Domestic Violence: Law and Policy
last updated August 2013
International, regional and national institutions have been paying increased attention to issues of domestic violence in recent years.  Many of the legal developments on domestic violence have taken place through the framework of the United Nations or within individual national legal systems.
The developments within the United Nations system—in particular, the drafting and signature of United Nations treaties and documents recognizing domestic violence as a human rights violation and the extraordinary work of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women on the issue—have been critical to efforts to raise awareness about domestic violence, articulate state responsibility for domestic violence, and identify strategies to combat domestic violence. See, for example, the Special Rapporteur's 1996 report on violence against women which contains a framework for model legislation on domestic violence.  In 2008, a United Nations expert group developed a report entitled "Good practices in legislation on violence against women,"[1]  that also provides guidance in drafting domestic violence legislation. To download the Russian version of the expert group recommendations, click here. In 2010, this report was published as the UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women.[2]
On the regional and national level, as well, significant advancements have been made through preparing recommendations, drafting and passing domestic violence laws and the creation of policies and protocols altering law enforcement, judicial, prosecutorial, or medical response to domestic violence. On April 7, 2011, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention.[3] The Convention was the product of nearly a decade of work by the Council of Europe to combat violence against women, notably including the adoption of Recommendation Rec(2002)5 by the Committee of Ministers.[4] Although many resolutions and reports were issued by various bodies of the Council of Europe on this topic (see Resolutions, Reports and Advocacy Campaigns section), they were advisory opinions only and not legally binding on member states.   National laws and protocols vary considerably; some domestic violence laws, for example, criminalize domestic assault, others create civil remedies, and still others do both. Despite their diversity, these laws can serve as useful models for new legislative and policy reform efforts. In addition, the successes and failures of these laws and protocols in other jurisdictions can be an invaluable resource in the effort to evaluate the appropriateness of adopting a particular policy or law and to anticipate any unintended negative effects the law or policy may have on victims of domestic violence.

[1] UN Division for the Advancement of Women and UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Good Practices in Legislation on Violence Against Women, 3 (2008).
[2] Division for the Advancement of Women, Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women (2010).
[3] Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, Council of Europe, 12 Apr. 2011.
[4] “Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the protection of women against violence,” Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, Rec(2002)5, 30 Apr. 2002.