Annex A. International and Regional Standards and Instruments on Gender-based Violence

The Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) is an agenda for women's empowerment, which establishes a set of priority actions in twelve critical areas of concern. One of these critical areas is violence against women, and the strategic objectives therein include taking integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women, studying the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures, and eliminating trafficking in women and assisting victims of violence due to prostitution and trafficking. It was adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing from 4 to15 September 1995.

The Commission on the Status of Women has been responsible for the systematic and periodic review of progress in the implementation of the twelve critical areas of concern identified in the BPfA. These review processes have taken place at the 5-, 10-, and 15-year marks since the adoption of the BPfA. To mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the BPfA, the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2020 was supposed to focus on the review and appraisal of its implementation of the BPfA; however it was suspended due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. In preparation of this session, states and UN regional commissions were called upon to make national-level and regional-level reviews.

All OECD Member countries’ representatives were in attendance at the Fourth World Conference on Women and adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

While the main text of CEDAW does not include explicit mentions of gender-based violence, subsequently adopted General Recommendations 12, 19 and 35 read gender-based violence into the Convention as a form of discrimination by way of interpretation. General Recommendations are made by the CEDAW Committee, and concern issues affecting women which the Committee believes require more attention by State Parties. General Recommendation 19, adopted by the CEDAW Committee in 1992, asks State Parties to include, inter alia, statistical data on incidents of violence against women and information on legislative measures for protection and provisions of services to survivors in the periodic reports submitted for monitoring. General Recommendation 35, adopted 25 years later, updated the provisions of General Recommendation 19, emphasising the gender-based nature of this form of violence. It also contains clearly defined notions of liability of the State for acts by public agents as well as failure to act with due diligence to prevent gender-based violence.

An independent body of experts, called the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), is in charge of monitoring the implementation of CEDAW. CEDAW contains provisions creating obligations for State parties to submit periodic reports (i.e. within the year after its entry into force, and then every four years). The first report, to be submitted within a year after its entry into force, acts as a benchmark and details the position of women in a given country at the time of its submission. Subsequent reports, to be submitted every four years or whenever requested by the CEDAW Committee, are intended to update the initial report with key trends and developments, notable achievements and persisting roadblocks in the implementation of CEDAW.

All 37 OECD Member countries are State Parties to CEDAW.

The Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, or the Istanbul Convention, was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 7 April 2011 and entered into force on 1 August 2014. The Istanbul Convention builds on four pillars: prevention, protection, prosecution and co-ordinated policies. The box below shows a snapshot of the provisions contained within the text of the Convention.

There is a monitoring mechanism in place to oversee the implementation of the Istanbul Convention by State Parties. It consists of two bodies, namely the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), which is an independent expert body comprising of 15 members, and the Committee of Parties, which is a political body composed of representatives of the Parties to the Istanbul Convention. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also been invited to periodically review the implementation. The Istanbul Convention provides for two types of monitoring procedures: a country-by-country evaluation procedure and a special inquiry procedure. The country-by-country evaluation procedure consists of assessments and evaluation rounds, leading to the adoption of a final report and conclusions by GREVIO. In case GREVIO determines that there is need to take action to prevent a serious, massive or persistent pattern of any forms of violence within the scope of the Istanbul Convention, it can initiate a special inquiry procedure.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.

Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, and the United Kingdom.

The Declaration on the elimination of violence against women was proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly resolution 48/104 of 20 December 1993. It puts forth a clear and comprehensive definition of violence against women as well as statement of rights applicable in this regard. It also details a framework for action to eliminate violence against women at the national and international levels.

The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, or the Convention of Belém do Pará, was adopted by the General Assembly to the Organisation for American States in 1994 in Brazil. It outlines a definition of violence against women, and in recognising the right of women to live a life free of violence, it declares violence against women as a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also calls upon Member States to take active efforts to establish mechanisms for protecting and defending these rights.

In order to monitor the progress made by the States Parties to the Convention of Belém do Pará, the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) was set up. It is an independent, consensus-based peer evaluation system which operates through multilateral evaluation rounds and follow-up rounds.

Chile, Colombia, and Mexico

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) on the Rights of Women in Africa (or the Maputo Protocol) was adopted in Maputo in July 2003 by the African Union and entered into force on 25 November 2005. Article IV of the Maputo Protocol recognises the right to life, integrity and security of the person to women, and calls upon States Parties to take efforts to uphold these rights including through legislative, administrative and socioeconomic measures to ensure prevention, punishment and eradication of all forms of violence against women.

Article 26 of the Maputo Protocol creates the obligation on States Parties to periodically report (in accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter) on measures taken, both legislative and administrative, to implement the rights recognised in the Protocol.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015. Among its other targets, Goal 5 (gender equality and women’s empowerment) outlines Target 5.2 on elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls and Target 5.3 on elimination of all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.

The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) plays a central role in the follow-up and review of the global implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. Since 2013, it meets annually under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council as well as every four years under the auspices of the UN General Assembly. To monitor progress at the national and sub-national levels, the 2030 Agenda urges the Member states to undertake regular review processes, which then feed into the regular review process by the HLPF.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) was adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna on 25 June 1993. Part I, Paragraph 18 of the Declaration recognises the importance of women’s rights, emphasising that all forms of gender-based violence, sexual harassment, exploitation and trafficking must be eliminated. It also called upon the national, regional and international community to take intensified efforts to protect and promote women’s rights in this regard. It also supported the decision of the Commission on Human Rights to appoint a Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

The VDPA has set up several follow-up mechanisms to the World Conference on Human Rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is tasked with the co-ordination of the implementation of the VDPA by the United Nations system. In the VDPA, the World Conference on Human Rights lays down several recommendations for States, UN bodies and non-governmental organisations to improve the implementation of the VDPA, including through the consideration of various thematic mechanisms and procedures and existing human rights treaties.


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Note by Turkey
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Note by all the European Union Member States of the OECD and the European Union
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Photo credits: Cover illustration © Designed by Jeffrey Fisher.

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