources in Africa and encouraged the replication of success stories in other regions. The highlight on the conference was a global videoconference organized by UNIFEM Headquarters in New York and linking countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The videoconference was intended to challenge every organization and individual to take action to address this pandemic.

Pramila Patten exhorts NGOs to continue to play an active role in lobbying, advocacy, training, public education and service provision. Possible directions for NGOs working at the national level could include:

Identifying ways to work with the law enforcement agencies to promote structural and long-term change. Whilst this may be slow, any change has the potential to have widespread impact.

Developing strategies to confront and reform the social and institutional structures that may help perpetuate violence against women, e.g. the religious, educational structures and the media,

Developing strategies to broaden women's advocacy base on violence against women, by

clearly highlighting the important connections between violence against women and other

issues that may already be on the national agenda, such as development, maternal health, or

human rights. This not only has the potential to open up new bodies of support, but also helps

challenge the common conception of violence as a strictly private matter.

Monitoring government reports to any U.N. body or the African Commission and providing

alternative reports if necessary.

Monitoring the adequacy of governmental response for specific acts of violence against

women, such as rape and femicide, and bringing any unsatisfactory cases to the attention of

the media, government ministries, and international agencies.

Working with communities to identify new and culturally appropriate approaches to tackling

violence, learning from men and women's perceptions of the issue, and the experiences of

survivors of abuse.

(Extracted and adapted from Pramila Patten Violence Against Women- Report prepared for

People's Decade for Human Rights Education, 1999)


How could you/your group initiate, strengthen or contribute to the movement against gender


Review the types of violence against women. Select the one that most urgently requires attention

in your community.

What would be required to do one of the following:


1.Conduct an information/education campaign providing women with the information and support needed to deal with this issue.

2. Develop a project to deal with gender violence through prevention, victim assistance,

legal assistance in taking action against perpetrators.

African women have placed significant emphasis on the education of legislators, lawyers and

law enforcement personnel. What is done in your country in this respect?

The "16 Days of Activism" in Africa were largely devoted to awareness raising and

public education.

From the list here, select those actions best suited to your situation and integrate them into a potential plan for your own "16 Days."

• Marches and demonstrations

• Memorials to victims and survivors

• Banners, placards, quilts, use of folk arts

• Speak-outs, mock tribunals and courts, mobilization of the media


Latin America: Campaigns for Legislative Change

Susanna Chiarroti, the President of the Latin American and Caribbean Council of Women (CLADEM) prepared an extensive and detailed report on efforts to prevent violence against women in that region. She reports that in most Latin American and Caribbean countries, domestic violence represents a plight that many girls and women endure on a daily basis.

In Nicaragua, the Network of Women Against Violence brought together approximately 120 groups comprising women's organizations, state institutions, mixed associations, juvenile groups and individual women. Since 1992 the Network has organized annual campaigns in observation of 25th November, the International Day of the Struggle Against Violence Against Women and Children. The organization of each campaign takes into account the political, social and economic contexts of violence in formulating the particular message for the year.

Task forces are formed, funds are raised and materials are produced. The campaign message usually consists of simple ideas expressed in clear language. The campaign activities are decentralized so that all those interested may participate, individually or in groups, adapting the activity best suited to their respective communities.

Campaign buttons bearing the theme and educational material on the topic chosen for each year are prepared. Advertisements are broadcast on radio and TV and published in the press. The button, one of the main symbols of the campaign, is distributed from person to person by the women groups comprising the Network, and by individuals who volunteer to hand them out in schools, neighborhoods and work places. The buttons always have bright colors that appeal to youth. Wearing a button signifies a commitment to oppose violence.

Each campaign, besides calling on individuals to reject violence, also makes a concrete demand upon the government. In 1992, under the slogan "Breaking the silence: no to sexual violence", the campaign denounced sexual aggression against women and girls for the very first time, trying to overcome the myths that sexual violence is "a private and shameful matter". In 1993 the slogan, "Breaking the silence...and what about answers?", was intended to press the government to improve the system of assistance to women victims and survivors of violence. At that time, when a woman dared to report her husband's beatings, the police advised her to sign an extra-judicial agreement making her a co-participant in the violence perpetrated. A step forward was taken the following year, when Women and Children Offices were set up to provide specialized assistance to women, children, and adolescent victims.

The 1994 campaign, "I want to live without violence" was one of the most successful with the message and the activities reaching people and places that had not been reached before. Almost 50,000 campaign buttons were distributed and more than 30,000 people supported the demand that the government of Nicaragua ratify the Interamerican Convention on the Prevention, Sanction and Elimination of Violence Against Women, a goal that was achieved by the end of August 1995. Former president Violeta Chamorro and various ministers wore campaign buttons at public events.


"There are no excuses for violence", the theme of the 1995 campaign inspired 60 evangelical ministers and 6 Catholic priests to preach against domestic violence from their pulpits, fulfilling the wish of many Christian women to get their husbands or partners to reflect on the problem. Approximately 40,000 signatures were gathered supporting the introduction of legislation to reform the Penal Code so as to prevent and punish domestic violence in Nicaragua. One year was spent lobbying various sectors of society so that as comprehensive a law as possible might be presented. With 21,000 signed letters supporting the Network's demand, they succeeded in having the law passed on August 5th, 1996.

Taking advantage of the electoral year 1996 in anticipating an election campaign, they adopted the slogan, "I vote for democracy, in the nation, in the street and in the bed". They also published a brochure explaining the law on domestic violence so that everybody could have reference to it.

In 1997, law n230 was promulgated through the slogan, "No more impunity, I want to live without violence", urging women to report those who abused them so as to prevent continued impunity and oblige the police and judicial authorities to enforce the law. The first judicial case regarding psychological violence against a woman was won that year, an historic event from the juridical point of view. The jurors declared the perpetrator guilty of the crime of psychological injuries to his wife, imposing a four-year prison sentence.

In Chile, confronted by four cases of discrimination in which the judge ruled against women's claims, the Woman's Institute organized the "First Women's Human Rights Court". [See the section on "Armed Conflict" for a description of a similar initiative by women in refugee camps in Sudan] Although symbolic in character, the Court functioned with a prosecution, a defense and a jury, receiving much media coverage. The procedure it employed was similar to that which will be put into practice when Chile's judicial reform comes into force. Four cases were presented: a girl's expulsion from school because she was pregnant, a parricide, the case of a private health institution which refused to enroll a pregnant woman, and a therapeutic abortion.

One of the cases arousing the most interest was that of Juana Candida Donoso, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for killing her husband, after suffering "a sustained spiral of violence against her and her children". The Court considered it necessary to exonerate and pardon her since the State has no authority to require citizens to resign themselves to permanent physical violence. In all four cases, the jury of the Women's Human Rights Court found in favor of the women, recommending that the judicial authorities change the previous findings.

(Source: Susanna Chiarotti, Report on "Violence Against Women," prepared for PDHRE, 1999




In the new climate on domestic violence, any new nation being formed will find itself forced to deal with the issue of domestic violence early on. The Palestinian Legislative Authority (PLA) has been obliged to confront the issue as it was designing its legal system. The Authority set up the Women's Affairs Technical Committee (WATC), a semi autonomous body to advise and take action on behalf of Palestinian Women. The WATC newsletter forwarded a letter from Ms. Dalal Salameh, a Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and also a member of WATC, stating that on November 26, 1997, the Palestinian Legislative Council discussed the issue of violence against women in commemoration of the International Day of Eliminating Violence Against Women.

She also noted that the issue of violence against women is of great concern amongst Legislative Council members who decided to issue a press release condemning all forms of violence against women...The following press release from the PLC was attached to Ms. Salameh's letter:

"The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in its twenty-third session held in Ramallah on November 26, 1997, condemned all forms of violence against women, in commemoration of the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, the 25th of November, whether it be political or social violence, familial or societal.

The PLC also perceives violence against women as an ongoing phenomena. Once started, it will not stop, but will spread to the whole of society.

Due to the important role Palestinian women play in building Palestinian society, and the necessity of achieving sustainable human development, the Palestinian Legislative Council emphasized the following:

1) No to all forms of social and political violence against women.

2) The PLC condemns family violence particularly when against women.

3) The PLC calls upon all governmental and nongovernmental organizations to confront this dangerous phenomena and conduct a big awareness campaign at all social levels including educational institutions such as schools, universities, etc.

4) The PLC stresses the basic principles of all U.N. conventions, particularly those emphasizing women's rights and human rights such as the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Violence Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as women have a basic role to play in building and developing the society.

5) The PLC greets all Palestinian women and women all over the world in support of women's rights at the legislative level, to end violence in Palestinian society. Palestinian society has always been characterized by respect to all its members and to women at the forefront."

(Palestinian Women's Network, Newsletter V., no.1, Winter 1997/98)

Anti-Rape Law in the Philippines: The Science and the Art of Advocacy

Women in the Philippines demonstrated flexibility and imagination in shifting some more radical tactics to the legislative process in order to reach their goals, as is recounted in the section below from the Centre for Legislative Development.


The decision to take part in the legislative process did not come easy for Filipino women's groups. Most of them were part of radical social and ideological movements committed to the structural transformation of society. These movements traditionally have viewed legislative action a reformist approach. But in early 1992, several women activists realized that a strategic opportunity to advance the women's cause through legislation should not be missed. The term of the first democratically elected legislature after the Marcos dictatorship was about to end. It was then that 11 women's organizations formed SIBOL...

Among them, a consensus had emerged that legislative advocacy was an important way to address women's issues and problems. After long and tedious discussions, they concluded that the legislative arena is a strategic one for articulating women's needs and demanding that the state take responsibility for addressing women's concerns. They also took time out to analyze the meaning of, and requirements for, successful legislative advocacy.

SIBOL realized that legislative advocacy requires formulating an agenda, doing research, and understanding the structures and dynamics of Congress. One of its member organizations, the Center for Legislative Development (then known as the Congressional Research and Training Service) provided the technical expertise in orienting the coalition about the "what, when, where, and how" of the legislative process.

Realizing that effective advocacy is like a rifle shot aimed at a target rather than a shotgun blast spread in all directions, SIBOL chose the issue of violence against women (VAW) as its priority for advocacy in the Ninth Congress (1992-1995). Several factors led to this decision:

1) The growing consciousness in the women's movement that violence against women is a public, rather than private, issue;

2) The realization that VAW has a strong mobilizing effect not only because of its widespread occurrence but also because of the even more widespread concern that any woman can fall victim to violence;

3) The involvement of most SIBOL member organizations in the issue, either by providing services to survivor victims of violence through crisis centers, working with prostituted women, or legal counseling, etc;

4) The availability of research-based information and analysis on the subject; and

5) The proliferation of VAW bills filed in Congress, most of which did not reflect the women's perspective.

Among the various forms of violence against women, SIBOL decided to focus on rape not only because of its frequent occurrence and the increasing brutality of recent cases, but also because the existing rape law is one of the most sexist and anti-woman laws in the country.

SIBOL's lobbying for an anti-rape bill spanned two legislative terms, that of the Ninth Congress (1992-1995) and the Tenth (1995-1998). In the Ninth Congress, the bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Glenda Ecleo, then Chair of the Committee on Women and in the Senate by Senator Nikki Coseteng, also the Chair of the Committee on Women. There was much opposition then to the bill, which was described by many as "too radical" and "overhauling established principles of jurisprudence" specifically in relation to the expanded definition of rape.

The media picked up the issue, and before Sibol members were hosted by television talk

shows, radio programs, and being quoted in newspaper columns and articles. SIBOL

members lobbied the members of both Houses extensively, engaged in dialogues with known

opponents of the bill, approached heads and members of strategic committees, testified in

committee hearings (and walked out on one), provided expert legal opinion, and shared the

experiences of rape survivors. Despite these efforts, the Ninth Congress adjourned without the

SIBOL bill reaching the floor of the House, although it was debated on second reading in the


In assessing its gains and losses in legislative advocacy in the Ninth Congress, SIBOL cited the empowering experience of drafting and pushing for the anti-rape bill in Congress. Having something to say and do in solving their problem, the women felt that they were starting to take charge of their lives. Defining for themselves what rape is, based on their own realities and life situation, allowed women to express who they are, what they want, and who they like to be.

Another significant achievement was being able to raise rape to the level of policy debate. The issue was brought not only to public attention but also to the agenda of Congress. Focused on economic reform, the priorities of Congress were measures to attract more foreign investments in infrastructure, banking and the oil industry, etc. With the compelling arguments made by organized advocates, legislators were forced to recognize the urgency of addressing the issue of violence against women through the anti-rape bill.

Enriched by the lessons learned during the Ninth Congress and inspired by the growing support from various sectors and government agencies, particularly the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), SIBOL resumed its advocacy work in the Tenth Congress with more confidence and expertise. Now it knew from experience that legislative advocacy is both a science and an art.

As a science, advocacy uses systematic methods to achieve its goals. Strategic planning is needed for successful advocacy: it ensures the highest output-to-input, outcome-to-task, results-to-effort ratio. SIBOL grounded its advocacy strategy on the realities of its internal and external environment. It assessed its internal capabilities and constraints while at the same time gauging the opportunities and threats from its external environment. Aware of its limited resources, SIBOL decided to plan more systematically its advocacy efforts in the legislature, the media, and the public.

As an art, advocacy demands creativity, innovation, and flexibility. The most carefully and strategically laid out advocacy plan might have to be shelved or modified because of unforeseen changes in the political environment. New targets of opportunity might present themselves or power might switch hands overnight, as it did a number of times at the Senate. Advocates learned early in the game the importance of strategic timing, of seizing the moment.

(Written by Dr. Socorro L. Reyes, With the assistance of Grace Gueco and Melanie Reyes. Occasional Paper No. 1, The Center for Legislative Development. December, 1997, Quezon City, Philippines.)

Quechua Coca-Growers Fight For Social Validity

In recent years, Bolivia has made headlines with reports by various international and local

organisms on the cultivation of coca plants and the production of cocaine.

One of the best-known centers is unquestionably the subtropical area known as the El Chapare in

the department of Cochabamba. Approximately 143.000 people live in 32.986 farms ("chacos"). Of those, in 1998, close to 25,000 cultivated coca together with a variety of local produce ,

e.g., citrus, banana trees, pineapples etc. Studies show that, although most of the peasants of

the El Chapare cultivate coca, this does not mean that it is the only crop, nor even that it occupies

the largest volume of land, however, it is undoubtedly the only crop that guarantees them a

minimum subsistence, despite price permanent fluctuations.


The eradication policies imposed by the U.S. government and the pressures it exercises on the

government of Bolivia have created situations of permanent conflict in the area and constitute the central factor in the violation of the human rights of women, men, children and old people.

Incursions of the Special Forces of the Drug War (FELC), in many cases under North American

command, have indiscriminately captured peasants, stolen goods and destroyed housing,

wounding and killing inhabitants. Regarding the latter, the official reports attribute them to

"confrontations between police forces and drug dealers bands". However the only weapons used

are those of the police.

Vehicle registration on the highways consist of searches of the load, but this police action

constitutes a true danger for women, especially young women, since under the pretext of

interrogating them, they are often forced to get out of the vehicle and locked into the police-cab

where they are violated by one or several policemen, and released with a threat that they will be

accused of drug dealing if they report their rape.

These facts compelled the women coca producers of the area to organize and participate actively in

their partners’ struggles, and at the same time, to become more knowledgeable about their own

rights, about the laws that protect them from police abuse, but also from their family, as well as

from the institutions to which they go in search of justice.

With this situation in mind, the leaders of El Chapare expressly requested the Women’s Legal Bureau

(Oficina Juridica de la Mujer) of the city of Cochabamba to a legal defenders’ training programme, to assist them to be agents of transformation for their human rights situation.

Below is a translation and transcription from the original quechua, Mrs. María’s story

who, together with 22 leaders of 18 unions, attended the first course for ‘legal promoters’.

" As residents of the area, we suffer constant abuses by the UMOPARes . They call us pichicateros, (drug-dealers) but the truth is that the real drug dealers are free and they circulate without being bothered by anybody, although everybody knows them, and how they live, for from one day to the next they appear with houses, luxurious cars and many things more. Most of us in the area are poor country-people that came here because in our communities the earth no longer is productive and since we are many, there isn’t enough to go around for all of us.


They say that we are only devoted to planting coca, but that is a lie, for aside from coca fields, we have others, where we grow yucca, banana, oranges, mandarins and other produce that we take to market and also use for ourselves. We have many children and if we want them to study we should sacrifice, working for the whole family. Our products sometimes rot for lack of transport, for when it rains heavily it is very difficult to take out the produce to the market, for the paths are made by hand and quickly impassable, so much that we cannot go and sell our things.

For that reason, coca is a backup, for it is very light to transport and although we get little for it, it always gives us a small safety with which we can survive until the situation improves for other crops.

The authorities don’t understand our situation and they constantly pursue us, they commit all kinds of abuses against the peasants that live in the area. We women don't have any security when we travel to the cities. Several of my partners or their daughters were forced to get off the convoy and raped. They cannot complain to anybody for their rapists threaten to say that drugs were found in their bundles. Several young ones are already single mothers as a result of these rapes.

There is no security either in our chacos. UPOMARes, DIRECOs, they all come to our chacos and take anything they find of value, we can’t keep money in our houses, they tell us that it comes from drug sales and they confiscate it, we don't know to whom that money goes. Sometimes the women are walking along the paths and when we meet with a patrol car, they start pawing us among all; they say they are looking for the drug, but the truth is that they only want to abuse us.

The abuses that we suffer have caused men and women to organize. Lately, the organization of women has become more important because the men are pursued like fleas and we, the women, are organized to liberate them and ask guarantees for all. The women are organized in the RURAL FEDERATION OF WOMEN OF THE TROPIC that was founded in Cochabamba at the First Congress September 8 1995. In our organization the women can exchange ideas, whereas in the men’s meetings they didn't take us into account. From our organizations, we carry out resistance against the mandatory eradication of our coca plantations, we obtain the release of our husbands and children and, in many cases, we carry out marches and hunger-strikes in search of justice and respect of our rights as human beings.

However, before having our main organization, we participated in the March For Life and National Sovereignty...it was the answer of the whole population of the tropic to the murder of Felipe Pérez Ortíz... August 18, 1994 at 1 p.m. in the afternoon, five UMOPAR vehicles entered under the pretext of looking for maceration ponds. Pérez’s partner was alone. Noticing the activity in the bottom of their property, the one should have been brought near to see what was happening, the agents of UMOPAR they had found to approximately 500 meters two puddles. They stopped the partner and from the state his body was it is seen that they beat him up before killing him with a shot in the mouth. Some neighbors saw that the UMOPARes placed in their vehicle a sack of plastic from which his feet came out and there was blood dripping. They alerted the leaders; after discovering who the victim was we went to the barracks of UMOPAR in Chimoré to rescue him. The officials told us that he was a drug dealer and that they had been shot for bad luck in escaping, but the partner was just a poor peasant, their children even walk without shoes. When the Commission of Human Rights of the Parliament arrived they confirmed that the partner was murdered and that there was no confrontation as the government said.

Tired of these abuses, the women decided to begin a march to the city of La Paz. It was not easy, we all wanted to go, but we didn't have anybody to leave our children with. Besides, some husbands didn't want to allow women to go, On the 18th of December we began the march, in spite of the government's threats of stopping us and a first unsuccessful attempt. We went for 31 days by valleys, mountains and the highland plateau. Along the road we received the solidarity support of peasants of the different communities that knew that our fight was not just for us, but for all. We suffered wind, rain, snow in the mountains and the heat of the sun. In all, we walked more than 500 kilometers suffering from blisters, leg pains and sunburn. January 17, 500 of us marching women coca-farmers, together with some leaders that accompanied us, arrived to the city of La Paz, where people of the town received us with tears and shows of solidarity.

In La Paz we talked to the First Ladies, the President's and the Vice-president’s wives and, our leaders told them what happened to us, and that human rights only exist on paper since the UMOPARes do whatever they want, they stop, torture and kill people, adults or children; they plunder the houses, they destroy our crops and fruit-trees under the pretext of destroying the coca.

After the first ladies answered us, we were convinced that the first ladies could not decide anything, since they are not authorities and they are cannot provide concrete solutions, After a month of walking, with their destroyed feet and completely weakened, the marchers started a hunger strike to get the government to release our detained partners, to respect the human rights and to punish the authors of the violations in the area. Also to not applying the mandatory eradication.

The hunger strike spread from La Paz to Cochabamba, the women that could not participate in the march and their partners carried out demonstrations and roadblocks. In Cochabamba, the police stormed the place where the women were fasting, they hit them and captured them, without caring about the presence of small children. They wanted us to get scared, but they didn't achieve that. We continued the strike until, on February 3, the government accepted some of our petitions and signed an agreement for which it committed itself not to enforce the mandatory eradication of the coca, to compensate us for each hectare of eradicated coca, to process the culprits of the murders, to create an Office of Human Rights in the el Chapare Plateau and other things. We immediately lifted the hunger strike and we started for our homes, after a month and half of absence.

The march and the hunger strike helped us a lot to think on the importance of the organization and the training of women, which is why now we have a Federation of Women of the Tropic that contains to all the federations of the area, and as well as we want to know more our envelope rights contact ourselves with the Oficina Juridica de la Mujer at Cochabamba.

On the 21st of February of last year, in Eterazama, a group of 22 women leaders of 18 unions in the region, we began the course of formation of Legal Promoters organized by the Oficina Juridica de la Mujer in coordination with the leaders of the Federation of Producers of el Chapare. Two days a week we took classes. As not all of us live in the area, to arrive on time to our classes was very difficult, some had to walk up to six hours, to pass the mighty rivers to swim or to go up on trucks totally loaded with fruit or trunks that charged us fares as if it was a comfortable car. To leave our house, those that are married had to nag them so that they would be allowed to leave- some of the husbands got angry, they believed that we were going to learn bad things... that later we no longer would pay attention to them, but when we showed them our notes after our return, they understood that what we learnt would serve all. The other problem was leaving the children, especially for those that are single, for the very small ones they had no other remedy than to take them, which caused more fatigue, and it tires the children.

The whole time that we were in classes the area was very ugly. The policemen constantly passed and inspected the room where we took the classes, some entered to look at what we did and at some points the helicopters of the Special Force of Fight Against the Drug traffic and the North American DEA flew over for the roof causing a lot of fear among the assistants and the children that already know that when they come by there is always dead or wounded. The last two weeks of classes were the hardest because all the coca producers of the area were mobilized with our self-defense committees and the police was also reinforced with people that arrived of Cochabamba. Confrontations took place; several peasants died and many were wounded and prisoners. One lady was killed when on her knees begging them not to cut the coca plants because with them she paid the studies of their children in the city. So the peasants went to Ivirgarzama to the police station, but they burned with even more fury; they occupied the whole town and the soldiers began to plunder the houses taking anything they found of value, it was a disaster, all the houses were covered with bullet marks. The Commission of Human Rights of the Parliament went and checked everything, but up till now the culprits still have not been punished.

In those days, those that took classes had to do many things at once, to leave the house in order, to attend our assemblies up to three times a day and to participate in our courses. Most of the assistants left cooked food for our children, to be in time they had to get up at five in the morning, but it was worthwhile for that we learned that nobody, not even our husbands, is entitled to beat us, now we know also that offices have to let us in to complain and we cannot be stopped without a judge’s order, we know what to do to get birth certificates and many things more. We also understood our rights to elect leaders or be chosen as leaders of our union, our community or of the whole country. Among the participants, there was a lady called Mrs. Estela who was eight months pregnant she said that she left their chaco at nine in the morning and arrived to the course at one in the afternoon, it was that far! The day of the delivery of certificates, she had her son and husband pick up the certificate for her.

When we ended the very happy course, we knew that our rights are written in the Political Constitution of the State, the Declaration of Human Rights, the Family Code and other documents; they can be respected only if we know them and we are organized, alone we can make nothing happen, Organization is very important, but there it is also necessary to make our husbands and other women’s husbands understand.

After concluding the course, I was stopped by the police and driven to the barracks of Chimoré. First I got scared, but later I remembered what I learnt, the police knew that they were not right, that it was an abuse and when they wanted to make me confess I said:

" I won’t say a word without the presence of the district attorney and my lawyer, I want my lawyer to come", they got angry a lot and they told me that they would teach me to respect to the authorities, as I showed them that I was not afraid they didn't hit me, but they took me to Cochabamba. In that city the District attorney asked me how I knew those things and I told him that he had attacked my human rights in my community. In a few days they had to free me for they didn't find anything against me and they helped me at the Oficina Juridica de la Mujer.

Those of us who do the training no longer allow ourselves to be abused and we teach our partners, but there is still a lot more needed. This year we already asked that other courses be given in the area for more women to become qualified, I believe that this way, little by little will, we will progress.

It is not easy for us the women. Our partners at home become irritated. They believe that the women should stay in the house, not get involved in anything, but when there are problems and men mistreat us or they stop us without reason, they take advantage that most of the women are illiterate. But there are also some that support us to attend the course, some unions have set a quota to pay the tuition to their women leaders.

Another problem for the women when we pass courses is that we attend with our small children that cause an uproar. They cry, they play and they don't allow us to pay attention, many have to pay more attention than those that know how to read and to write, for luck those that give the courses they speak Quechua and that helps us to learn better.

We wanted all the women and men to have the opportunity to know our rights and that the authorities respect us, we don't oppose ourselves that they jail those trade cocaine, but that they should investigate well and don't commit abuses like they do now and that they also should imprison those that are not farmers for now the jails are full with poor people, women and men that cannot pay in dollars to the lawyers, while the very well dressed and rich, they don't arrive at the jail at all and if they do they are very well treated and they are quickly released"

(original report given in Quechua by Maria X..., transmitted by Susana Chiarotti, regional coordinator CLADEM, Rosario. Argentina)


Military Violence against Women- The McDougall Report

Abuse of women in armed conflict has been a major emphasis of the global movement that has made violence against women a major human rights issue. Asian women have been at the forefront of the campaign against military violence against women. Feminist peace researchers have long argued that war itself is the most violent manifestation of patriarchy and is an essentially misogynist institution; that militarism is a significant impediment to the full equality of women. The violence inflicted on women by the military even in "peace time" is cited as evidence. So, too, is the research indicating that domestic violence against women frequently increases in societies in various states of military crises, and there is mounting evidence of domestic violence against women in military families, along with sexual harassment and assault against women in the military. This evidence contributes to the assertion that there are significant relationships among all forms of violence, and that the institutions of patriarchy and war are at the core of the global culture of violence.


At long last women's human rights and peace activism included the issue of military violence against women on the agenda of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities called for a report on Violence Against Women in Armed Conflict to be presented in June 1998. This report, to be discussed further in the chapter on armed conflict, brought attention to a problem which exists in too many cases of violence against women It is not at all confined to armed conflict, or to the problem of impunity. All advocates of the prevention and elimination of violence against women argue that prosecution of the perpetrators is absolutely essential to the resolution of the problem.

The research and the report, initiated by a concern for the problem of military sexual slavery first brought to world wide attention by the "Comfort Women" enslaved by the Japanese military in World War II, was conducted and presented by an American legal scholar, Gay J. McDougall, assigned as the Special Rapporteur. The report presented the following recommendations, which activists might consider for possible application to the prevention and punishment of other forms of violence against women.


101. Ending the cycle of impunity which currently exists for acts of sexual violence and sexual slavery during armed conflict will require political will as well as concerted action by the international community, the United Nations, Governments and nongovernmental actors. Developing the effectiveness and availability of the existing legal framework is a critical component of any such action. At least the following practical steps should be pursued immediately.

103. Removal of gender bias in municipal law and procedure...

104. Adequate protection for victims and witnesses...

105. Appropriate support services for victims...

106. The proposed permanent International Criminal Court...

107. Documentation with a view to eventual prosecution...

108. Action at the cessation of hostilities...

109. The need for an effective, gender-sensitive response.

(Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during

armed conflict. Final report submitted by Ms. Gay J. McDougall, Special Rapporteur, June 1998).

The campaign for accountability and legal remediation of the sexual slavery of the "Comfort

Women" has been vigorously pursued. The Campaign is especially strong in Japan, where Yayori

Matsui, a former journalist and a founder of the Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center inspires

and initiates actions to inform the public and press the Japanese government to take

responsibility and offer appropriate compensation.

Conclusions And Recommendations Of The un Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

In its 1998 session in which it reviewed progress in regard to Critical Area of Concern D of the BPFA, the CSW projected measures to be taken by member states and civil society. They particularly emphasized the need to allocate resources to overcome these gross violations of the human rights of women.

(...) actions to be taken by Governments, nongovernmental organizations and the public and private sector:

Support the work on nongovernmental organizations in their activities to prevent, combat and eliminate violence against women;

Provide adequate resources for women's groups, help lines, crisis centers and other support services, including credit, medical, psychological and other counseling services, as well as focus on vocational skill training for women of violence that enables them to find a means of subsistence.

Provide resources for the strengthening of legal mechanisms for prosecuting those who commit acts of violence against women and girls, and for the rehabilitation of victims;

Support and encourage partnerships for the establishment of national networks and to provide resources for shelters and relief support for women and girls, so as to offer a safe, sensitive and integrated response to women victims of violence, including the provision of programmes designed to heal victims of trafficking and rehabilitate them into society;

Consider increasing contributions for national, regional and international action to combat violence against women, including for the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women, its causes and consequences and the Trust Fund in Support of Action to Eliminate Violence against Women of the United Nations Development Fund for Women;

Develop special programmes that would assist women and girls with disabilities in recognizing and reporting acts of violence, including the provision of accessible support services for their protection and safety;

Encourage and fund the training of personnel in the administration of justice, law enforcement agencies, security, social and health-care services, schools and migration authorities on matters related to gender-based violence, and its prevention, and the protection of women from violence;

Include in national budgets adequate resources related to the elimination of violence against women and girls.

(Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women, 1998, Draft Resolution IV, Section B, Provision of Resources to Combat Violence Against Women)

CSW called special attention to the need to change attitudes in putting forth the following recommendations for actions by governments and civil society:

...implementing participatory educational programmes on human rights, conflict resolution and gender equality, for women and men of all ages, beginning with girls and boys;

Support ... peer mediation and conflict resolution for schoolchildren and special training of teachers to equip them to encourage cooperation and respect for diversity and gender;

Encourage innovative education ... to enhance awareness of gender-based violence by promoting non-violent conflict resolution ... educational goals for achieving gender equality;

Introduce and invest in comprehensive public awareness campaigns, such as "zero tolerance", that portray violence against women as unacceptable;

Encourage the promotion in media portrayals of positive images of women and men, presenting them as cooperative and full partners in the upbringing of their children, and discourage the media from presenting negative images of women and girls;

Encourage the media to create positive images of women and men as cooperative and crucial actors in preventing violence against women through the development of voluntary international media codes of conduct, on positive images, portrayals and representations of women, and on the coverage of the reporting of violence against women;

Raise awareness and mobilize public opinion to eliminate female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional, cultural or customary practices that violate the human rights of women and girls and negatively affect their health;

Promote the responsible use of new information technologies, in particular the Internet, including the encouraging of steps to prevent the use of these technologies for discrimination and violence against women, and for trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual exploitation, including the exploitation of prostitution of women and girls;

Create policies and programmes to encourage behavioral change in perpetrators of violence against women, including rape, and monitor and assess the impact and effect of such programmes;

Establish legal literacy programmes to make women aware of their rights and the methods of seeking protection under the law;

Recognize that women and girls with disabilities, women migrants and refugee women and girls could be particularly affected by violence, and encourage the development of programmes for their support;

Encourage campaigns aimed at clarifying opportunities, limitations and rights in the event of migration so as to enable women to make informed decision and to prevent them from becoming victims of trafficking;

Conduct research on, and create policies and programmes to change, the attitudes and behavior of perpetrators of violence against women within family and society;

Actively encourage, support and implement measure aimed at increasing the knowledge and understanding of violence against women, through gender analysis capacity-building and gender-sensitive training for law enforcement officers, police personnel, the judiciary, medical and social workers, and teachers.

(Draft Resolution IV, Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women on Critical areas of concern identified in the Beijing Platform for Action, March 1998)


Review the recommendations in the McDougall Reports.

Which of the recommendations apply only to situations of armed conflict?

What general principles on the prohibition of gender violence should apply to all situations?

Can you discern relationships between militarism and gender violence that should be included in public awareness and education programs about gender violence?

Review the SIBOL experience to glean lessons about advocacy and lobbying. Which aspects seem helpful in your plans and initiatives to halt gender violence?

Which of the recommendations of the 1998 CSW are applicable to your group and/or your


Which of these approaches might form the basis of partnership with other NGOs?

What could your group contribute to a joint effort?

European Initiatives: Analysis and Action

In Europe the problem has been addressed at the local national and regional levels . The following communication describes initiatives taken by the Commission of the European Communities.

Violence towards children, young persons and women is a phenomenon of very long standing in our society and constitutes a gross violation of their basic human rights... present in all societies and at all levels of society, regardless of levels of development, political stability, culture or religion. It is found both in the public and private domains. It exists worldwide, and therefore is prevalent within the countries of the European Union....

The issue of violence against women and children requires long-term investment , as part of a coordinated comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to the problem, involving both...public and law enforcement bodies as well as nongovernmental and voluntary organizations (NGOs)....


Various factors increase the vulnerability of both women and children to violence: poor socioeconomic conditions, status in society, the breakdown of the family and other support

mechanisms, lifestyle crises such as drug or alcohol abuse, perceptions of women and

children as legitimate sexual targets. This violence may include both physical and

psychological ill treatment. Available national statistics show that it is widespread and of

alarming proportions....


A frequent feature of domestic violence against women and children which deserves special attention in the legislation of the Member States is the fact that it is systematically repeated over a period of time....


Since the victims of violence are often reluctant to admit the cause of their injuries, it is

impossible to calculate the costs to society as a whole. On any view, the costs throughout the European Union and, in particular, those to the public funds of the Member States, to provide necessary medical treatment and psychological and social support resulting from violence must be substantial.

The European Parliament inserted one line (B3-4109) into the 1997 budget to cover measures for

combating violence against children, young persons and women (the Daphne Initiative) paving

the way for a programme of action for the years 2000-2004. The initiative provides for community- wide support to Member States (and activities to prevent) on violence against children, young persons and women:


The aim of the programme is to assist and encourage NGOs and voluntary organizations active in the fight against this violence. NGOs and voluntary organizations play an essential role in the fight against violence against children, young persons and women... they provide services which public authorities are unable or lack the competence to provide. Society will benefit if the expertise and experience of NGOs and their ideas and programmes are stimulated and disseminated throughout the Community and are shared with likeminded organizations in other Member States.

(...) Member States should promote research, collect data and compile statistics on all forms of violence against women, in particular domestic violence, and encourage research into the effectiveness of measures implemented to prevent and to redress violence against women;

encourage the creation and reinforcement of structures, programmes and measures, particularly within the NGO sector, aimed at increasing the knowledge and understanding of the causes, the consequences and mechanisms of violence against women;

(...) organize and fund information campaigns and educational and training programmes in order to raise the awareness of men, women and children of the detrimental personal and social effects of violence on victims, in the family, the community and society. [Commission of the European Communities,

Communication from the Commission on Violence Against Children, Young Persons and Women,

Brussels, 20.05.1998 COM (1998) 335 Final, 98/0192 (CNS)]


The Commission also put forward specific objectives and actions to deal with the problems, as stated in section I & II of a proposal

I. ...assist and encourage nongovernmental organizations and voluntary organizations (NGOs) to work together with each other and with officials of public bodies including law enforcement officers and social workers....support ...the establishment of networks involving NGOs from different Member States ...encourage cooperation between NGOs and public officials in order to improve on both sides the level of understanding of each other's role and to exchange relevant information and experiences.


II. (...) to raise public awareness about violence against children, young persons and women including trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and other sexual abuse and to encourage the exchange of best practices.


III. (...conduct) information campaigns and pilot projects and awareness raising activities among the general public and, in particular, among children and young persons about potential risks of violence and of ways of avoiding them.


(Proposal for a Council Decision on a medium-term Community action programme on measures providing a Community-wide support to Member States action relating to violence against children, young persons and women (the DAPHNE Programme) 2000-2004, Annex to Communication from the Commission on Violence Against Children, Young Persons and Women.


Study the language of Amendment to the Criminal Code of Mauritius

Could it be an appropriate model for your country?

If you were to design laws against domestic violence, what would they include?

What kinds of training do you think are possible ?

Preventive Training for women? Preventive Training for men?

Do the descriptions by the Commission of the European Communities apply to the violence in your country? Are the steps recommended for the European communities applicable in your country?

Which of them might you adapt to an overall plan of public education and action?

What specific goals would you adopt for your plan? How will you assess progress?

Do the schools in your community and country provide education about gender violence? Which of the following would you like to see in your schools?

• Solid ethics or moral education

• Conflict resolution training

• Violence prevention seminars

• Study of gender, social formation of gender, sex roles and gender stereotyping

• History of the international movements and standards to prevent gender violence

• Comprehensive human rights education


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