UNSRVAW Asia-Pacific Consultation: Women’s Rights Protections


On 10 February 2010, prior to the Inaugural Asia-Pacific Conference on Gendered Violence & Violations, UNSW Australia’s School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, with organisational assistance by the Gender Violence Research Network, hosted a pre-conference consultation led by Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences (SRVAW) and Professor, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town.

This invitation-only session took the form of a structured dialogue with participants on the challenges of holding states to their obligations in reducing and preventing violence against women (VAW). Participants included a wide range of actors, activists and academics working on the gendered dimensions of violence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Special Rapporteur facilitated discussion with participants on how best to address the normative gap in international human rights law in regards to VAW. In particular, the Special Rapporteur was interested in hearing views about developing an international globally legally binding instrument that states could be held accountable to - taking into account national, regional differences into account and cost considerations, including of establishing new monitoring bodies. Responses from this consultation will inform the SRVAW’s 2015 report to the UN Human Rights Council.

A number of themes were raised in this discussion:

Accountability of states: Ensuring the accountability of state actors, both as national governments and as international donors, was a consistent theme throughout the consultation.  Whether this accountability takes the form of a new legally binding commitment or sustained advocacy by the UN and civil society actors, there was broad agreement on the need for new engagement strategies and/or accountability measures.

Inclusive approach: It was widely recognised that survivors of violence often have different and intersecting experiences. Therefore, an inclusive approach that includes consultation and broad representativeness with survivors and women from a variety of different communities and backgrounds, as well as government (including enforcement authorities), legal, academic and civil society, is paramount.

Causes of VAW: There was broad agreement on the importance of understanding the broader contextual issues and social inequalities that cause violence against women. In particular, the significance of research, such as prevalence studies, can help us to better understand the causes of violence, as well as the various social and economic consequences.

Intersectionality: Reinforcing the need for an inclusive approach and addressing the social and cultural aspects of VAW, there was a call to address intersectionality and stepping beyond normalised understandings of gender and the causes of violence against women and girls.

Developing synergies with related initiatives: New legal instruments should also consider and address the developments in other areas of international law and governance, including for example, at the International Labour Organisation and World Health Organization.

Definitional questions about VAW: The divergence and overlap between ‘every day’ violence and extreme incidents of violence was of interest to participants. It is important to acknowledge the serious consequences and harm of ‘low-level warfare’ that women face day-to-day, and to not view such violence as somehow less important than other forms of more acute violence.

Resourcing and capacity: Women’s organisations must be adequately resourced and all efforts should be made to build capacity and share experiences. In particular, concerns were raised about the capacity of advocacy groups and community legal centres to report to national and international mechanisms given persistent funding cuts.  


With thanks to Rosemary Grey, Emma Palmer and Emily Waller - our incredible consultation rapporteurs