UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences
last updated 10 June 2013
The UN Commission on Human Rights (predecessor of the Human Rights Council) created a number of special rapporteurs and working groups to address specific human rights violations and regions of concern. Special rapporteurs and members of working groups are independent experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights. Their mandates may be thematic in scope, such as violence against women, or country-specific. They may undertake country visits, bring communications of alleged violations to the attention of State parties, contribute to the development of international law and standards, and raise public awareness of human rights violations. These mechanisms have been very effective in bringing urgent human rights issues to the attention of the UN and the international community. As of 2013, there were 36 thematic and 13 country-specific mandates. 
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, including its causes and consequences, began in 1994 when the Commission on Human Rights appointed Radhika Coomaraswamy, from Sri Lanka, to the position. Since 2009, the position has been held by Rashida Manjoo from South Africa.
The Special Rapporteur collects and analyzes data on violence against women in order to recommend measures to be taken at the international, regional and national level. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur has four elements:
  1. Seek and respond to information on violence against women and its causes and consequences from a variety of sources, including government and intergovernmental organizations, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs);
  2. Recommend measures at the international, regional and national levels to eliminate violence against women and remedy its consequences;
  3. Cooperate with other special rapporteurs, working groups and experts of the Human Rights Council, as well as treaty bodies and the Commission on the Status of Women to ensure that the human rights of women and gender perspective is incorporated into all work
  4. Adopt a comprehensive and universal approach for eliminating violence against women.
The Special Rapporteur has conceptualized violence against women in five spheres: violence within the family (including domestic violence and marital rape); violence in the community (including sexual assault; sexual harassment in the workplace and in educational institutions; and trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation); violence perpetrated or condoned by the State (including custodial violence, sexual assault during armed conflict, and violence against refugee women); trafficking in persons; and; policies that impact violence against women (including socio-economic policies and reproductive rights).