UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Releases First Thematic Report
Friday, June 4, 2010 10:40 AM

In April 2010, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences Rashida Manjoo released her first thematic report summarizing her activities and noting that though progress had been made in providing adequate reparations for female victims of gendered violence, there remain many causes for concern. The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women is a mandate of the United Nations that is responsible for gathering and evaluating information on violence against women and recommending international, regional and national strategies to address these issues.
Manjoo, who was appointed in June 2009, requested invitations to visit Somalia, the United States, and Zimbabwe, and visited Kyrgystan and El Salvador during her first year.  She also issued communications and press statements; addressed the Commission on the Status of Women and the Third Committee of the General Assembly (pointing to "reparations, prevention strategies, and multiple, intersecting and aggravated forms of discrimination" as priorities); issued a joint report noting the lack of progress in addressing women's human rights and gender equity issues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo pusuant to the previous joint report; engaged in Asian-Pacific, African, and Central American and Caribbean regional consultations in Tahiland, Zambia, and El Salvador, respectively; and participated in numerous conferences and workshops.
Under international law, it has been firmly established that it is the States’ responsibility to provide reparations (see article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 4(d) of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, article 7(f) and (g) of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, and articles 4 and 10 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa), but the content of this obligation is often described in vague terms and is frequently left unfulfilled. 
Reparations can take both procedural and substantive forms and in the context of violence against women may include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction (e.g. corroboration via factual investigation and public acknowledgment of such findings), and guarantees of non-repetition. In many contexts, fulfilling this final reparative remedy requires more the simply restoring a victim to her former position, and necessitates a transformation of societal beliefs and structures. Further, in settings exhibiting widespread gender violence paired with state instability or weakness, it may not be feasible to provide remedies for individual cases.
Despite the inadequacy of many reparations schemes, there has been some success. In November 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that the Mexican government failed to exercise due diligence to prevent and investigate violence against women and punish those responsible in the case of Cotton Field v. Mexico. This landmark holding established that a state must incorporate gendered reparations that seek to provide transformative, and not merely restorative, justice. Further, in June 2009, the European Court of Human Rights held for the first time that gender-based violence constitutes discrimination in the case of Opuz v. Turkey. Other notable achievements include the Nairobi Declaration on Women’s and Girls Right to a Remedy and Reparations and the integration of gender violence within many truth and reconciliation commissions. 
Special Rapporteur Manjoo recommends expanding traditional ideas of what violence against women consists of to include reproductive harm, forced marriage, and domestic enslavement, among others, and not just sexual violence. Finally, Manjoo advocates for the implementation of administrative procedures that have the capacity to compliment judicial systems.
Compiled fromReport of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Rashida ManjooHuman Rights Council, Fourteenth Session, Agenda Item 3, A/HRC/14/22 (19 April 2010).