Convention Against Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (CAT)

CEDAW Recommendation 19 also states that violence against women is a violation of the right not to be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as protected by UDHR Article 5 and ICCPR Article 7.[1] In recent years, the view has been affirmed by the Committee Against Torture, which is the monitoring body of the Convention Against Torture (CAT).[2] The Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by 170 states[3], strictly prohibits torture of any kind, with torture defined as any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted” for purposes such as obtaining information, punishment, intimidation or coercion, or any reason based on discrimination.[4]

Although such acts generally must be inflicted by a public official, the State can also be responsible if it acquiesces to the act.[5] In clarifying State responsibility for torture by non-state actors, the Committee specifically cited “States parties’ failure to prevent and protect victims from gender-based violence, such as rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and trafficking” as a violation of CAT.[6] The Special Rapporteur on Torture published a report in 2019 on the relevance of the prohibition of torture to the context of domestic violence.[7] In reviewing country compliance with CAT, both the Committee and the Special Rapporteur on Torture routinely request information on the prevalence of violence against women in countries around the world.

[1] General Recommendation 19, supra note 11, at 7.

[2] “Committee against Torture,” Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, available at

[3] United Nations Treaty Collection, “Convention Against Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” accessed July 13, 2020. Available at

[4] Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Art. 1, G.A. res. 39/46, annex, 39 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 51) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (1984), entered into force June 26, 1987, available at

[5] Id.

[6] Committee against Torture, General Comment No. 2, 18, UN Doc. CAT/C/GC/2 (Jan. 24, 2008), available at

[7] Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, Relevance of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to the context of domestic violence, (12 July 2019), U.N. Doc. A/74/148.