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Gender and Legislation in Latin America and the Caribbean; an online book


Adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women at the 16th plenary meeting, on 15 September 1995

D. Violence against women

112. Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The long-standing failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in the case of violence against women is a matter of concern to all States and should be addressed. Knowledge about its causes and consequences, as well as its incidence and measures to combat it, have been greatly expanded since the Nairobi Conference. In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture. The low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of violence against women.

113. The term "violence against women" means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Accordingly, violence against women encompasses but is not limited to the following:

  1. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence relation exploitation;
  2. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution.
  3. Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.

114. Other acts of violence against women include violation of human rights of women in situations of armed conflict, in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy.

115. Acts of violence against women also include forced sterilization and forced abortion, coercive/force use of contraceptives, prenatal sex selection and female infanticide.

116. Some groups of women, such as women belonging to minority groups, indigenous women, refugee women, women migrants, including women migrant workers, women in poverty living in rural or remote communities, destitute women, women in institutions or in detention, female children, women with disabilities, elderly women, displaced women, repatriated women, women living in poverty and women in situations of armed conflict, foreign occupation, wars of aggression, civil wars, terrorism, including hostage-taking, are also particularly vulnerable to violence.

117. Acts or threats of violence, whether occurring within the home or in the community, or perpetrated or condoned by the State, instil fear and insecurity in women's lives and are obstacles to the achievement of equality and for development and peace. The fear of violence, including harassment, is a permanent constraint on the mobility of women and limits their access to resources and basic activities. High social, health and economic costs to the individual and society are associated with violence against women. Violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men. In many cases, violence against women and girls occurs in the family or within the home, where violence is often tolerated. The neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and rape of girl children and women by family members and other members of the household, as well as incidences of spousal and non-spousal abuse, often go unreported and are thus difficult to detect. Even when such violence is reported, there is often a failure to protect victims or punish perpetrators.

118. Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women's full advancement. Violence against women throughout the life cycle derives essentially from cultural patterns, in particular the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and all acts of extremism linked to race, sex, language or religion that perpetuated the lower status accorded to women in the family, the workplace, the community and society. Violence against women is exacerbated by social pressures, notably the shame of denouncing certain acts that have been perpetrated against women; women's lack of access to legal information, aid or protection; the lack of laws that effectively prohibit violence against women; failure to reform to reform existing laws; inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote awareness of and to enforce existing laws; and the absences of educational and other means to address the causes and consequences of violence. Images in the media of violence against women, in particular those that depict rape or sexual slavery as well as the use of women and girls as sex objects, including pornography, factors contributing to the continued prevalence of such violence, adversely influencing the community at large, in particular children and young people.

119. Developing a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to the challenging risk of promoting families, communities and States that are free of violence against women is necessary and achievable. Equality, partnership between women and men and respect for human dignity must permeate all stages of the socialization process. Educational systems should promote self-respect, mutual respect, and cooperation between women and men.

120. The absence of adequate gender-disaggregated data and statistics on the incidence of violence makes the elaboration of programmes and monitoring of changes difficult. Lack of or inadequate documentation and research on domestic violence, sexual harassment and violence against women and girls in private and in public, including the workplace, impede efforts to design specific intervention strategies. Experience in a number of countries shows that women and men can be mobilized to overcome violence in all its forms and that effective public measures can be taken to address both the causes and the consequences of violence. Men's groups mobilizing against gender violence are necessary allies for change.

121. Women may be vulnerable to violence perpetrated by persons in positions of authority in both conflict and non-conflict situations. Training of all officials in humanitarian and human rights law and the punishment of perpetrators of violent acts against women would help to ensure that such violence does not take place at the hands of public officials in whom women should be able to place trust, including police and prison officials and security forces.

122. The effective suppression of trafficking in women and girls for the sex trade is a matter of pressing international concern. Implementation of the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of others, 18/ as well as other relevant instruments, needs to be reviewed and strengthened. The use of women in international organized crime. The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women, who has explored these acts as an additional cause of the violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls, is invited to address, within her mandate and as a matter of urgency, the issue of international trafficking for the purposes of the sex trade, as well as the issues of forced prostitution, rape, sexual abuse and sex tourism. Women and girls who are victims of this international trade are at an increased risk of further violence, as well as unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection, including infection with HIV/AIDS.

123. In addressing violence against women, Governments and other actors should promote and active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that before decisions are taken an analysis may be made of their effects on women and men, respectively.

Strategic objective D.1. Take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women

Actions to be taken

124. By Governments:

  1. Condemn violence against women and refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination as set out in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women;
  2. Refrain from engaging in violence against women and exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons;
  3. Enact and/or reinforce penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to punish and redress the wrongs done to women and girls who are subjected to any form of violence, whether in the home, the workplace, the community or society;
  4. Adopt and/or implement and periodically review and analyze legislation to ensure its effectiveness in eliminating violence against women, emphasizing the prevention of violence and the prosecution of offenders; take measures to ensure the protection of women subjected to violence, access to just and effective remedies, including compensation and indemnification and healing of victims, and rehabilitation of perpetrators;
  5. Work actively to ratify and/or implement international human rights norms and instruments as they relate to violence against women, including those contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 19/ the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 12 the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 12/ and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; 20/
  6. Implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, taking into account general recommendation 19 adopted by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, at its eleventh session; 21/
  7. Promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes related to violence against women and actively encourage, support and implement measures and programmes aimed at increasing the knowledge and understanding of the causes, consequences and mechanisms of violence against women among those responsible for implementing these policies, such as law enforcement officers, police personnel and judicial, medical and social workers, as well as those who deal with minority, migration and refugee issues, and develop strategies to ensure that the revictimization of women victims of violence does not occur because of gender-insensitive laws or judicial or enforcement practices;
  8. Provide women who are subjected to violence with access to the mechanisms of justice and, as provided for by national legislation, to just and effective remedies for the harm they have suffered and inform women of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms;
  9. Enact and enforce legislation against the perpetrators of practices and acts of violence against women, such as female genital mutilation, prenatal sex selection, infanticide and dowry-related violence and give vigorous support to the efforts to non-governmental and community organizations to eliminate such practices;
  10. Formulate and implement, at all appropriate levels, plans of action to eliminate violence against women;
  11. Adopt all appropriate measures, especially in the field of education, to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, and to eliminate prejudices, customary practices and all other practices based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes and on stereotyped roles for men and women;
  12. Create or strengthen institutional mechanisms so that women and girls can report acts of violence against them in a safe and confidential environment, free from the fear of penalties or retaliation, and file charges;
  13. Ensure that women with disabilities have access to information and services in the field of violence against women;
  14. Create, improve or develop as appropriate, and fund the training programmes for judicial, legal, medical, social, educational and polite and immigrant personnel, in order to avoid the abuse of power leading to violence against women and sensitize such personnel to the nature of gender-based acts and threats of violence so that fair treatment of female victims can be assured;
  15. Adopt laws, where necessary, and reinforce existing laws that punish police, security forces or any other agents of the State who engage in acts of violence against women in the course of the performance of their duties, review existing legislation and take effective measures against the perpetrators of such violence;
  16. Allocate adequate resources within the government budget and mobilize community resources for activities related to theelimination or violence against women, including resources for the implementation of plans of action at all appropriate levels;
  17. Include in reports submitted in accordance with the provisions of relevant United Nations human rights instruments, information pertaining to violence against women and measures taken to implement the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women;
  18. Cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women in the performance of her mandate and furnish all information requested; cooperate also with other competent mechanisms, such as the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on torture and the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on summary, extrajudiciary and arbitrary executions, in relation to violence against women;
  19. Recommend that the Commission on Human Rights renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women when her term ends in 1977 and, if warranted, to update and strengthened it.

125. By Governments, including local governments, and community organizations, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, the public and private sectors, particularly enterprises, and the mass media, as appropriate;

  1. Provide well-funded shelters and relief support for girls and women subjected to violence, as well as medical, psychological and other counselling services and free or low-cost legal aid, where it is needed, as well as appropriate assistance to enable them to find a means of subsistence;
  2. Establish linguistically and culturally accessible services for migrant women and girls, including women migrant workers, who are victims of gender-based violence;
  3. (Recognize the vulnerability to violence and other forms of abuse of women migrants, including women migrant workers, whose legal status in the lost country depends on employers who may exploit their situation;
  4. Support initiative of women's organizations and non-governmental organizations all over the world to raise awareness on the issue of violence against women and to contribute to its elimination;
  5. Organize, support and fund community-based education and training campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women as a violation of women's enjoyment of their human rights and mobilize local communities to use appropriate gender-sensitive traditional and innovative methods of conflict resolution;
  6. Recognize, support and promote the fundamental role of intermediate institutions, such as primary-health-care centres, family-planning centres, existing school health services, mother and baby protection services, centres for migrant families and so forth in the field of information and education related to abuse;
  7. Organize and fund information campaigns, educational and training programmes in order to sensitize girls and boys and women and men to the personal and social detrimental effects of violence in the family, community and society; teach them how to communicate without violence; promote training for victims and potential victims so that they can protect themselves and others against such violence;
  8. Disseminate information on the assistance available to women and families who are victims of violence;
  9. Provide, fund and encourage counselling and rehabilitation programmes for the perpetrators of violence, and promote research to further efforts concerning such counselling and rehabilitation so as to prevent the recurrence of such violence;
  10. Raise awareness of the responsibility of the media in promoting non-stereotyped images of women and men, as well as in eliminating patterns of media presentation that generate violence, and encourage those responsible for media content to establish professional guidelines and codes of conduct, consistent with freedom of expression; and also raise awareness of the important role of the media in informing and educate people about the causes and effects of violence against women and in stimulating public debate on the topic.

126. By Governments, employers, trade unions, community and youth organizations and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate:

  1. Develop programmes and procedures to eliminate sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women in all educational institutions, workplaces and elsewhere;
  2. Develop programmes and procedures to educate and raise awareness of acts of violence against women that constitute a crime and a violation of the human rights of women;
  3. Develop counselling, healing and support programmes for girls, adolescents and young women who have been or are involved in abusive relationships, particularly those who live in homes or institutions where abuse occurs;
  4. Take special measures to eliminate violence against women, particularly those in vulnerable situations, such as young women, refugee, displaced and internally displaced women, women with disabilities and women migrant workers, including enforcing any existing legislation and developing, as appropriate, new legislation for women migrant workers in both sending and receiving countries.

127. By the Secretary-General of the United Nations:

Provide the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women with all necessary assistance, in particular staff and resources required to perform all mandated functions, especially in carrying out and following up on missions undertaken either separately or jointly with other special rapporteur and working groups, and adequate assistance for periodic consultations with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and all treaty bodies.

128. By Governments, intonational organizations and non-governmental organizations:

Encourage the dissemination and implementation of the UNHCR Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women and the UNHCR Guidelines on the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence against Refugees.

Strategic objective D.2. Study the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures.


Actions to be taken

129. By Governments, regional organizations, the United Nations, other international organizations, research institutions, women's and youth organizations and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate:

  1. Promote research, collect data and compile statistics, especially concerning domestic violence relating to the prevalence of different forms of violence against women and encourage research into the causes, nature, seriousness and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of measures implemented to prevent and redress violence against women;
  2. Disseminate findings of research and studies widely;
  3. Support and initiate research on the impact of violence, such as rape on women and girl children, and make the resulting information and statistics available to the public;
  4. Encourage the media to examine the impact of gender role stereotypes, including those perpetuated by commercial advertisements which foster gender-based violence and inequalities, and how they are transmitted during the life cycle and take measures to eliminate these negative images with a view to promoting a violence-free society.

Strategic objective D.3. Eliminate trafficking in women and assist victims of violence due to prostitution and trafficking

Actions to be taken

130. By Governments of countries of origin, transit and destination, regional and international organizations, as appropriate;

  1. Consider the ratification and enforcement of international conventions on trafficking in persons and on slavery;
  2. Take appropriate measures to address the root factors, including external factors, that encourage trafficking in women and girls for prostitution and other forms of commercialized sex, forced marriages and forced labour in order to eliminate trafficking in women, including by strengthening existing legislation with a view to providing better protection of the rights of women and girls and to punishing the perpetrators, through both criminal and civil measures;
  3. Step up cooperation and concerted action by all relevant law enforcement authorities and institutions with a view to dismantling national, regional and international networks in trafficking;
  4. Allocate resources to provide comprehensive programmes designated to heal and rehabilitate into society victims of trafficking including through job training, legal assistance and confidential health care and take measures to cooperate with non-governmental organizations to provide for the social, medical and psychological care of the victims of trafficking;
  5. Develop educational and training programmes and policies and consider enacting legislation aimed at preventing sex tourism and trafficking, giving special emphasis to the protection of young women and children.



G: Women in power and decision-making

183. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every one has the right to take part in the Government of his/her country. The empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of women's social, economic and political status is essential for the achievement of both transparent and accountable government and administration and sustainable development in all areas of life. The power relations that impede women's attainment of fulfilling lives operate at many levels of society, from the most personal to the highly public. Achieving the global of equal participation of women and men in decision-making will provide a balance that more accurately reflects the composition of society and is needed in order to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning. Equality in political decision-making perform a leverage function without which it is highly unlikely that a real integration of the equality dimension in government policy-making is feasible. In this respect, women's equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women's interests to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.

184. Despite the widespread movement towards democratization in most countries, women are largely underrepresented at most levels of government, especially in ministerial and other executive bodies, and have made little progress in attaining political power in legislative bodies or in achieving the target endorsed by the Economic and Social Council of having 30 per cent women in positions at decision-making levels by 1995. Globally, only 10 per cent of the members of legislative bodies and a lower percentage of ministerial positions are now held by women. Indeed, some countries, including those that undergoing fundamental political, economic and social changes, have seen a significant decrease in the number of women represented in legislative bodies. Although women make up at least half of the electorate in almost all countries and have attained the right to vote and hold office in almost all States Members of the United Nations, women continue to be seriously underrepresented as candidates for public office. The traditional working patterns of many political parties and government structures continue to be barriers to women's participation in public life. Women may be discouraged from seeking political office by discriminatory attitudes and practices, family and child-care responsibilities, and the high cost of seeking and holding public office. Women in politics and decision-making positions in Governments and legislative bodies contribute to redefining political priorities, placing new items on the political agenda that reflect and address women's gender-specific concerns, values and experience, and providing new perspective on mainstream political issues.

185. Women have demonstrated considerable leadership in community and informal organizations, as well as in public office. However, socialization and negative stereotyping of women and men, including stereotyping through the media, reinforces the tendency for political decision-making to remain domain of men. Likewise, the underrpesentation of women in decision-making positions in the areas of art, culture, sports, the media, education, religion and the law have prevented women from having a significant impact on many key institutions.

186. Owing to their limited access to the traditional avenues to power, such as the decision-making bodies of political parties, employer organizations and trade unions, women have gained access to power through alternative structures, particularly in the non-governmental organization sector. Through non-governmental organizations and grass-roots organizations, women have been able to articulate their interests and concerns and have placed women's issues on the national, regional and international agendas.

187. Inequality in the public arena can often start with discriminatory attitudes and practices and unequal power relations between women and men within the family, as described in paragraph 30. The unequal division of labour and responsibilities within households based on unequal power relations also limits women's potential to find the time and develop the skills required for participation in decision-making in wider public forums. A more equal sharing of those responsibilities between women and men not only provides a betterquality of life for women and their daughters but also enhance their opportunities to shape and design public policy, practice and expenditure so that their interests may be recognize and addressed. Non-formal networks and patterns of decision-making at the local community level that reflect a dominant male ethos restrict women's ability to participate equally in political, economic and social life.

188. The low proportion of women among economic and political decision makers at the local, national, regional and international levels reflects structural and attitudinal barriers that need to be addressed through positive measures. Governments, transnational and national corporations, the mass media, banks, academic and scientific institutions and regional and international organizations, including those in the United Nations system, do not make full use of women's talents as top-level managers, policy makers, diplomats and negotiators.

189. The equatable distribution of power and decision-making at all levels is dependent on Governments and other actors undertaking statistical gender analysis and mainstreaming a gender perspective in policy development and the implementation of programmes. Equality in decision-making is essential to the empowerment of women. In some countries, affirmative action has led to 33.3 per cent or larger representation in local and national Governments.

190. National, regional and international statistical institutions still have insufficient knowledge of how to present the issues related to the equal treatment of women and men in the economic and social spheres. In particular, there is insufficient use of existing databases and methodologies in the important sphere of decision-making.

191. In addressing the inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels, Governments and other actors should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.


Strategic objective G.1. Take measures to ensure women's equal access to and full participation in power structures and                                      decision-making

Actions to be taken

192. By Governments:

  1. Commit themselves to establishing the goal of gender balance in governmental bodies and committees, as well as in public administrative entities, and in the judiciary, including, inter-alia, setting specific targets and implementing measures to substantially increase the number of women with a view to achieving equal representation of women and men, if necessary through positive action, in all governmental and public administration positions;

  2. Take measures, including where appropriate, in electoral systems that encourage political parties to integrate women in elective and non-elective public positions in the same proportion and levels as men;

  3. Protect and promote the equal rights of women and men to engage in political activities and to freedom of association, including membership in political parties and trade unions;

  4. Review the differential impact of electoral systems on the political representation of women in elected bodies and consider, where appropriate, the adjunstment or reform of those systems;

  5. Monitor and evaluate progress on the representation of women through the regular collection, analysis and dissemination of quantitative and qualitative data on women and men at all levels in various decision-making positions in the public and private sectors, and disseminate data on the number of women and men employed at various levels in Governments on a yearly basis; ensure that women and men have equal accees to the full range of public appointments and set up mechanisms within governmental structures for monitoring progress in this field;

  6. Support non-governmental organizations and research institutes that conduct studies on women's participation in and impact on decision-making and the decision-making environment;

  7. Encourage greater involvement of indigenous women in decision-making at all levels;

  8. Encourage and, where appropriate, ensure that government-funded organizations adopt non-discriminatory policies and practices in order to increase the number and raise the position of women in their organizations;




H. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women

196. National machineries for the advancement of women have been established in almost every Member State to, inter alia, design, promote the implementation of, execute, monitor, evaluate, advocate and mobilize support for policies that promote the advancement of women. National machineries are diverse in form and uneven in their effectiveness, and in some cases have declined. Often marginalized in national government structures, these mechanisms are frequently hampered by unclear mandates, lack of adequate staff, training, data and sufficient resources, and insufficient support from national political leadership.

197. At the regional and international levels, mechanisms and institutions to promote the advancement of women as an integral part of mainstream political, economic, social and cultural development, and of initiatives on development and human rights, encounter similar problems emanating from a lack of commitment at the highest levels.

198. Successive international conference have underscored the need to take gender factors into account in policy and programme planning. However, in many instances this has not been done.

199. Regional bodies concerned with the advancement of women have been strengthened, together with international machinery, such as the Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against women. However, the limited resources available continue to impede full implementation of their mandates.

200. Methodologies for conducting gender-based analysis in policies and programmes and for dealing with the differential effects of policies on women and men have been developed in many organizations and are available for application but are often not being applied or are not being applied consistently.

201. A national machinery for the advancement of women is the central policy-coordinating unit inside government. Its main task is to support government-wide mainstreaming of a gender-equality perspective in all policy areas. The necessary conditions for an effective functioning of such national machineries include:

  1. Location at the highest possible level in the Government, falling under the responsibility of a Cabinet minister;

  2. Institutional mechanisms or processes the facilitate, as appropriate, decentralized planning, implementation and monitoring with a view to involving non-governmental organizations and community organizations from the grass-roots upwards;

  3. Sufficient resources in terms of budget and professional capacity;

  4. Opportunity to influence development of all government policies.

202. In addressing the issue of mechanisms for promoting the advancement of women, Governments and other actors should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that, before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.

Strategic objective H.1. Create or strengthen national machineries and other governmental bodies

Actions to be taken

203. By Governments:


  1. Ensure that responsibilities for the advancement of women is vested in the highest possible level of government; in many cases, this could be at the level of a Cabinet minister;

  2. Based on a strong political commitment, create a national machinery, where it does not exist, and strengthen, as appropriate, existing national machineries, for the advancement of women at the highest possible level of government; it should have clearly defined mandates and authority; critical elements would be adequate resources and the ability and competence to influence policy and formulate and review legislation; among other things, it should perform policy analysis, undertake advocacy, communication, coordination and monitoring of implementation;

  3. Provide staff training in designing and analyzing data from a gender perspective;

  4. Establish procedures to allow the machinery to gather information on government-wide policy issues at an early stage and continuously use it in the policy development and review process within the Government;

  5. Report, on a regular basis, to legislative bodies on the progress of efforts, as appropriate, to mainstream gender concerns, taking into account the implementation of the Platform for Action;

  6. Encourage and promote the active involvement of the broad and diverse range of institutional actors in the public, private and voluntary sectors to work for equality between women and men.

Strategic objective H.2. Integrate gender perspectives in legislation, public polices, programmes and projects

Actions to be taken

204. By Governments:

  1. Seek to ensure that before policy decisions are taken, an analysis of their impact on women and men, respectively, is carried out;

  2. Regularly review national policies, programmes and projects, as well as their implementation, evaluating the impact of employment and income policies in order to guarantee that women are direct beneficiaries of development and that their full contribution to development, both remunerated and unremunerated, is considered in economical policy and planning;

  3. Promote national strategies and aims on equality between women and men in order to eliminate obstacles to the exercise of women's rights and eradicate all forms of discrimination against women;

  4. Work with members of legislative bodies, as appropriate, to promote a gender perspective in all legislation and policies;

  5. Give all ministries the mandate to review policies and programmes from a gender perspective and in the light of the Platform for Action; locate the responsibility for the implementation of that mandate at the highest possible level; establish and/or strengthen an inter-ministerial coordination structure to carry out this mandate, to monitor progress and to network with relevant machineries.

205. By national machinery:

  1. Facilitate the formulation and implementation of government policies on equality between women and men, develop appropriate strategies and methodologies, and promote coordination and cooperation within the central Government in order to ensure mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all policy-making processes;

  2. Promote and establish cooperative relationships with relevant branches of government, centres for women's studies and research, academic and educational institutions, the private sector, the media, non-governmental organizations, especially women's organizations, and all other actors of civil society;

  3. Undertake activities focusing on legal reform with regard, inter-alia, to the family, conditions of employment, social security, income tax, equal opportunity in education, positive measures to promote the advancement of women, and the perception of attitudes and a culture favourable to equality, as well as promote a gender perspective in legal policy and programming reforms;

  4. Promote the increased participation of women as both active agents and beneficiaries of the development process, which would result in an improvement in the quality of life of all;

  5. Establish direct links with national, regional and international bodies dealing with the advancement of women;

  6. Provide training and advisory assistance to government agencies in order to integrate a gender perspective in their policies and programmes.

Strategic objective H.3. Generate and disseminate gender-desegregated data and information for planning and evaluation

Actions to be taken

206. By national, regional and international statistical services and relevant governmental and United Nations agencies, in cooperation with research and documentation organizations, in their respective areas of responsibility:

  1. Ensure that statistics related to individuals are collected, compiled, analyzed and presented by sex and age and reflect problems, issues and questions related to women and men in society;

  2. Collect, compile, analyze and present on a regular basis data dissaggregated by age, sex, socio-economic and other relevant indicators, including number of dependants, for utilizing in policy and programme planning and implementation;

  3. Involve centres for women's studies and research organizations in developing and testing appropriate indicators and research methodologies to strengthen gender analysis, as well as in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the goals of the Platform for Action;

  4. Designate or appoint staff to strengthen gender-statistics programmes and ensure coordination, monitoring and linkage to all fields of statistical work, and prepare output that integrates statistics form the various subject areas;

  5. Improve data collection on the full contribution of women and men to the economy, including their participation in the informal sector (s);

  6. Develop a more comprehensive knowledge of all forms of work and employment by:

  7. (i) Improving data collection on the unremunerated work which is already included in the United Nations System of National Accounts, such as in agriculture, particularly subsistence agriculture, and other types of non-market production activities;

    (ii) Improving measurements that at present underestimate women's unemployment and underemployment in the labour market;

    (iii) Developing methods, in the appropriate forums, for assessing the value, in quantitative terms, of unremunerated work that is outside national accounts, such as caring for dependants and preparing food, for possible reflection in satellite or other official accounts that may be produced separately from but are consistent with core national accounts, with a view to recognizing the economic contribution of women and making visible the unequal distribution of remunerated and unremunerated work between women and men;

  8. Develop an international classification of activities for time-use statistics that is sensitive to the differences between women and men in remunerated and unremunerated work, and collect data dissaggregated by sex. At the national level, subject to national constraints:

  9. (i) Conduct regular time-use studies to measure, in quantitative terms, unremunerated work, including recording those activities that are performed simultaneously with remunerated or other unremunerated activities;

    (ii) Measure, in quantitative terms, unremunerated work that is outside national accounts and work to improve methods to assess and accurately reflect its value in satellite or other official accounts that are separate from but consistent with core national accounts;

  10. (h) Improve concepts and methods of data collection on the measurement of poverty among women and men, including their access to resources;

  11. (i) Strengthen vital statistical systems and incorporate gender analysis into publications and research; give priority to gender differences in research design and in data collection and analysis in order to improve data on morbidity; and improve data collection on access to health services, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, maternal care and family planning, with special priority for adolescent mothers and for elder care;

  12. (j) Develop improved gender-disaggregated and age-specific data on the victims and perpetrators of all forms of violence against women, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape, incest and sexual abuse, and trafficking in women and girls, as well as on violence by agents of the State;

  13. (k) Improve concepts and methods of data collection on the participation of women and men with disabilities, including their access to resources.

207. By Governments:

  1. Ensure the regular production of a statistical publication on gender that presents and interprets topical data on women and men in a form suitable for wide range of non-technical users;

  2. Ensure that producers and users of statistics in each country regularly review the adequacy of the official statistical system and its coverage of gender issues, and prepare a plan for needed improvements, where necessary;

  3. Develop and encourage the development of quantitative and qualitative studies by research organizations, trade unions, employers, the private sector and non-governmental organizations on the sharing of power and influence in society, including the number of women and men in senior decision-making positions in both the public and private sectors;

208. By the Untied Nations:

  1. Promote the development of methods to find better ways to collect, collate and analyze data that may relate to the human rights of women, including violence against women, for use by all relevant United Nations bodies;

  2. Promote the further development of statistical methods to improve data that relate to women in economic, social, cultural and political development;

  3. Prepare a new issue of The World's Women at regular five-year intervals and distribute it widely;

  4. Assist countries, upon request, in the development of gender policies and programmes;

  5. (e) Ensure that the relevant reports, data and publications of the Statistical Division of the United Nations Secretariat and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women on progress at the national and international levels are transmitted to the Commission on the Status of Women in a regular and coordinated fashion.

209. By multilateral development institutions and bilateral donors:

Encourage and support the development of national capacity in developing countries and in countries with economies in transition by providing resources and technical assistance so that countries can fully measure the work done by women and men, including both remunerated and unremunerated work, and, where appropriate, use satellite or other official accounts for unremunerated work.


By Jane E. Brody


Published in the New York Times, March 17, 1998

The cobra is a real snake in the grass, quiet and focused before striking its victim with little or no warning. The pit bull’s fury smolders and builds, and once its teeth are sunk into its victim it won’t let go. Men who batter women are either like cobras or pit bulls, say two professors of psychology at the University of Washington who have spent a decade studying violent marriages, and the distinction can make a difference in the severity of the harm they inflict, the ability of women to escape a relationship and the risks the women face if they do leave.

"Pit bulls are great guys, until they get into an intimate relationship," said Dr. Neil Jacobson who, with his colleague, Dr. John Gottman, elaborate on their study findings in a provocative new book, "When Men Batter Women" (Simon and Schuster, $25). "O.J.Simpson is a classic pit bull. Pit bulls confine their monstrous behavior to the women they love, acting out of emotional dependence and a fear of abandonment. Pit bulls are the stalkers, the jealous husbands and boyfriends who are charming to everyone except their wives and girlfriends."

Mr. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of charges that he murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and one of her friends, Ronald L. Goldman, but was found to be responsible for the deaths in a subsequent civil trial.

Pit Bulls, the psychologists say, monitor the woman’s every move. They tend to see betrayal at every turn and it infuriates them. And when their anger explodes into violence, they seem to lose control.

Cobras, on the other hand, are often sociopaths. They are cold and calculating con artists relatively free of the trappings of emotional dependence but with a high incidence of antisocial and criminal traits and sadistic behavior, the researchers found. Cobra’s violence grows out of a pathological need to have their way, to be the boss and make sure that everyone, especially their wives and girlfriends, knows it and acts accordingly.

When they think their authority has been challenged, cobras strike swiftly and ferociously, the study revealed. Although they do not lose control like the pit bulls, they are more violent toward their wives, often threatening them with a knife or gun. They are also likely to be aggressive toward everyone in their lives, including strangers and even pets, as well as friends, relatives and co-workers. Cobras are the ones who kill the cat as a warning to wives that if they fail to toe the mark, this could happen to them.

In their study of 201 couples, including 63 couples where the wives were repeatedly beaten and emotionally abused, the Seattle-based psychologists discovered and extraordinary physiological difference between the two types of batterers. They hooked up the couples to polygraphs that recorded characteristics like heart rate, blood pressure and skin resistance while the couples argued nonviolently in a laboratory setting about volatile issues in their marriages. The researchers noted that, as expected, the batterers they call pit bulls became physiologically aroused as their anger intensified, but, surprisingly, those labeled cobras calmed down internally as they became increasingly aggressive.

When the police are called in response to violence inflicted by a cobra, they are likely to find a highly agitated woman and a calm, controlled man who blames the incident on his wife, which sometimes results in the arrest of the wrong person, the researchers said.

Prof. Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, a psychologist at Indiana University in Bloomington, said that understanding the types of batterers and how they got that way should help in the development of more effective treatment programs, as well as efforts to prevent domestic violence.

"Right now, we take a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment," Dr. Holtzworth-Munroe said. "If we increase our understanding of sub-types, we could match treatment protocols to them."

The psychologists were prompted to explore this societal scourge in detail by compelling statistics and myths about domestic violence, and frustration with the general failure of therapy and the law to deal effectively with batterers. They point to estimates that two million to four million wives are severely assaulted each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends. The comparable statistic for murdered men is only 6 percent.

Yet, in only one of six battering episodes are the police called and in only 6 percent of severely violent episodes does the batterer end up in the criminal justice system.

For example, Dr. Jacobson said, when O.J. Simpson was arrested in 1989 and pleaded no contest to spousal abuse, "he was given a slap in the wrist." "If the laws were different and enforced differently, battered women would be much safer," he said. "If wife-beating was an automatic felony and the perpetrators had a mandatory jail sentence, women would have a chance to experience life without an abusive husband and an opportunity to formulate a safety plan to escape from the relationship."

Instead, Dr. Jacobson said, "batterers are often referred to treatment programs that don’t work, and judges and therapists alike are conned by these men, especially be the cobras," who have little trouble convincing everyone, including their wives, that it is safe for them to return home.

Dr. Daniel Saunders at the University of Michigan School of Social Work said: " Treatment evaluation studies are still in their infancy. We’re still trying to find out what works and in what types of men." The evidence thus far indicates that a combination of arrest, prosecution, fines and counseling works better than any one approach alone, he said.

In the Seattle study, the actions and responses among violent couples were compared with those of three other groups: equally unhappy but nonviolent couples, couples who exhibited some aggressive behavior but not enough to be classified as violent and happily married couples.

Participants were recruited through advertisements and were simply told the study would examine conflicts in marriage. When they joined the study, the couples completed extensive interviews and participated in laboratory-staged arguments that were videotaped and analyzed by independent observers who did not know how each couple was classified. A similar analysis was repeated two years later.

"There is occasional low-level violence in many marriages, with pushing or hitting with a pillow now and then out of frustration," Dr. Jacobson said. " This kind of behavior is found among about half of those who, seek couples therapy, but it almost never develops into a battering relationship." Battering, the researchers insist, is not just a matter of physical aggression. Rather, Dr. Jacobson said, "it is aggression with the intent to control, subjugate or intimidate another human being, and in marriage it is almost always the man who fits this definition."

Once physical violence succeeds in intimidating the woman, it may even taper off, only to be replaced by a never-ending barrage of emotional abuse that is sufficient to remind the woman that the threat of physical violence is always present.

The two hallmarks of battering are fear and injury, Dr. Jacobson said. "Even though in 50 percent of the violent couples the wives were also violent, the men never show fear in their voices or faces but the women virtually always were terrified and they get much more seriously injured," he noted.

Unlike the attacks by men, the violence of women is nearly always in response to battering by the man and is more self-defense than aggression, the researchers maintain. Yet, the men classified as pit bulls often profess that "they’re the ones who are the victims in a violent relationship," Dr. Jacobson said. "O.J. Simpson said he felt like a battered husband. Cobras, on the other hand, know they are perpetrators and don’t care."

While pit bulls may be easier to leave than cobras, in the long run they can be more dangerous. They are the ones who kill battered women on the courthouse steps when the women seek protection orders or divorces.

While the psychologists found that battered women are less likely to leave cobras, those who do escape face a shorter danger period because cobras generally stop trying to pursue them and go on to new conquests.

The histories of cobras and pit bulls also tend to differ. Cobras often had violent, traumatic childhoods, criminal records and a personal history of alcohol and drug abuse. Pit bulls, on the other hand, are less likely to have a history of delinquency or criminal behavior, but they are more likely than cobras to have had fathers who battered their mothers.

Drs. Jacobson and Gottman said their research shatters many prevailing myths about domestic violence. Contrary to the claims of batterers, their wives rarely do or say anything that would provoke a vicious attack in another kind of marriage. The same words and actions in a nonviolent marriage might trigger a disagreement or argument, but not a fist in the eye. Likewise, the psychologists state emphatically, there is nothing a woman can do or say to stave off or abort a battering episode. In many cases among their study subjects, when the woman tried to end an attack by leaving, the husband pursued her and intensified the beating.

Judging from the couples studied, the researchers concluded that battering almost never stops on its own. Although the frequency of physical attacks may diminish with time, in only one case did they stop altogether. Furthermore, even when physical attacks abated, emotional abuse continued and served to keep the wives intimidated and afraid. In fact, Dr. Jacobson said, emotional abuse can be even more damaging than physical abuse because the man is "always in her face, demeaning, degrading, humiliating, harassing and robbing her of her identity."

But in another myth-shattering discovery, the researchers found that a large number – 38 percent – of women managed to escape from their abusive relationships within the two- year follow-up period. None, however, were the wives of cobras, who were terrified of their husband propensity to use lethal weapons. But at a subsequent contact five years after they entered the study, 25 percent of the cobra wives had also left their husbands. All told, 65 percent of the wives of violent men had left them at that point.

The researchers said those who left demonstrated extraordinary courage and resourcefulness, because it is upon leaving that the women face the greatest likelihood of being killed. But, as one woman who left said, "Death would be preferable to continue in this living hell."

Profiles of Abuse

After a decade of research, two psychology professors have found that abusive men tend to fall into one of two categories: "cobras" and "pit bulls," each with distinct characteristics.

Pit Bulls                                                             Cobras

Confine violent behavior to people they love.                          Likely to be aggressive toward everyone, including pets.

Jealous and fear abandonment; try                                         Not emotionally dependent, but

to deprive partners of independence.                                     insist that partners cater to every desire.

Prone to rage, stalking and even                            .

public attacks.                                                                       Calm down internally as they

Become physiologically aroused in                                         become aggressive.

an argument.                                                                          Difficult to treat with therapy.

Some potential for rehabilitation.                                             More likely to have criminal records

Less likely to have criminal record;                                         and abuse drugs and/or more likely to have

abusive fathers.                                                                     alcohol.


By Jane E. Brody

Published in the New York Times, March 17, 1998

A common response of people who learn that a woman is being battered by the man she lives with is: "Why doesn’t she leave? What kind of woman is she to stay with a man who beats her?" But experts on domestic violence and the women who are its victims say these questions, though well-meaning, reflect profound ignorance of the tenacious hold abusive men can have on their partners and the often-limited options available to women in abusive relationships.

Such a woman faces two major obstacles: fear and finances – fear for her safety and that of her children and a lock of money to support herself or them. The most dangerous time in the life of a battered woman is when she attempts to leave her abuser. Threatened by the loss of control, the batterer is likely to become even more violent and may even try to kill her. There are simply not enough shelters to protect all the women who need them.

Despite much stronger laws against domestic violence and a greater willingness of the authorities to enforce them, the risk to an abused woman’s life is ever-present. Even when a batterer is served with an order of protection, he may stalk and harass the woman and taunt her with threats of further violence. More than half the women who leave violent men are hounded, badgered and forced to return, experts report.

Still, every year many women do escape, safely and permanently, gradually rebuild their tattered egos and start a new life. Sarah Buel, who had been a seriously battered wife before she finally escaped with her young son, went to college at night, then Harvard Law School and become a prosecutor and advocate for abused women, maintains that leaving a violent relationship "is all about who you know and what you know," adding, "It’s about feeling empowered enough to make that break, feeling good enough about yourself to say ‘ I don’t deserve this anymore.’"

She points out that "women are socialized to be loving, forgiving and to give one more chance," adding, "They don’t want to believe that their relationship failed because they weren’t willing to try harder." But according to Dr. Neil Jacobson and Dr. John Gottman, psychologists at the University of Washington in Seattle and authors of "When Men Batter Women" (Simon & Shuster, $25), "Those who stay, hoping that the violence and emotional abuse will stop, are usually disappointed."

A Safety Plan

The primary tasks of a woman trapped in a violent relationship are to learn about the resources in her community that can help her and to develop a plan that can protect her and her children while she is still in the relationship and when she is ready to get out. Possibly the single best resource is a $12 paperback book published last year by Harper Perennial, "What to Do When Love Turns Violent," written by Marian Betancourt, who spent three years preparing to escape with her children from a violent husband. She learned the hard way what resources were and were not available to help abused women and in her book provides detailed advice and helpful sources to aid in every aspect of escape.

Start with the National Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-SAFE (7233) and, for the hearing-impaired, 800-787-3224. Through the hot line you can get a packet of helpful information (have it sent to your workplace or a trusted friend or family member) and guidance to local resources. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands now have central domestic violence coalitions that can help women find community resources, including counseling, medical clinics, shelters, safe houses, support groups, victim assistance programs, emergency funds, police domestic violence officers and mental health and legal services.

Your best resource when living with a violent partner may be the emergency number, 911. Don’t hesitate to use it when you are in immediate danger. Teach your children to use it, too, and to give the operator succinct information like "My Daddy is beating my Mommy. He is drunk and he has a knife. We live at ….. Hurry."

Ms. Betancourt points out that recent laws have mandated improved police training for handling domestic violence. Laws now also call for mandatory arrests of perpetrators in most states. She urges women to report each and every violent episode to police, provide them with every conceivable bit of evidence, from photographs of bruises to torn clothing and smashed furniture, and to make sure that the police file a report and arrest the abuser. Keep several throw-away cameras in the house to easily document the abuse.

Consider wearing a pendant alarm or carrying a cell phone to call the police when you are in danger. Have an emergency bag packed and store it outside the house, perhaps with a neighbor. It should contain keys to the car, money and copies of all important documents, including order of protection, driver’s license and car registration, birth certificate, medical insurance cards, passport and immigration papers, the children’s school and immunization records and the numbers of your bank card, credit cards and Social Security cards (yours and his). You may also want to pack a few clothes for yourself and your children.

Know every way you can get out of the house, where you can go for help and how to get there. If you live in an apartment with only one door, ask the neighbors to call the police any time they hear your cries for help or suspicious loud noises coming from your apartment. Tell the children in advance that if you are forced to leave home without them because you are in danger, you will come back for them as soon as possible. Tell them, too, where they can go to be safe during a violent encounter with your partner and warn them against trying to intervene lest they get beaten or worse.

Ms. Betancourt also recommends that a woman tell her employer about her home situation and, if she has obtained an order of protection, provide the security guards at work with photos of her partner.

But even with the best plans and most expert advice, the Seattle psychologists warn, it must never be forgotten that "all attempts to escape from abusive relationships are risky," adding, "no one can predict with anything close to certainty how a batterer will respond." They emphasize that the woman – not family, friends or professionals – is the only one who can decide if and when it is the right time to leave.

Even if you are not ready to leave a violent relationship, you may find it helpful to join a support group for abused women. These usually are available at or through local shelters. Ms. Betancourt says there you can find empathy and understanding for your plight, people who can boost your ego and offer much-needed hugs and provide useful hints on how to get the system working for you.

Places to Turn

Local police departments in most major cities now have domestic violence officers, who often can provide the help that victims need. National resources include:

The national Domestic Violence Hotline. Phone (800) 799-7233 or, from a TDD line for the hearing impaired (800) 787-3224.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which can help victims find local assistance, P.O. Box 18748, Denver 80218. Phone (303) 839-1852.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund, which can help people take action in their communities to end domestic violence, 383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304, San Francisco 94103. Phone (415)252-8900.

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Battered Women’s Justice Project, which can help abused women who have been arrested to obtain legal help, 4032 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis 55407. Phone (800) 903-0111.

UNDP Against Violence Home Page

For more information, please contact Aparna Mehrotra, Focal Point for Women, Tel: (212)963-6828 Fax: (212) 963-9545, e-mail:  

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