In many parts of the world, violence against women remains a highly prevalent, socially tolerated and largely unpunished crime. The justice sector’s response to cases involving violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman, or that affects women disproportionately, is notably deficient and does not begin to meet what has been described as a problem of pandemic proportions. Due to a variety of factors, including weak criminal laws, poor enforcement of criminal laws, insufficient capacity, discriminatory attitudes among criminal justice actors and a lack of adequate, trained and sustainable dedicated resources, the vast majority of perpetrators face no legal consequences. High levels of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, human trafficking or other forms of violence being experienced by women go unreported. In some parts of the world, as many as 80% of women do not report the incidents, whether out of shame, threat of further violence, fear of being stigmatized by family and community, or mistrust in the justice system. Many women who do report incidents of violence, perceive the justice system response as a second assault, due to indifferent, insensitive or harsh treatment by police, prosecutors and judges, who often minimize, dismiss or blame the violence on the victims.

The International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy (ICCLR) has, since its inception, acted as a bridge between the local, national and international criminal justice systems to build capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. One of ICCLR’s longest standing programmes has been on eliminating violence against women. From the experience gained from ICCLR’s VAW programme, in 2014-15, two of ICCLR’s Senior Associates, Eileen Skinnider and Ruth Montgomery had the opportunity to work with the following UN agencies: UN Women, UNFPA, UNODC, WHO and UNDP (which subsequently joined forced to form the UN Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subjected to Violence) to develop Module 3: Justice and Policing of the Essential Services Package: Core Elements and Quality Guidelines for an Effective Response to Violence Against Women.


                          Authors/editor(s): UN Women, UNFPA, WHO, UNDP and UNODC

The UN Joint Programme. The Joint Programme seeks to bridge the gap between international agreements concerning responses to violence against women and services for survivors, and their implementation at the country level. The Programme aims to provide guidance on how to develop and implement the global norms on multi-sectoral services and responses, with a focus on the health, police, justice and social services, and critically, the coordination of these services. The Justice and Policing module is one of 6 modules which are part of the Essential Services Package aimed at providing all women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence with greater access to essential quality and coordinated multi-sectoral services.

The Impact

The Essential Services Package is currently being implemented in ten (10) pilot countries including: Cambodia, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Tunisia, Mozambique, Egypt, Guatemala and Peru with a view to supporting and advocating for their global rollout. There are also now an additional 46 ‘self-starter’ countries using the Essential Services Package on their own initiative. An initial assessment of the Programme organized by UN Women and UNFPA found that the Essential Services Package has been recognized as a minimum standard for effective response to violence against women globally.

Module 3 has served as a foundation for the development of further global tools by UN agencies to assist justice providers deliver quality essential justice and policing services. They include the forthcoming UN Women-led handbook on gender-responsive policing and the forthcoming UNODC police response training manual developed by the UNODC Mexico office.

Module 3 has also been used as a foundational piece in the work of ICCLR’s two Senior Associates, Ruth Montgomery and Eileen Skinnider. For example, the Essential Services Package served as guidance for an assessment undertaken in Namibia for UNODC to support the government of Namibia’s efforts towards enhancing a coordinated multi-disciplinary cross-agency approach in responding to gender-based violence. It has also informed the Viet Nam National Guidelines for the Provision of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code Towards Improved Access to Justice for Women Subjected to Violence that was supported by the UN Women Viet Nam Office. Its principles have been used as a guideline for the development of victim support services by the recently established Victim Support Asia network, to identify access to justice issues for women in rural and remote areas of the province of British Columbia, Canada and by a Canadian national working group to develop multi-disciplinary training to address the needs of victims of terrorism and mass violence events.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash.

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