Criminal Laws

Last Updated March 2015


In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at


Legislation should ensure all forms of widow maltreatment are criminalized and are non-compoundable. Legislation should ensure that widows have access to justice, equal protection of the law and prompt redress for the harm that they have suffered. (See: Roles and Responsibilities)

Drafters should ensure that criminal laws prohibiting the maltreatment of widows supersede customary laws and practices that condone or authorize these violations. Legislation should state that the payment of bride price is not a defense to any forms of maltreatment of widows.

Legislation should appropriately penalize and punish acts of violence against women carried out as intimidation or retribution. Such violence and harassment may include violence, threats including threats of bewitchment, acid attacks, stove burnings, forced evictions, demands for the return of bride price, interference with family relations, crimes against property, and “honour” crimes. Criminal legislation should also provide for criminal no contact orders, which are similar to civil orders for protection, and may be a part of the criminal process when a violent offender is accused of a crime. For example, (see: Domestic Abuse Act of Minnesota, (1979), Minnesota, §518B.01 Subd.22)