2. The OECD three-pillar approach to a whole-of-state framework for gender-based violence (GBV)

Based on country practices, the present report conceptualises a whole-of-state framework for GBV under three pillars (See Figure 2.1). Pillar I is “Systems”. This pillar requires functioning structures and systems to adequately respond to GBV. Key governance elements under this pillar could include developing holistic laws and policies addressing multiple forms of GBV and gender inequality, clearly identifying the roles and responsibilities of governmental actors and relevant stakeholders in the implementation of GBV strategies, policies, and programmes, and establishing internal and external accountability mechanisms that monitor the progress of GBV policies.

Pillar II is “Culture”. This pillar promotes a governance and service culture that is survivor/victim-centric and committed to enacting the GBV framework. The interventions arising under this pillar focus upon supporting survivors/victims of GBV through capacity-building and co-ordination efforts, as well as improving detection and prevention of GBV. Key governance elements could include training public service providers who will directly engage with survivors/victims, facilitating co-ordinated community and inter-ministerial responses, funding necessities such as shelters and GBV programming, and engaging men and boys in challenging harmful attitudes and behaviours that lead to GBV.

Pillar III is “Access to Justice and Accountability”. This pillar secures that judicial and law enforcement systems support and protect survivors/victims. In this regard, this pillar facilitates access to justice for survivors/victims and brings to justice those individuals who perpetrate GBV. Key governance elements include designing justice-related services and proceedings that are responsive to the needs and experiences of survivors/victims, criminalising GBV and enforcing sanctions for perpetrators, and reviewing femicides/feminicides in order to address preventable failings and inadequate responses by the justice system.

Strategic planning is an inherent aspect of functioning public governance (Bryson, 2018[1]). It can help improve decision-making processes by focusing attention on the most crucial issues and challenges as well as co-ordinating implementation across levels and functions of government (OECD, 2019[2]). Accordingly, a well-designed strategic framework for GBV can be a strong tool for addressing GBV.

Such a framework should have a clear strategic vision for addressing GBV across all areas of life so that there are clear expectations for what a government wants to achieve. The strategic vision would need to account for national laws as well as relevant international and regional standards and instruments. Relevant national law considerations include the country’s constitution, penal codes, specific GBV legislation, and other relevant policies, commitments, and regulations. Relevant international standards and instruments may include – as appropriate on the basis of their ratification by countries – treaties, conventions, declarations or resolutions such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Sustainable Development Goals. Notable regional standards and instruments that may be of relevance to some countries include the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women and the Istanbul Convention.

The GBV framework would also need to recognise the need to address multiple forms of GBV under the same overarching structure. The framework should clearly outline the root causes of GBV, the prevalence of the phenomenon in the country, and its impact upon society as a whole. It would need to explicitly assert that all forms of GBV are rooted in issues of gender inequality more broadly. The framework should recognise that in order to adequately address GBV, active steps are needed in order to make society a more equal place for women and girls more generally, including addressing harmful gender norms and stereotypes. It should also take note of the existence of governance shortcomings, such as structural barriers to access to justice, that exacerbate gender inequalities and that therefore would need to be addressed alongside efforts to address the root causes of inequality.

An effective GBV framework encompasses the phenomenon of GBV broadly within its overarching structure, while also focusing attention on specific kinds of violence, as different forms of GBV manifest in different contexts and may require distinct or additional forms of intervention. For instance, violence carried out in the name of “honour”, which can include femicide/feminicide, forced marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM), and coercive control, may necessitate adapted approaches to risk assessment and victim support compared to other forms of GBV. In 2008, for example, a femicide/feminicide committed in the name of “honour” in the United Kingdom demonstrated that risk assessment approaches of the police insufficiently accounted for “honour”-based violence risk factors, which may differ in some regards to those of intimate partner violence. Ultimately, this case spurred the development of the country’s first national “honour”-based violence policing strategy (Bates, 2017[3]). This strategy resulted in the adoption of the first definition of “honour”-based violence by all police forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland; the training of police officers on “honour”-based violence; and the establishment of champion(s) for “honour”-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation in each police force (National Police Chiefs' Council, 2018[4]). Furthermore, under its updated strategy and national delivery plan for 2018-2021, the National Police Chief’s Council further committed to strengthening risk assessment and management processes and practices for “honour”-based violence (National Police Chiefs' Council, 2018[4]; National Police Chief's Council, 2018[5]).

The laws, policies, and programming emerging under this framework should be crafted using gender analysis.2 For example, the Canadian Government utilises a process known as “Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+)” to ensure that the government focuses on advancing gender equality objectives in all of its initiatives including federal budget determinations. This approach helps ensure that differential impacts based on sex and gender are considered in government decision making. In addition to increasing focus on sex and gender, GBA+ provides a means to better consider potential impacts related to the intersections of different identity factors, including race, ethnicity, colour, indigeneity, national origin, migrant or refugee status, religion, sexual orientation, age, class, and disability.

Additionally, as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, crises can exacerbate risk factors for GBV and subsequently result in increased rates of GBV. Accordingly, governments may consider incorporating contingency plans and crisis management plans into the GBV framework, as well as integrate a gender lens into national emergency management strategies to strengthen synergies with the GBV framework. Regarding contingency plans or crisis management plans, they can be integrated within existing national action plans or developed as complementary policy documents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Chile and Spain adopted contingency plans and Lithuania adopted an inter-institutional action plan focused on domestic violence (OECD, 2020[6]; OECD, 2020[7]). Regardless, these plans should identify specific policies and actions that can be taken during specific types of crises in order to ensure mechanisms are in place to allow for effective rapid responses to GBV during crises. In light of lessons learned from COVID-19, countries could find it useful to develop initial plans as part of the overall GBV framework and then adapt them, as needed, to respond to emerging crises. This could help governments address potential problems proactively rather than reactively.

Most forms of GBV are rarely an isolated, one-time incident; rather, they are part of an ongoing pattern of abuse. This is particularly true in scenarios of intimate partner violence and domestic violence. Furthermore, GBV may proliferate (or manifest in different ways) in various contexts, including in crises or emergency situations. Research from the United States, for example, demonstrates that periods of economic hardship and uncertainty can exacerbate intimate partner violence including coercive control (Schneider, 2016[11]; Lucero, 2016[12]).3 Therefore, a holistic approach to GBV should be undertaken in order to adequately respond to the phenomenon. Actions and objectives should be taken at all stages in the journey of addressing GBV, across all levels of government and society, and within all social, economic, and political contexts.

A key part of a holistic approach is recognising that GBV manifests across a social ecology. GBV is the result of various factors that cut across different levels of life (i.e. individual, interpersonal, community, and societal) (Heise, 1998[13]; Michau, 2015[14]). For example, GBV can emerge from, and be sustained by: discriminatory laws and policies (i.e. societal factors); gender norms and attitudes (i.e. community factors); familial or intimate-partner acceptance of GBV (i.e. interpersonal factors); and harmful internalised notions of masculinity and femininity (i.e. individual factors). Accordingly, preventing and responding to GBV requires action at each of these levels of intervention.

One stage in a holistic approach is the primary prevention and risk management stage. Objectives and actions undertaken at this stage should involve both identifying early signals and risks of GBV and taking steps to prevent such violence from occurring in the future. Actions can utilise prevention methods such as community- and education-based programmes that promote gender equality, non-violence and healthy relationship behaviours, especially among children and adolescents. Actions should also focus on public awareness, access to information and resources, and the provision of services for individuals at risk of perpetrating or becoming victims of GBV, such as counselling and helplines. Since actions should be based on evidence as much as possible, research and statistical analysis are important elements of this stage. To this end, data should be gathered not only from secondary research and surveys, but also from survivors/victims and the service providers who interact with them, such as healthcare professionals and other social service providers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), police officers, and neighbourhood watches. Furthermore, research, surveys and other data sources should be made publicly available, in line with open government standards, to facilitate the use of cross-sectoral data by both governmental and non-governmental actors in their prevention and risk management efforts.

Another stage in a holistic approach is the response to GBV that has already occurred. Actions and objectives taken under this stage involve both protecting and supporting survivors/victims and the children of survivors/victims, as well as punishing and rehabilitating perpetrators. An example of a type of action that could be taken under this stage is adopting and implementing measures to expand access to formal employment for survivors/victims, as survivors/victims often cannot escape the cycle of violence to which they are subjected because they economically depend upon the perpetrators or upon precarious work that puts them in vulnerable situations. Other actions range from providing housing assistance and legal aid to survivors/victims, to creating integrated domestic violence courts and issuing the use of protective mechanisms such as restraining orders and Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring bracelets for perpetrators. Regardless, the most important element of this stage is to ensure objectives and actions undertaken are survivor/victim-centred.

Overall, a holistic approach should be centred upon the understanding that one-size-fits-all approaches are insufficient for addressing GBV because GBV is neither a static nor uniform phenomenon. Besides designing objectives and actions that account for the levels and stages of intervention, a holistic approach should account for different contexts and for the different backgrounds and experiences of women and girls. With respect to the latter, it is important to identify whether and why certain demographics of women and girls face higher risks of certain types of GBV within a given country and subsequently to undertake efforts to act accordingly. For example, in Australia, where Indigenous women more likely to experience intimate partner violence and sexual assault compared to non-Indigenous women, the Government incorporated specific objectives, actions, and indicators on Indigenous women into its national strategy and accompanying action plans focused on GBV (Commonwealth of Australia, 2010[8]; Commonwealth of Australia, 2019[15]). In Norway, research from 2012-2014 showed that Sami women are more exposed to GBV than other women in the country, with 49% of Sami women (compared to 35% of non-Sami women) reporting having experienced violence in their lifetimes. In view of this, the most recent Action Plan against Domestic Violence, A Life without Violence (2014-2017), included a separate section on violence and abuse in Sami areas for the first time (Government of Norway, 2020[16]).

Regarding the need to account for different contexts, countries should be prepared to respond to GBV developments and challenges in atypical circumstances. In particular, it may be necessary to adapt or have specific objectives and actions for times of emergency in order to ensure interventions are contextually responsive. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the Government of France adapted its approach to the provision of accommodation for women and girls escaping intimate partner violence or domestic violence. Realising that women’s shelters would be unable to accommodate increased demand for lodging, especially while implementing health and safety measures, the Government funded emergency accommodations for survivors/victims at hotels, in addition to continuing its support to shelters (OECD, 2020[6]). Similarly, in Lithuania and Tunisia, authorities allowed accommodations reserved for isolation and quarantining to be used as additional shelters for survivors/victims (OECD, 2020[6]).

Ministries and state bodies are the central actors in an institutional framework addressing GBV. Relevant state actors include bodies and public officials from all levels and jurisdictions of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. A whole-of-state approach to GBV requires institutional co-ordination and engagement with all of these actors. Effective frameworks have sufficient executive-level commitment and cross-governmental buy-in.

Where appropriate, steps should be taken to promote regulatory coherence through co-ordination mechanisms among the national, provincial/state, and local levels of government. Regulatory issues should be identified across all levels of government to promote coherence between approaches to avoid duplication or conflict of efforts. It is also important to align roles and responsibilities in order to ensure that there is people-centred service delivery as well as to identify which institutions and institutional mechanisms are necessary for creating integrated responses.

Heads of government and other high-level officials, such as ministers, can play important roles in developing the necessary legal and institutional strategies to ensure implementation of the GBV framework by:

  • Establishing clear and realistic roles and responsibilities at the relevant institutional levels (organisational, subnational or national) for designing, leading, and implementing the elements of the GBV framework.

  • Ensuring that appropriate legislative and institutional frameworks are in place to enable public-sector organisations to take responsibility for effectively managing the duties assigned to them.

  • Creating and monitoring or allocating responsibility to accountability frameworks.

  • Ensuring that the GBV strategy stays at the top of the governmental agenda.

Several countries have established co-ordination bodies for GBV and/or designated existing institutions as co-ordinating bodies. Such bodies can manage the overall GBV agenda of governments, facilitate alignment of mandates and policies across the government, monitor resource allocation, and address emerging funding or operational challenges. These bodies can also help ensure that the GBV framework complements other national policies, including strategies to prevent homelessness, national health policies, and immigration and refugee strategies. By fostering horizontal collaboration across the government through engagement with ministries, agencies and specialised bodies focused on other national policies, co-ordinating bodies can contribute to more integrated and coherent policy making for GBV. For maximum impact, these bodies should be sufficiently staffed and funded.

The location of co-ordinating bodies varies from state to state. Some states have assigned the responsibility to a particular ministry or agency, while others have created special inter-ministerial bodies (see Box 2.2). In the event of national crises or other circumstances that exacerbate GBV (or specific forms of GBV), states have also set up context - or issue-specific bodies to enhance inter-governmental co-ordination. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the government of Switzerland established a national task force on domestic violence, which comprised relevant public agencies and was headed by the Federal Office for Gender Equality (Government of Switzerland, 2020[18]).

Depending upon the administrative structure of the state, co-ordinating bodies may also be set up at the regional level.

Central gender equality institutions, which refer to government bodies primarily responsible for supporting the government’s agenda to advance society-wide gender equality goals, are vital to developing and monitoring the implementation of a GBV framework. Gender equality institutions are often tasked with creating social change and utilising a gender lens4 when conducting research and drafting policies. Oftentimes, these bodies serve as key actors in the creation and implementation of the GBV framework. For example, the Department for Women and Gender Equality Canada serves as the monitoring body for Canada’s GBV strategy, It’s Time: Canada’ Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-based Violence (Government of Canada, 2019[23]). It is also responsible for co-ordinating all federal actions related to GBV, monitoring the online GBV Knowledge Centre’s online platform, and leading specific initiatives under the Strategy (Government of Canada, 2019[23]). On the other hand, in Mexico, the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES), an autonomous, decentralised body, plays a key role in co-ordinating and promoting the National Program for Equality between Women and Men (PROIGUALDAD) and works with National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (CONAVIM) to implement the Government’s Integrated Programme to Prevent, Address, Sanction, and Eradicate Violence Against Women (Programa Integral para Prevenir, Atender, Sancionar y Erradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres 2019-2024). Furthermore, in Switzerland, the Federal Office for Gender Equality has the dual role of supporting the implementation of GBV at the national level by working with different federal offices and authorities, as well as at the state level by fostering co-ordination between cantons and the federal government.

Relevant national line ministries and agencies, especially those whose mandates cover health, education, employment, children’s affairs, justice and public safety, are crucial to the provision of co-ordinated, coherent and far-reaching services that GBV survivors/victims and their children need to recover from violence and lead healthy lives. They can play important roles by applying a gender lens to all policies, budgets, and regulations so as to remove structural barriers to women’s empowerment. Representatives from these ministries can also assist with the development, inter-agency collaboration, and overall implementation of the whole-of-state GBV framework, in an integrated manner.

Parliaments, including parliamentary committees, are the gatekeepers of the GBV agenda in reviewing draft and existing legislation and monitoring the activities of government through reviews and inquiries into programmes, policies, and expenditures. Based on the available evidence, two-thirds of OECD countries have gender equality parliamentary committees, which can be fully dedicated to the issue or (more frequently) have a combined portfolio (OECD, 2019[2]). While the mandates of these committees vary, they are generally responsible for gender equality legislation and examine selected draft laws from a gender equality perspective, including those related to or specifically focused on GBV (OECD, 2017[24]). In Mexico, for example, the Gender Equality Commission of the Chamber of Deputies was a key actor in driving reforms related to combating GBV (OECD, 2019[2]). This included reforms to increase penalties for GBV in various states, in part by criminalising more forms of GBV, such as digital violence and political violence targeting women and girls. Additionally, in Colombia, the Women’s Equality Commission, which brings together members of both houses of parliament, played an active role in focusing the government’s attention on addressing GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic, including by requesting that violence prevention, support, and response services be classified as essential services (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2020[25]).

In states where much power and influence is located at the subnational level, the implementation of national GBV strategies needs to be well co-ordinated across the different levels of government, especially regarding health care, education, child protection, and other social services, as well as aspects of criminal, civil or family law that are the responsibility of subnational governments. State and provincial legislatures should co-ordinate with the federal government to ensure that their GBV policies and the provision of services are in line with the goals of the federal framework. Provincial actors from closely related ministries (e.g. health and education) should partner with the federal ministries to ensure streamlining of services. Each ministry could also benefit from integrating the national GBV framework into their internal policies.

Local governments can serve as key advocates for survivors/victims and their communities, as they may bring forward information regarding needs and trends of which higher-level governments may not be aware. Local governments are often tasked with dispensing funds and providing services outlined in federal and provincial policies. This may include providing funding and capacity-building support to women’s organisations and other community-based NGOs who provide direct services and programming to survivors/victims, as well as other local stakeholders involved in the implementation of the GBV framework. It is therefore essential that national strategies are enacted in conjunction with bottom-up approaches from local governments, authorities, and actors, as they have the most direct connection with survivors/victims.

Mexico offers an example of sub-national governments mirroring the national government’s commitment and efforts to addressing GBV, including by setting up frameworks based on the national one. For example, all 32 of the federal entities (31 states and 1 federal district) of Mexico have adopted laws on gender equality and preventing and addressing GBV, taking heed of the laws established at the national level. Furthermore, building on the National System for Equality between Women and Men (SNIMH), a cross-governmental co-ordination mechanism tasked with carrying out mutually agreed actions for gender equality including GBV at the national level, 29 federal entities have established their own local systems.

National justice ministries can play a vital role in advancing a whole-of-state GBV framework. Justice ministries are largely responsible for legal, policy, and judicial reforms, as well as the review of such reforms. For example, justice ministries are key to administering many aspects of legal justice systems and are involved in the development of integrated responses to GBV, specialised domestic violence courts (see Box 2.9), and services for survivors/victims and the children of survivors/victims in the criminal justice system, as well as civil, family and other related justice services. They also can put in place policies and practices to determine survivors/victims’ access to legal aid and legal assistance institutions. An example of practice comes from Canada where the Department of Justice administers a Victims Fund grants programme under the Federal Victims Strategy. The Victims Fund promotes access to justice specifically for survivors/victims of GBV through the provision of dedicated funds, access to information, and expansion of the capacity of key service providers (Government of Canada, 2019[23]).

Judges are responsible for interpreting laws and administering justice in a gender-sensitive manner. In light of this, it is important to balance the rights of the parties appearing before them in the courtroom and to take steps to understand the realities of GBV in order to fairly interpret legislation and policy. Alternative dispute mechanisms and protective mechanisms can also play a key role in serving the needs of survivors/victims and advancing integrated and survivor/victim-centred approaches.

Enabling greater gender sensitivity in interpreting law calls for specific training initiatives on GBV for judicial actors. Such training can assist with identifying biases, discrimination, and stereotypes surrounding survivors/victims of GBV. It can also provide judges and other actors with knowledge of GBV. Beyond informing them of GBV causes, types, and prevalence, trainings can inform judges and other actors of the numerous and complex effects that GBV can have on survivors/victims; the issues of re-victimisation or secondary victimisation; and the different ways in which survivors/victims may cope with, or behave in response to, GBV. It is important for judges to understand that not all survivors/victims will react and behave in the same way because trauma is complex and intertwined with other social, cultural, and personal dynamics.

Importantly, trainings should incorporate a focus on communication. As studies from Canada demonstrate, judges often used language during court proceedings and in written judgements that minimise the perpetrators’ responsibility and blames and pathologises the survivors/victims (Cotes, 2004[26]; Coates, 1997[27]). In view of this, trainings should seek to provide soft skills to judges and other personnel to enable them to communicate and interact with survivors/victims in a manner that is sensitive to their experiences and trauma and that avoids obscuring perpetrator responsibility. As part of this, training can prepare judges to frame questions and judgements better to avoid re-victimising or shaming survivors/victims and minimising the actions of perpetrators. To this end, trainings could incorporate exercises in which participants have to review and discuss good and bad practice examples of questions and judgements.

In addition to training judges, specialised courts can be established to ensure GBV cases are undertaken in fair and responsive ways. Several countries have undertaken this approach with intimate partner violence and domestic violence, having set up courts in which judges only preside over cases focused on intimate partner violence and domestic violence. A particular practice that has emerged with these specialised courts is the creation of integrated courts for intimate partner violence and domestic violence where all proceedings related to a case, including criminal and civil, are held in the same court with the same judge (see Box 2.9)

The participation of women in the judiciary is also important to improving the conditions and proceedings for GBV cases within courts. Women may bring different, more gender-sensitive perspectives to the bench. Furthermore, for the judiciary to be perceived as legitimate and accessible, it is important that people appearing before the court feel that the body of judges is, to a certain extent, a fair representation of society. With respect to GBV cases, in particular, survivors/victims may feel more comfortable and empowered to stand and speak before a courtroom when women judges are present.

To account for the importance of women’s representation, the judiciary may need to consider taking a range of measures to improve the gender balance of courts through merit-based processes. Some example measures used across the OECD countries include making recruitment and appointment processes fairer and gender-sensitive through disclosure requirements, target setting, and quotas, as well as monitoring and assessing gender balance in judiciary at all levels through regular data collection via actions like employee surveys.

Police5 officers are often the first responders to GBV. Police are vital actors in addressing GBV, as they are often the necessary link between victimisation and bringing allegations forward to the judicial system. Up-to-date training for police officers, which is both culturally and gender-sensitive, is essential to ensuring proper interactions with survivors/victims and the children of survivors/victims, accurate and unbiased reporting,6 and the completion of fulsome investigations regarding allegations of GBV. Police should employ a service and protection/response culture, putting the needs of survivors/victims and the community first. An action that could help is establishing units comprising policies officers who are specifically trained to prevent and respond to GBV cases. Such units could also form partnerships with other key social services providers in order to foster more prompt and holistic interventions during GBV cases. From 2009 to 2013, this practice was used in Calgary, Canada where a Domestic Conflict Response Team was established, which consisted of a partnership between the police service and different community agencies. A key function of the team was to connect families with existing community services to help stabilise families’ situations and help families increase their resiliency (Government of Canada, 2018[28]).

The culture and composition of police departments is important to police efforts to GBV. Police departments should adopt gender-sensitive and inclusive human resources polices and professional development opportunities. Through such practices, police department should work towards a gender balance among its leadership and officers and promote zero-tolerance for gender-based discrimination within the workplace. Building a more gender-responsive police force can help bring more attention to and understanding of the seriousness of GBV and subsequently lead to more effective early detection and prevention as well as more survivor/victims-centred responses.

A positive relationship between police officers and the community is also vital. An example of an attempt to foster a trusting relationship between the police and community members was the Swedish Police Campaign “Come to Us.” The campaign provided information on the importance of reporting crimes of GBV, as well as instructions on how to do so. During the campaign, the information was made available in 18 languages in order to reach an extensive audience (GREVIO, 2019[19]). Additionally, in Iceland, the City of Reykjavík has undertaken the “Together Against Violence” project through which the Capital Area Police Department co-operates with the women’s shelter and health centres to ensure a range of appropriate measures are taken immediately in response to cases of intimate partner violence (Iceland Review, 2015[29]; City of Reykjavik, n.d.[30]).

The role of police in preventing and addressing GBV should also be maintained during times of crisis when the risks of GBV increase. Understanding the importance of this, the police in Finland took several measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, Finnish police participated in trainings on effective policing for GBV, maintained close contact with NGOs providing support services, and participated in community awareness campaigns (OECD, 2020[6]). Other countries’ police forces undertook similar measures during the pandemic. In Lithuania, the police actively co-operated with the Lithuanian Women's Rights Association, which unites specialised assistance centres, while other governments called upon police departments to prioritise or give special attention to GBV cases during the pandemic, including the Czech Republic, Ireland, Norway and Slovenia (OECD, 2020[6]).

Statistical agencies play a vital role in information gathering for the framework. Such agencies can be key to identifying information gaps and ways to create evidence-based responses to prevent GBV and to provide an early response in order to eradicate GBV.

Statistical agencies deploy national-level surveys to provide information on the prevalence and scope of GBV in a particular country (see Box 2.3). The surveys collect sex- or gender-specific and/or sex- or gender-disaggregated statistics to ensure that interventions are targeted effectively. Disaggregated data is useful to advance understanding of the needs of survivors/victims and the potential obstacles they face. Such information also provides insight into several forms of GBV within different populations and may indicate the efficacy of prevention and response initiatives.

All aspects of proposed approaches to GBV need to be adequately monitored. It is therefore important to develop and implement evaluation, measurement, and accountability mechanisms to collect data to regularly assess and report on the progress (see Box 2.4). Internal mechanisms include parliamentary committees, ombudsmen offices, and internal audit institutions. External review mechanisms can include non-governmental organisations and expert advisory committees, among others.

Measurement and evaluation frameworks differ depending on the state. For example, Sweden relies upon the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence against Women, an external, independent academic institution, to conduct evaluations of its framework (Council of Europe, 2016[35]). In Spain, such evaluations are carried out by the State Observatory on Violence against Women, a body run by officials from state and regional public administrative bodies as well as other stakeholders, such as civil society organisations (Council of Europe, 2016[35]).

Monitoring and evaluation of non-governmental actors conducting programming or providing services as part of the GBV framework is also important. Public authorities would need to ensure such activities are assessed and reported on in order to ensure efficacy and adherence to relevant policies and standards. As part of this process, authorities could leverage service-user evaluations and other similar feedback mechanism to assess successes, challenges, and compliance track records of NGOs, including women’s organisations. If necessary, the authorities responsible for selecting and funding NGOs could include relevant provisions into contracts or project agreements requiring them to implement internal monitoring and evaluation processes such as service-user evaluations. However, any such requirements need to be reasonable and not place an undue burden on the NGOs.

To ensure effectiveness of GBV approaches, relevant stakeholders should be consulted and involved in the development and implementation of relevant policies, objectives, and actions. Public authorities can help ensure such stakeholders have the appropriate capacities, resources, and vision to fulfil their particular roles, as envisioned in the GBV framework. Public authorities also have the responsibility to set up quality-control systems in order to guarantee GBV support services provided by non-governmental actors adhere to international and national standards. In part, quality-control systems should comprise consistent and careful monitoring and inspection of non-governmental service providers.

Consultation with NGOs, including women’s organisations, and other relevant stakeholders is important to maintain, as much as possible, in the development, implementation, and monitoring of rapid-response interventions during crises. These groups will have vital first-hand information and experiences that will be necessary to designing, tailoring, or adapting policies to ensure they are responsive to the challenges at hand. An example of this practice is Sweden’s Minister of Gender Equality holding a meeting with national organisations representing more than 400 women’s shelters during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This meeting provided an important opportunity for stakeholders to provide key information on the ways in which COVID-19 made women and children more vulnerable to domestic violence as well as exacerbated the risks associated with domestic violence (OECD, 2020[6]). Such consultation, in part, was made possible by the fact that the parties involved have pre-existing relationships, demonstrating the importance of building systematic relationships with stakeholders so that consultation can be facilitated quickly when needed.

Survivors/victims’ needs and rights should be placed at the centre of all policies, interventions, and proposed measures. As such, consultation with survivors/victims is essential, because such individuals possess unique knowledge of the day-to-day lived realities of the phenomenon.

A promising example of effective consultation with survivors/victims is the “National Survivor Engagement Framework” established by the Welsh government. The Welsh government created this framework in order to ensure that GBV survivors/victims’ views were adequately represented in governmental policies affecting them (Welsh Government, 2018[37]).

Women’s organisations and other community organisations, including shelters, crisis centres, and groups specifically representing or supporting groups of women and girls who face higher risks of violence (e.g. trans women and girls, women and girls with disabilities and Indigenous women and girls), should serve as critical parts of the consultation and implementation process, as they often possess extensive expert knowledge on GBV. Such professionals are likely to possess the necessary skills to communicate effectively with other professionals and institutions, as well as the knowledge and precedence to best help survivors/victims. Furthermore, women’s organisations that provide services may employ formal mechanisms such as service-user evaluations in order to obtain feedback on the services. Where this practice exists, data from evaluations could be useful to public institutions that are ultimately responsible for service delivery and policy making.

These organisations are important to offering direct programming and services that are key to addressing survivors/victims’ multifaceted needs. The advocates working at such organisations are able to build rapports and direct relationships with survivors/victims. Such relationships are vital to assisting survivors/victims with navigating complex governmental systems, including the judicial system, social services, and the healthcare system. In view of this, it is important for these organisations to have good working relationships amongst themselves as well as with other relevant stakeholders, such as legal aid centres, police departments, courts, and healthcare providers. As such, public institutions should promote and foster productive partnerships between women’s organisations and other stakeholders, as well as among women’s organisations.

Engagement with women’s organisations and other community organisations needs to include more than just consultation. Since organisations such as shelters and crisis centres provide essential services for GBV survivors/victims – services which governments may not often directly provide themselves – adequate funding and resources are critical so that they can operate in an effective and timely manner. Therefore, governments should allocate sufficient funding to these organisations in their budgets. To help achieve this, governments could undertake the practice of gender budgeting. Earmarking additional funding for these organisations may also be necessary during national, regional or local crises. For example, confinement and other health and safety measures taken by governments during the COVID-19 pandemic placed more operational constraints and financial burdens on shelters and crisis centres. In response, several countries earmarked additional monetary support for shelters, crisis centres, and other organisations working on intimate partner violence, domestic violence and family violence issues, including Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Sweden (OECD, 2020[38]).

The fact that GBV represents a critical public health issue should not be overlooked when designing a GBV framework and accompanying policies and programmes. At the individual level, for example, exposure to GBV can result in health complications such as unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, psychological trauma, and physical injuries or disabilities. As such, healthcare workers, ranging from doctors and nurses, to pharmacists and mental health professionals, have a key role to play in preventing, detecting, and responding to GBV. In recognition of this, states would benefit from consulting and involving healthcare workers in creating a whole-of-state framework for GBV.

An example of engagement with healthcare professional comes from the COVID-19 pandemic during which the governments of Chile, France, of Spain worked with pharmacies to set up a confidential reporting system for domestic violence survivors/victims, which allowed them to use the code word “Facemask 19” to inform pharmacists that they were confined with abusive partners and required support and protection services.

The role of the media is to disseminate information accurately and to keep the public informed about issues of GBV. This is both a prevention and a protection objective. One practice, in particular, that can be employed is developing media awareness campaigns to engage with and educate society about GBV. Such campaigns also function as a challenge to societal attitudes and stereotypes surrounding GBV. In this regard, campaigns should seek to counter harmful narratives related to gender roles and norms and ultimately serve as a means by which to challenge unhealthy behaviours and attitudes and address GBV within society.

Media and social media campaigns under this framework take place across several mediums, including television, news outlets, and social media platforms. The information is packaged in easily digestible formats, whether digitally or in print.

Another purpose of media involvement is to reach survivors/victims who may require help and further information. The framework identifies ways to specifically reach and inform women and girls at risk of violence through targeted campaigns. An example of this practice is the Spanish web portal “For a society free of gender-based violence.” The website is an extensive resource of all public polices, action plans, campaigns, and news articles on GBV in the country (Government of Spain, 2019[20]).

Beyond campaigns, news outlets have the responsibility of covering, in a critical manner, relevant events and policy changes that governments are making with respect to GBV. On the other hand, governments have the responsibility to directly engage with the media on such matters so that the media can broadcast information to the public and hold governments accountable for their actions or inactions. All of this is particularly important during crisis situations or whenever major policy changes are happening. An example of a practice in this regard comes from Austria. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Austria held several press conferences that media outlets covered or broadcasted. In these press conferences, the Ministers of Women’s Affairs, Family Affairs, Justice, and Interior discussed the risks of increased domestic violence due to the government’s confinement measures as well as communicated the different measures the government was taking in order to address the issue (OECD, 2020[6]).

Educational institutions are key actors for implementing prevention strategies for GBV, such as targeted campaigns and programming for students and youth, which are often taught by high schools and universities. These programmes help educate young people about harmful behaviours and attitudes that contribute to GBV. As young girls are particularly at risk of experiencing dating violence, such programmes can be important elements of the state’s response to GBV.

Educational institutions can also help strengthen the evidence and conduct research for prevention purposes, which is vital for uncovering information about both the causes of GBV and potential solutions.

The broader community needs to be a core part of the consultation network. The consultation process should engage with, and solicit views and opinions from, the broader community through media campaigns, surveys, and roundtables (including in the development of specific programmes). For example, community watch programmes rely upon the insight and volunteerism of local community members.

To be effective, the GBV framework calls for a survivor/victim-centred approach. Survivors/victims understand better than anyone their needs and the risks they face. As such, all programming and forms of service delivery are developed in consultation with survivors/victims. The framework should encourage the use of focus groups with survivors/victims to gather information on service provision and to identify areas requiring improvement. It could require that services are structured in a way that provides a continuum of preventive, safe, and supportive services tailored according to the specific needs of a particular group of survivors/victims. Integrated justice centres, where various legal and support services are co-located for survivors/victims, and integrated domestic violence courts (see Box 2.9) – both of which are discussed in more detail in subsequent sections – are examples of this continuum-of-services approach.

An important element of a survivor/victim-centred approach is the empowerment of survivors/victims. Empowerment of survivors/victims can be achieved in many ways: using information and communication technology to deliver information and skills training to prevent or respond to acts of violence; making relevant information available in a range of formats and easily-accessible mediums; building legal literacy and legal capabilities through self-help and guided help mechanisms; culturally appropriate services; post-resolution support; and follow-up programming that builds skills and confidence.

Another element is the development of programming from a trauma-and-violence-informed approach. Elements of this approach include:

  • Informed understandings of trauma, violence, and the impacts of such experiences on survivors/victims’ lives and actions.

  • Environments that survivors/victims consider to be safe.

  • The availability of options that foster active choices, collaboration, and connections.

  • Capacity-building approaches meant to foster resilience (Government of Canada, 2019[23]).

In line with the above, the multi-pronged approach that many states took to provide information and make reporting channels available to GBV survivors/victims during the COVID-19 pandemic is an example of being survivor/victim-centred. Many states recognised that providing toll-free helplines for women facing violence during confinement would be insufficient alone because perpetrators could prevent the use of these helplines. In recognition of survivors/victims’ situations, states set up alternative messaging services through WhatsApp and other social media (e.g. France, Slovak Republic and Spain), SMS services (e.g. France and Turkey), and email services (e.g. Denmark, Greece and Japan). Additionally, states established systems for reporting at pharmacies using the code word “Facemask 19” (e.g. Chile, France and Spain), engaged private-sector professionals such as human resources personnel on detecting and reporting (e.g. Chile and the Netherlands), and conducted awareness campaigns through different media7 (OECD, 2020[38]).

Another essential element is the requirement to consider the impact of intersectionality when developing GBV frameworks, policies, and programming. Critical gaps in services and policy can arise due to a failure to engage in intersectional analysis.

The experiences of women and girls differ due to their personal characteristics and intersections of their individual circumstances. Such intersections include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, colour, age, class, religion, indigeneity, national origin, migrant or refugee status, sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity. For example, access to justice and service delivery can be difficult for migrants, recent immigrants, or those living with precarious immigration statuses. This may be due to a number of factors, including language barriers, a lack of understanding of the justice system, cultural differences, monetary issues, and fear of the consequences of engaging with state mechanisms. An example of such dynamics being accounted for in policy making can be found in Canada where, in April 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada removed a regulatory requirement that applied to some sponsored spouses or partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to live with their sponsor for two years as a condition to maintaining their permanent resident status. Eliminating this conditional permanent residence addressed concerns that vulnerable sponsored spouses or partners may stay in abusive relationships out of fear of losing their permanent resident status (Government of Canada, 2020[40]).

Programming, therefore, would not follow a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather should incorporate an intersectional lens into its planning.

For greater impact, the GBV framework should be underpinned by a coherent, co-ordinated, and systematic approach to resourcing at both the national and sub-national levels for the different existing initiatives addressing GBV, including projects and research focused on prevention. An example comes from the Australian government. In support of the implementation of the Fourth Action Plan (2019-2022) of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women, the government committed AUD 328 million, which represented the largest investment in the National Plan and a notable increase from the AUD 100 million allocated to the previous action plan. The increased funding was the result of an extensive consultation process during which the government consulted with more than 600 people and 400 organisations, including service providers, experts, and survivors/victims. Importantly, this financial commitment included AUD 68.3 million for prevention strategies to help eradicate domestic and family violence in homes, workplaces, communities and clubs, as well as AUD 82.2 million to improve and build on essential services to keep women and children safe (Commonwealth of Australia, 2019[42]).

In addition to providing regular funding for GBV frameworks, countries should be willing to increase investments into relevant policies, programmes, and services during crisis situations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, the United States Congress passed legislation that provided an additional USD 45 million to the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (OECD, 2020[6]). In Iceland, the government included increased funding for women’s shelters in its first economic response to the pandemic (OECD, 2020[6]). Furthermore, building upon funding commitments described above, the Australian government adopted a AUD 150-million domestic violence package to provide critical emergency response services (OECD, 2020[7]).

Although the needs of survivors/victims are multifaceted, there are several key areas that require dedicated resources and implementation, including: shelter and housing, targeted and readily available counselling, and healthcare and justice services. It is particularly important that such services remain properly resourced in times of crisis in order to ensure they remain widely accessible to survivors/victims, who are often among the most affected and at risk during crises such as pandemics and economic recessions. Often, however, government budgets underfund these types of services. To address this, countries can utilise gender budgeting, which refers to the use of analytical tools, as a routine part of the budget process, so that the budget is more effective at helping to meet gender equality goals (OECD, n.d.[43]). In particular, gender impact assessments (GIAs) can be used to analyse existing and/or proposed budget measures to determine their impact on GBV services and survivors/victims. Once completed, GIAs can then help policy makers make informed decisions, leading to more adequate funding for GBV-related services.

In parallel, developing cost-effective approaches to the implementation of programmes and services can go a long way. A good practice would be to implement strategic spending reviews. A positive example of this practice emerges from Wales. The Welsh government has committed to commissioning a review of funding streams for GBV (Welsh Government, 2018[44]), while local bodies like the North Wales Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Abuse Strategic Board have developed teams to examine funding models and partner with commissions to ensure that funding is being spent in the most cost-effective ways (North Wales Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Abuse Strategic Board, 2019[45]).

Developing and publishing specific guidance on multi-agency collaboration and information sharing is an essential element to addressing GBV. Oftentimes, inter-agency information sharing practices face legal and privacy concerns, as personal information may be privileged. Member agencies can design consensual, legal, and efficient means of sharing information. An example of a promising practice is the Communication Framework developed by the Welsh government, which outlines methods and requirements for sharing information among relevant actors. The Communications Framework was designed in order to foster long-term engagement and consultation strategies for relevant stakeholders (Welsh Government, 2017[46]).

Another important aspect of gathering information on GBV is finding an effective and timely way to share resources with stakeholders and researchers. Under this framework, trainings, guidance materials, and toolkits are created from the information obtained from research and collaboration. The information is then distributed to relevant actors. Information that is not privileged is also disseminated to the broader public in a timely manner.

A promising example of knowledge mobilisation is Canada’s GBV Knowledge Centre’s online platform that was launched in 2018. The GBV Knowledge Centre’s online platform includes a searchable database that brings together existing data and evidence on GBV-related content. The platform compiles information on GBV and on the federal GBV Strategy, annual reports, funding opportunities as well as federal, provincial and territorial resources. It also provides resources for survivors/victims of GBV and serves as an online location for researchers, stakeholders, and service providers to share information and connect with one another (Government of Canada, 2019[23]). A similar example of knowledge mobilisation is the Swedish research centre entitled “The National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence Against Women” (GREVIO, 2019[19]).

Furthermore, it should be noted that communication and knowledge mobilisation is particularly important during times of emergency—this includes emergencies at the national, regional or local levels. During emergencies, rapid responses are required, which sometimes means governments have limited time to consult stakeholders in the development and implementation of preliminary policy measures. However, constant and early sharing of information within the government can help mitigate the initial lack of consultation, helping to ensure rapid-response measures are based on and adapted to the evidence available early on. In line with this, the United States government reported having shared best practices, lessons learned and data across departments and agencies in order to support evidence building and evidence-based responses during the COVID-19 pandemic (OECD, 2020[6]).

From within governments, vertical co-ordination mechanisms within particular divisions or sectors can be instituted. Vertical mechanisms demand co-ordination between the multiple and often disconnected actors in the national and sub-national justice systems, including unified information systems. Such mechanisms can include the creation of gender equality units, working groups or special committees, and specialised conferences.

Collaboration of many actors is required to address GBV. Justice ministries and gender equality institutions require information that is based on the knowledge and expertise of survivors/victims, healthcare professionals, police, and neighbourhood watches, amongst others. The interconnectedness of GBV and other social problems requires that responses to GBV be connected to other aspects of survivors/victims’ life as well.

It is important to create horizontal inter-ministerial and multi-sectoral committees on GBV. Key actors include representatives from ministries whose mandates include issues of health, education, social services, labour, housing, employment, and justice. A positive example of this practice is the Family Violence Initiative in Canada. This initiative has been the federal government’s main collaborative forum for addressing family violence since 1988 (Government of Canada, 2020[47]). It brings together 12 departments and agencies working together to prevent and address family violence: the Public Health Agency, Justice Canada, Statistics Canada, Public Safety Canada, Correctional Service Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Department of National Defence, Women and Gender Equality Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Employment and Social Development Canada, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Creating integrated service provisions and referrals is also critical. Integrated services refer to joined-up services for the benefits of survivors/victims. Horizontally integrated services bring together previously separated services, professions, and organisations across several sectors to identify and address complex needs of service users (Munday, 2017[48]). It is valuable practice to bring service providers together to share experiences, knowledge, and understanding in order to create better services. Established partnerships should be supported with sustainable and dedicated funding streams.

It would be important to integrate child protection services as part of service integration. Children and adolescents themselves may experience GBV, whether it be indirectly (e.g. living with a parent who abuses their spouse) or directly (e.g. being subjected to physical or sexual violence by a family member). Being children and adolescents, they also have unique needs and experiences that need to be accounted for in service provision. Often, however, silos exist between the broader GBV service system, which tends to be adult-centric, and child protection services. Integration of these services is thus crucial to providing timely and adequate support to children, as well as ensuring service responses to GBV are child-inclusive and trauma-informed (Campo, 2015[49]).

In discussing integrated services, it is also important to understand that it does not only refer to bringing together support and protection services. It is a broader system in which there are generally three categories of service providers that can serve as entry points to support and protection services for survivors/victims. These entry points are general service providers (e.g. education, healthcare, mental health services, disability services, and immigration services), justice and legal service providers (e.g. police, courts, legal aid centres, and lawyers), and specialist service providers (e.g. GBV crisis centres and helplines, trained counsellors, and other practitioners specialised in GBV services and programming). The underlying concept behind this system is that all service providers are equipped to identify and screen for GBV, refer survivors/victims to support and protection services, and directly link survivors/victims with relevant GBV specialists. This process can also be conceptualised as a “no wrong door” process, meaning that regardless of which service provider a survivor/victim discloses their violence to, the survivor/victim can begin to receive support and information.

Integrating services, therefore, is important for detecting GBV, especially since survivors/victims may not report their cases to law enforcement or seek assistance from shelters, crisis centres, or other support structures. In such scenarios, public healthcare and social services providers often have more interaction with survivors/victims. As such, if these actors are equipped to screen for GBV, a system of integrated services and horizontal communication can help lead to more survivors/victims being identified and provided access to critical legal and social welfare services and to more perpetrators being held accountable. Furthermore, following identification of GBV, risk assessments can also be used by service providers, especially GBV specialists and law enforcement personnel, to better understand the nature and seriousness of a survivor/victim’s situation, which can then lead to more informed decision making and situationally responsive interventions.

Differences between the agencies and ministries, however, can pose significant difficulties to the integration of services. A whole-of-state framework, therefore, requires that the work be truly collaborative, without the dominance of one agency over another. A positive example is Australia’s Specialist Domestic Violence Units and Health Justice Partnerships, staffed by a cross-section of ministerial and societal actors (Commonwealth of Australia, 2019[33]).

Often, systems to address GBV depend on survivors/victims reporting their abuse to the relevant authorities. However, this does not take into account the fact that survivors/victims may face significant trauma, be economically dependent on their perpetrators, lack information on support services, have distrust in law enforcement actors, or be children or adolescents. Factors such as these may delay, deter or prevent survivors/victims from reporting their cases to or seeking support from official channels. It is therefore critical that states commit to design better ways to detect GBV so that the responsibility does not lie fully with survivors/victims going to the relevant authorities and so that self-reporting is easier.

As discussed earlier, an action that can help increase the identification of survivors/victims is integrating public services. Since survivors/victims are more likely to interact with general service providers, such as teachers, doctors and nurses, and immigration officials, connecting these services with justice, law enforcement, child protection, and specialised services can be useful. In this scenario, all service providers are equipped to detect and assess the risks of GBV and are knowledgeable about each other and the different roles that they play. Subsequently, more actors are ready to provide survivors/victims with information and assistance and refer them to the appropriate authorities from whom they can obtain the services they need. In the United Kingdom, for example, the government implements the FGM Prevention Programme. Under this programme, healthcare professionals are provided with resources to help them understand, identify, and provide care for FGM. Moreover, upon detection, healthcare professionals must record FGM in the patient’s records and report the case to social services or the police (Home Office, 2019[51]).

Within an integrated services system, screening, risk assessment, and risk management are key elements of detection and subsequent intervention—which can ultimately help prevent reoccurrences of GBV. In order for this to work effectively, these three processes should be based on standardised, evidence-based procedures, meaning they take into account the existing evidence on the signs and risk factors of GBV. To support the standardisation and implementation of these processes, states can consider developing risk assessment and management frameworks. Besides establishing standard approaches to these processes, such frameworks can also outline which service providers should be involved in which process.8 Examples of this practice include the government of New Zealand’s Family Violence Risk Assessment and Management Framework and the Australian State government of Victoria’s Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework and Practice Guides (Government of New Zealand, 2017[52]; State Government of Victoria, 2012[53]).

In addition to expanding detection through integrated services and standardised screening processes, it is important to provide multiple channels through which survivors/victims can report their abuse that takes into account their circumstances. As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, relying only on traditional channels for reporting such as helplines is insufficient. Other possible channels include SMS, web-based applications, and code-word reporting systems at frequently visited places (e.g. pharmacies). Overall, more consideration should be given to developing and expanding evidence-based ways for actively identifying GBV within public services and through a variety of self-reporting channels.

Underlying any GBV framework should be a robust commitment to preventing GBV, especially if the ultimate goal of ending GBV is to be achieved. Accordingly, governments would need to ensure they invest sufficient attention and resources to the development and implementation of policies and programming aiming to prevent all forms of GBV. This should consist of commitments to prevention programming that is intersectional and aims to prevent GBV against groups of women and girls who face higher risks of violence, such as trans women and girls, women and girls with disabilities, and Indigenous women and girls.

GBV is rooted in gender inequality. In order to end GBV, it is necessary to change harmful social and cultural norms and attitudes that uphold discriminatory policies and practices. Considering this, prevention efforts should seek to challenge and change harmful norms and attitudes, build awareness, and promote pre-emptive interventions.

As discussed throughout the report, governments can undertake a range of actions with the aim of preventing GBV. This includes criminalising GBV; conducting and supporting awareness and media campaigns; facilitating education that is gender-sensitive and includes trauma-informed teaching on GBV; engaging men and boys in gender equality and GBV programming; and offering rehabilitation and treatment programmes to GBV perpetrators (see Box 2.7). As highlighted under the “Detection” sub-section above, early detection of GBV – in particular, through screening and risk assessment – is also a key component of preventing GBV. When GBV incidents are identified early, service providers are better equipped to intervene and prevent further occurrences from happening.

In addition, prevention requires a sound understanding of the situation of GBV within a country. It is important to identify the forms and prevalence of GBV, the characteristics of survivors/victims and perpetrators, and other factors associated with GBV within a country over time. As such, states would benefit from investing into research and data collection on GBV and into monitoring and evaluation of prevention-focused policies and programming to ensure they are achieving the desired outcomes.

The realisation of a whole-of-state GBV framework depends on all relevant public institutions having sufficient capacity as well as adequate programme funding. Here, capacity refers to staffing, expertise, skills, tools, equipment, and other resources, while public institutions include ministries and agencies, parliaments, courts, and police departments.

The allocation of staffing and resources is an important factor in ensuring that ministries and agencies at all levels of government, including institutions responsible for gender equality and women’s empowerment, can carry out their roles and responsibilities within the GBV policy system. In this regard, institutions can enhance their capacity through the hiring of gender policy and women’s issues officials who have GBV expertise and experience in relation to the institution’s particular mandate or role within the GBV framework. For example, a ministry of health would benefit from hiring public health experts who have worked on GBV initiatives. Complementing the recruitment of relevant experts, ministries and agencies can set up gender equality units within their institutions that are tasked with co-ordinating and monitoring their institution’s GBV commitments. However, these officials and units will need to be provided with proper project management and evaluation tools, information and communication technologies, and administrative resources.

Similarly, other public bodies, particularly parliaments, courts, and police, need to have sufficient staffing dedicated to supporting the GBV framework. As discussed earlier in the report, these bodies can allocate staff and resources to internal structures dedicated to gender equality or GBV: parliaments can set up gender equality committees; police departments can create specialised units for intimate partner violence or domestic violence; and the judiciary can establish integrated domestic violence courts. For example, in Norway, all police districts have their own dedicated employees who conduct risk assessments in intimate partner violence and “honour”-based violence cases, as well as family violence co-ordinators who co-ordinate the police’s overall efforts against domestic violence and co-operate with relevant external partners. In larger police districts, separate teams responsible for domestic violence have also been established (Government of Norway, 2020[16]).

While having dedicated staffing and structures in place within public institutions is useful, many public officials and personnel involved in the implementation of the GBV framework will not be experts. Additionally, many public actors may not be directly involved in the GBV framework’s implementation, but can have important roles to play within the system. As discussed earlier with regards to integrated services, general service providers, including teachers, nurses, and immigration officials, should be incorporated within the GBV system, as they can help detect cases of GBV and link survivors/victims with support and protection services. Furthermore, public institutions are not the only actors. NGOs, including women’s shelters and organisations, are often involved in, or directly responsible for, the provision of GBV services, while the media should be supporting the dissemination of information and awareness campaigns to the public. In consequence, all relevant actors need to receive sufficient training, guidance, and timely advice tailored to their role within the GBV framework. It is particularly important that the actors who directly work with survivors/victims of GBV receive up-to-date training on early detection, risk management, and prevention of GBV. Trainings need to be culturally and gender-sensitive and adequately supplied with necessary equipment and materials. Trainings should also be updated on a semi-regular basis to take advantage of new technologies (if appropriate), align methodologies with evidence-based practices, and account for changes in policies and the policy context.

An example of training that could be implemented for healthcare workers, social workers, and justice officers is a danger assessment. Danger assessments ask a range of questions regarding the type and intensity of abuse experienced by survivors/victims. Questions pertain to issues such as weapon ownership, drug use, harassment, stalking behaviour, sexual assault, physical assault, and murder threats (Campbell, 2003[56]). The recognition of risk factors for GBV by relevant actors is vital in an attempt to prevent an escalation of violence and chance of death.

The majority of GBV is perpetuated by men and boys. A key element of addressing this reality is to attempt to change the culture of harmful gender norms and gender discrimination that contributes to GBV.

It is therefore important to engage with men and boys to find ways to prevent GBV, such as through targeted programming that educates boys and men about harmful attitudes and behaviours leading to GBV. These programmes address issues such as harmful gender roles and stereotypes, including how these issues negatively affect the lives of men and boys. Part of these programmes may entail recognising that men and boys themselves may experience GBV and seek to diminish the stigma associated with it, a stigma that is often gendered and therefore contributes to the maintenance of harmful gender norms and attitudes. Programmes should also aim to challenge and change norms, attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality, and encourage men and boys to become positive role models and take action against GBV.

In terms of designing effective programming, more evidence is needed. Studies and evaluations of the long-term effects of policies and programmes focused on engaging men and boys on GBV are limited. However, initiatives to date have, in general, demonstrated the value of working with boys at an early age when their attitudes towards gender relations and roles are not yet formed. Group education approaches, often supported by community-wide sensitisation campaigns, have shown to be effective in this regard (OECD, 2020[60]).

Considering the need for more evidence-based approaches to engaging men and boys, a positive development has been Canada’s commitment to conducting policy research on ways to better engage men in advancing gender equality. Through its 2018 Budget, the Government of Canada committed CAD 1.8 million over two years to develop an engagement strategy for men and boys that promotes equality and pilots innovative, targeted approaches to addressing inequality (Government of Canada, 2019[23]).

All GBV responses should account for the unique and intersecting legal needs faced by survivors/victims which are often intertwined with complex emotions about their abuse and/or abusers. Survivors/victims often face great difficultly in addressing all of the simultaneous problems arising from the violence they have faced. For example, a survivor/victim may be involved in a criminal case because the state charged her intimate partner with assault. She might also have been charged with assault under a dual-charging system for allegations of intimate partner violence. She might simultaneously be involved in divorce proceedings and/or child custody proceedings in a civil court. She might also be seeking protective orders against her partner, attempting to secure sole access to the marital home, or seeking paid time off due to being a survivor/victim of violence. Many of these proceedings will be addressed in separate forums with multiple lawyers, and over the course of months. These legal issues are complex and difficult to address on their own. When multiple proceedings are intertwined, many, if not all, of the legal needs of survivors/victims can easily fail to be addressed.

It is important to recognise the interconnectedness among criminal, civil, family and other legal proceedings regarding GBV. Proactive efforts are needed to co-ordinate judicial responses to GBV, especially intimate partner violence and domestic violence. An example of good practice is to create integrated domestic violence courts (see Box 2.9). Referred to as the “one family, one judge” model, these courts have one judge oversee all criminal cases relating to intimate partner violence or domestic violence and civil matters involving divorce, child custody, and civil protection orders. Such an approach permits stronger judicial monitoring and a co-ordination of services (OECD, 2016[50]). Another practice of note is providing legal counsellors, either directly or indirectly through funding of legal aid centres or NGOs, who can attend courts with survivors/victims and their families (if applicable) and guide them through the judicial process, especially when the process does not take place through an integrated court system.

Additionally, legal and justiciable problems are often intrinsically tied with other social, economic, health, or employment issues. Such problems may require access to a range of public services in addition to several legal and justice services. Any meaningful response to GBV requires strong collaborations of organisations within the justice system as well as sound working relationships with external organisations. For example, women who report being survivors/victims of intimate partner violence should have access to meaningful judicial protection and restraining orders, counselling, and victim funds. Furthermore, survivors/victims who are employed should be assured that their employment does not constitute a barrier to accessing social and legal services, and should be protected against any work-related discrimination and termination resulting from the violence they experienced. In New Zealand, for example, the Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act gives employees affected by domestic violence the right to:

  • take up to ten days of paid leave, which is separate from annual leave, sick leave and bereavement leave

  • ask for short-term flexible working arrangements for up to two months

  • not be treated adversely in the workplace because they might have experienced domestic violence (Government of New Zealand, 2020[64]).

Social services and justice systems are often fragmented and siloed. An example of an integrated approach is the “Family Justice Centre” model from Northern Ireland. These centres co-locate services for individuals to address multiple needs, including legal, medical, and various social services (OECD, 2016[50]). Another example is the “sunflower centre” model from South Korea. Sunflower centres are integrated support centres that offer survivors/victims of sexual violence counselling, medical care, assistance with case investigations, and access to legal assistance (OECD, 2019[65]).

Despite the many positive advancements made towards addressing GBV, many barriers still exist. Access to justice is increasingly recognised as a critical dimension of tackling gender inequality. A lack of access to justice can impact the social, emotional, and financial outcomes of women and their families and therefore can be a crucial source of disempowerment for survivors/victims who already face gender inequalities and discrimination throughout society. When justice is unattainable, survivors/victims themselves may face repercussions, such as losing custody of a child if they are a mother or staying in unsafe conditions as girls. As a result, survivors/victims become more likely to remain in situations of violence. Countries, thus, need to strive to create a culture where access to justice for survivors/victims of GBV is a priority.

Women and girls are more prone to experiencing multiple and compound obstacles in accessing justice. This is especially true for women and girls facing multiple oppressions, such as women and girls with disabilities, trans women and girls, lesbian and bisexual women and girls, migrant women and girls, Indigenous women and girls, women and girls who are visible minorities, senior women, women and girls living in remote and rural areas, and women and girls living in poverty. Among the types of barriers that women and girls may face when accessing justice include:

  • Financial barriers (e.g. the direct cost of services, fines, transportation, childcare, and the inability to take time off of work).

  • Structural barriers (e.g. legalese, complex or convoluted judicial procedures, and a lack of translated materials or interpretation services).

  • Social barriers (e.g. gender-based and other identity-based stereotypes, bias and discrimination, distrust in judicial and law enforcement actors, and a lack of education or literacy).

In addition to the general barriers mentioned above, girls can face particular barriers when accessing justice. Such barriers are related to the complexity of justice system, making it difficult for children to get access, understand the procedures and participate effectively. Girls may also be unaware of their rights because they lack essential information and the procedures may not be adjusted to children, may be discriminatory or may even be unsafe. Girls that have been placed into care, or are at risk of entering care, are also more likely to have or be facing a range of deprivations (e.g. risk of abuse and neglect, and extreme poverty). Furthermore, girls in care are more likely to be in contact with the justice system, either as offenders, survivors/victims or as interested parties in care and protection cases.

An overarching theme across all countries is the often limited ability of survivors/victims to access the justice system often due to financial concerns. Many issues of GBV arise in the civil court system. In civil trials or proceedings, a survivor/victim will often have to pay for a lawyer to represent her. Many individuals will be unable to do so, and will either have to drop the case or attempt to represent themselves without the requisite legal knowledge. Even in criminal cases, where the state takes on the burden of paying for a prosecution, a lack of funds can still hinder a survivor/victim’s ability to access justice. Many women who are mothers are unable to pay for childcare in order to be interviewed or to testify at trial. For others, a lack of transportation or ability to take time off of work or school is prohibitive. If a survivor/victim recants her allegation due to the complexity of an abusive relationship, or if she fails to adequately participate in the justice process, she herself can be charged with obstruction of justice. In the case of girls, this barrier becomes even more apparent, as they depend economically on adults who in many cases are their abusers, hindering their access to legal remedies and safety.

As such, evidenced-based approaches to addressing barriers in survivors/victims’ access to justice are essential. Efforts are needed to ensure that survivors/victims are informed about legal aid and other legal assistance mechanisms and that these mechanisms are responsive to their needs, which includes being available for all aspects of their cases (e.g. criminal, civil and family law proceedings) and being explained in accordance with the level of maturity and understanding in the case of girls. Sufficient funding should be allocated to formal legal aid that funds services as well as campaigns that can provide legal information. Systems should also be put in place to enable an array of actors to address legal needs, including paralegals, educators, and legally-trained community advocates. Specialised training of the professionals and counsels involved in court regarding the special needs of girls given their age and maturity is also required to address their specific needs. Ideally, public institutions and their partners should identify and pursue arrangements that bring legal assistance to survivors/victims wherever feasible, and generally minimise the number of places to which survivors/victims must go to obtain support. In this regard, providing on-site legal assistance at women’s shelters would improve service accessibility for many survivors/victims, especially those in high-risk situations, as would the practice of co-locating services, as previously discussed.

Beyond legal aid and assistance, it is important to make justice institutions more survivor/victim-centred and gender-sensitive, especially courts. For example, courts should be arranged so that survivors/victims do not have to sit near or interact with perpetrators while waiting for proceedings to commence and should include childcare and other relevant services. Additionally, organising legal proceedings to reduce the number of times survivors/victims have to recant their violence is important, and integrated domestic violence courts can help in this regard. In the same manner, the availability of child-friendly proceedings would enable adequate access to justice for girl survivors/victims of GBV, meaning that the justice system should be adapted to the particular needs of children. This means that a child should be informed of their right in a manner adapted to the child’s age, maturity and specific circumstances; that a child can effectively and meaningfully participate in proceedings; and that premises are adapted and accessible to, and safe for, children. This may include the use of child-friendly interviewing rooms, confidential and fair complaint mechanisms, and specialised procedures in criminal courts and other relevant bodies.

It is important to note that all efforts highlighted above should continue and be reinforced during times of crisis, thereby ensuring survivors/victims do not become further victimised or at risk of experiencing GBV. In other words, the commitment to enhancing access for survivors/victims should be unconditional.

An example of a promising practice arises from Colombia where “Justice Houses” provide individuals in marginalised or conflict-ridden neighbourhoods with “one-stop’” access to free legal help. Local prosecutors, public defenders, municipal human rights officers, legal aid specialists, social workers, and psychologists typically staff Justice Houses. Many of them also include other entities such as non-governmental women’s organisations, youth mediation services, children’s playrooms, university law clinics, and other personnel such as doctors, police officers, and representatives from ethnic communities (OECD, 2020[66]). Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Colombia continually sought to facilitate access to justice for survivors/victims and issued a decree to ensure access to relevant services continued virtually, including legal and psychosocial advice, police services, and justice services such as hearings (UN Women, 2020[67]).

Taking heed of the COVID-19 pandemic experience, adaptability and prioritisation should also be recognised as important elements to facilitating access to justice. As mentioned above, survivors/victims should continue to have access to judicial systems and relevant legal services even during times where major events disrupt the normal functioning of public institutions. In such scenarios, adapting justice systems to the changing contexts, and guaranteeing GBV cases are prioritised within the systems, is important. Efforts to adapt systems, however, should be done from a survivor/victim-centred lens.

International standards and good practice emphasise the importance of having laws criminalising multiple forms of GBV including: sexual assault, marital rape, harassment and stalking, human trafficking, and technology-facilitated violence. Besides criminalising multiple forms of GBV, legislation can indicate clear, substantial sanctions for perpetrators, as well as provide clear procedures and guidelines on the interpretation and implementation of the laws.

The passage of GBV laws into effect is only the first step in this process. The effectiveness of a law is contingent upon appropriate judicial engagement, sufficient budgeting, and monitoring of its effects. The functioning of the law in the judicial system should be monitored as well. For example, after many sexual assault allegations were unjustifiably deemed to be “unfounded,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) created a Sexual Assault Review Team [SART] to review these allegations. The review is being used to strengthen police training, survivor/victim support, and public information. As of April 2019, the RCMP reviewed over 30 000 sexual assault case files. Lessons learned from this process will be used to strengthen police training and awareness, investigative accountability, support to survivors/victims, as well as public education and communication. Furthermore, the RCMP has created Divisional Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committees to ensure that investigations are trauma-informed, thorough, timely, impartial and properly classified (Government of Canada, 2019[23]; Government of Canada, 2020[58]).

Programming for offenders is developed in consultation with survivors/victims and advocates in an attempt to prevent further offending and change harmful behaviours. Mediation, judicial treatment programming, and alternative measures for intimate partner violence or domestic violence could be offered under particular circumstances. Survivors/victims should have access to timely and easy-to-understand information regarding court proceedings and judicial orders involving their perpetrators.

Courts may permit the use of restorative justice in some instances to address cases of GBV, particularly intimate partner violence or domestic violence. Restorative justice refers to survivor/victim-centred, dialogue-based practices that aim to address the harms caused by a crime. The most common practices are survivor/victim-offender mediation or conferencing, family group conferencing and peace-making circles (Ptacek, 2008[68]). Such practices provide survivors/victims the opportunity to discuss how the violence they experienced affected them as well as aim to encourage perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions. Restorative justice, however, may not be appropriate for all cases of GBV and thus should be pursued carefully. At a minimum, such programming should be adopted only if both the survivor/victim and perpetrator agree to participate without coercion, if the perpetrator accepts the basic facts of the case, if the safety and well-being of the survivor/victim can be guaranteed, and if the process is mediated by trained third-party specialists. In view of this, restorative justice programming should not be mandatory, and continuous risk assessment should be conducted throughout the programming to ensure the process is still safe for the survivor/victim (Verwey-Jonker Institute, 2016[69]; Drost et al., 2015[70]).

In addition to, or as part of, restorative justice, states can provide for rehabilitation or treatment programmes aiming to reduce rates of repeat offenses. Such programming attempts to educate GBV perpetrators about their behaviours, including the impacts of their actions, and to support them to adopt non-violent behaviours. Attempts at rehabilitation or treatment, however, should be centred on perpetrators accepting reasonability for their actions and avoid erasing survivors/victims’ agency and experiences.

It is also possible for rehabilitation or treatment programmes to be used before the completion of judicial proceedings or during stays of proceedings. In Switzerland, for example, recent changes to the criminal code will now allow the prosecution or the courts to order those accused of GBV to follow a violence prevention programme during a stay of proceedings.

Ancillary orders, including protective or removal orders, should be encompassed under laws addressing GBV, and should be applied with the needs and interests of the survivor/victim in mind. To this end, authorities should minimise the repercussions caused by orders, particularly those aimed at separation, on survivors/victims and their children (if applicable). A positive example of a protective response is the United Kingdom’s pilot project on Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs). A 15-month pilot project in three separate police force areas tested a new civil justice provision that placed certain conditions upon perpetrators of GBV, including restricting or removing them from households and prohibiting contact with survivors/victims. The DVPO commences with a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) to the perpetrator, authorised by a senior police officer. The DVPO is then imposed at a magistrates’ court, lasting for 14–28 days. A review of the pilot project indicated that the majority of practitioners and survivors/victims viewed the DVPOs positively (Home Office, 2013[71]). Another example is the Mexican Alert Mechanism for Gender Violence Against Women (AVGM). The mechanism consists of a set of governmental emergency actions designed to confront and destroy potentially homicidal GBV (EuroSocial, 2019[72]).

The use of GPS monitoring bracelets on perpetrators can also be useful mechanisms for protecting survivors/victims. Such technology can be used to track convicted perpetrators of GBV to ensure they respect any protection or restraining orders that may have been imposed on them. In Norway, for example, prosecuting authorities have been instructed to promote the increased use of restraining orders supplemented with electronic monitoring (Government of Norway, 2020[16]). In addition, other mechanisms can be utilised that protect survivors/victims and their families but also allow for certain forms of interactions with the perpetrators. This particularly relates to the fact that co-parenting arrangements exist. To account for co-parenting situations, the GBV framework should allow for supervised visitations and transfers of children between parents where appropriate. With a view towards safety, efforts should be made to have trained and neutral third-party actors supervise such interactions rather than placing this responsibility on family members or friends who may be ill-prepared to handle any violence or disputes that arise during visitations or transfers.

Given the important role that protective mechanisms can play in maintaining the safety of survivors/victims, it is also critical that public institutions ensure they remain active and available for use regardless of the context. More specifically, measures should be in place to allow these mechanisms to continue to operate as intended during times of emergency or crisis. A practice that emerged in this regard during the COVID-19 pandemic was expanding the ways in which restraining orders could be obtained. In Australia, for example, the Western Australian State Government permitted restraining orders to be lodged online as well as extended the authority to issue interim restraining orders to family and children’s courts (Government of Western Australia, 2020[73]). Similarly, the Government of Austria set up different processes whereby protection order applications could be submitted, including by email, fax, or postal services (OECD, 2020[6]).

The majority of femicides/feminicides are committed by an intimate partner or family member. As explained by Rachel Louise Snyder in her book No Visible Bruises, with domestic homicide there is “not any one single factor that can be pointed out and changed; instead it is a series of small mistakes, missed opportunities, failed communications” (Snyder, 2019[74]).

As such, the GBV framework needs to include actions to track femicides/feminicides so that public authorities can better understand how and why women and girls face gender-related risks of death, particularly at the hands of their loved ones. Fatality review teams can be established to build a summary of each case. By gathering statistical data about both the perpetrator and the survivor/victim, authorities can better recognise warning signs and patterns of this phenomenon. As part of this process, data can be gathered through official documentation (e.g. police reports, court records, and publicly available medical reports), newspaper articles, and statements from or interviews with people who had relevant contact with the survivor/victim, although directly engaging with families and friends of survivors/victims should only be undertaken after careful consideration and establishment of protocols (National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, n.d.[75]). In the end, it is important for the state to recognise its failures and inadequate responses and take action to rectify the gaps exposed by the fatality review.

The above process of documentation and analysis can also be expanded to other cases of serious but non-lethal GBV, especially in countries where it is difficult to draw conclusions on patterns of violent behaviour due to lower incident rates of fatal GBV.


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← 1. In many countries, sexual assault and harassment have been widespread in the military. In the United States, for example, the Department of Defense reported that 6.2% of active duty women reported an experience of sexual assault and 24.2% reported an experience of sexual harassment in 2018 alone (see Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Fiscal Year 2018).

← 2. Gender analysis refers to the process of assessing and identifying the potential impacts that government decision making can have on women and men, and girls and boys. It can be a helpful in identifying and removing potential gender bias from the baseline of structural policies, regulations and budgets. As highlighted by the OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life, they can be applied at all stages of the policy cycle, from the design of new policies to the evaluation of policies after implementation.

← 3. In part, this may be because the loss of economic control coupled with discriminatory gender norms and attitudes result in men who are disadvantaged by economic events trying to (re)assert control elsewhere in their lives (i.e. in their spousal or romantic-partner relationships) or using violence as a way to respond to the additional stressors in their lives.

← 4. Using or applying a gender lens refers to the practice of considering the different implications that public policies, programmes and services may have on women and men, and girls and boys from different backgrounds.

← 5. As previously highlighted, the present framework is meant to encompass practices at all levels of government since countries have different governance arrangements, resulting in different policy areas and services falling under different jurisdictions. As such, this section on the role of police accounts for practices that can be applied by either national or sub-national governments based on the country context.

← 6. It is particularly important to ensure that police reports are not only accurate and detailed, but do not minimise the responsibility of the perpetrator, undermine the severity of the violence, or shame or blame the survivors/victims. The language used in police reports can influence court proceedings and judgements.

← 7. The countries that reported conducting such awareness campaigns were Austria, Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

← 8. For example, while governments may want all service providers to be involved in screening, they may only want to identify specific service providers (e.g. GBV specialists) to be responsible for comprehensive risk management due to the expertise needed to carry out this process.

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