New Report: Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences Releases Report on Due Diligence
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 9:50 AM

Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, released a new report on May 14, 2013 (Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences). In this report, Manjoo focuses on when and how states may be held accountable for “a failure to exercise due diligence to prevent or respond to certain acts or omissions of non-State actors” in the context of violence against women. For a State to fulfill its due diligence it must have an effective means of responding to rights violations by itself or third parties and it must implement those means appropriately.
Manjoo’s research was restricted by a variety of factors, including a limited number of responses from countries and NGOs polled and the inconsistent quality of responses. A contributing factor to this lack of uniformity is that “there is no legally binding instrument under international law, specifically on violence against women, to effectively monitor State responsibility to act with due diligence in their efforts to respond to, prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women.” Manjoo argues that although violence against women is a widely acknowledged problem, few States effectively implement policies that work to remedy this problem. She identifies a disconnect between States’ actual and perceived legal obligations, observing that only a small percentage of States express the fact that ratified treaties addressing violence against women create a due diligence requirement on the part of Member States.
States’ successes in addressing violence against women have been uneven at best because most State programs lack necessary breadth, resources, implementation, or a thorough understanding of the complexities of gender inequality that is the basis of violence against women. One specific issue that Manjoo identifies is a lack of specialized knowledge among the police, judiciary, and legislature. These entities often incorporate gender stereotypes into their treatment of cases of violence against women, a practice that may restrict women from fully benefiting from the legal and police resources to which they are entitled. For example, a lack of sensitivity to the particularities of women’s situations and a continued association between domestic violence and the private sphere often results in informal approaches to remedying intimate partner violence that may force women to return to dangerous situations. Finally, incidents of violence against women are too frequently understood solely at the individual level, with no acknowledgment of a systemic problem.
In order to fulfill their duty of due diligence, States must identify the complex factors and causes of violence against women and seek to develop remedies specific to women’s situations, on the individual as well as global level. Existing programs that train State actors to respond to violence against women and punish perpetrators of such violence should be expanded and given sufficient resources to become more effective. Finally, there must be a greater acknowledgment of States’ legal duties and a focus on and means to hold States accountable for failure to fulfill said duties.