In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW). This landmark document was the result of efforts of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women and the U.N. Economic and Social Council to address violence against women. As a U.N. General Assembly declaration, DEVAW does not have the binding legal authority of a convention or treaty. However, it does set forth a clear international standard for addressing violence against women. DEVAW establishes the most comprehensive set of standards in international law for the protection of women against sexual and gender-based violence. The Declaration defines violence against women as “any 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 deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” Under the Declaration, violence against women is understood to include rape, sexual abuse, sexual abuse of female children, and marital rape, among other things. The DEVAW not only declares that state actors should refrain from engaging in violence against women, but also asserts that states should take affirmative measures to prevent and punish violence committed by public and private actors alike and establish support networks to care for victims of gender-based violence.
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