May 23, 2006
Violence Against Women & International Law
I promise to keep this short. This is to follow up on yesterday’s post on sexual violence against women in refugee camps. Here is some information I found about the subject in the context of international law and human rights treaties. Amnesty International has a “Stop Violence Against Women” section on their website. This has a lot of great resources for activists, those that want to know more about women’s rights and what’s being done or are interested in being a campaign coordinator.
This is from Amnesty International:
Foundations of Women’s Human Rights in International Law
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that human rights apply to all people equally, “without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language…or any other status”.
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW),or the International Women’s Human Rights Treaty, was adopted by the UN in 1979. CEDAW was the first document to comprehensively address women’s rights within political, cultural, economic, social and family spheres.
- The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW)set forth ways in which governments should act to prevent violence, and to protect and defend women’s rights. DEVAW holds states responsible to “exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the state or by private persons”.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court includes as rape those situations where the victim is deprived of her ability to consent to sex, including providing sex to avoid harm or to obtain basic necessities. It recognizes rape and other forms of sexual violence by combatants in the conduct of armed conflict as war crimes. When rape and sexual violence are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, they are considered crimes against humanity, and in some cases may constitute an element of genocide.
Legal Standards for International Human Rights
- General Recommendation No.19 of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination(CEDAW), asserts “gender-based violence… is… violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or [because violence] affects women disproportionately…” Therefore, women who experience infringement upon their human rights due to armed conflict are not under an equal protection of the law.
- Article 27 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, in response to the aggressive reprisal upon women during World War II, states, “Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honor, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.” It further denounces these actions based upon “nationality, race, religious beliefs, age, marital status or social condition.”
- Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, addressing cases of non-international armed conflicts, prohibits acts against non-combatants including “murder of all kinds,” “violence to life and person,” torture, the taking of hostages, and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, addressing civilian and/or military authorities who involve themselves in cases of international armed conflicts, as well as colonial domination and racist regimes, states women “shall be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution, and any other form of indecent assault.”
- The Jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recognizes rape and other forms of sexual violence by combatants in the conduct of armed conflict as war crimes. When rape and sexual violence are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, they are considered crimes against humanity and in some cases may constitute an element of genocide.
The blog Jus Cogens has up-to-date information on developments in international law. It’s a good read even if you don’t have a legal background. It also has great information on the different international treaties as well as world courts and tribunals.