How can gender-based violence be reduced? How can access to justice and support for survivors be increased? This article from The World Bank Research Observer surveys knowledge of and responses to gender-based violence worldwide and highlights emerging good practices. Multiple interventions at different levels (individual, community, institutional, legal, and policy) appear to be necessary.
Little comparable and high-quality information is available, but a recent WHO multi-country study and Demographic and Health Surveys have made major strides in measuring gender-based violence. Currently, policy recommendations must draw on both detailed impact evaluations from developed countries and still-emerging evidence from the developing world.
Access to justice for women who have experienced gender-based violence has three dimensions. These are: protecting women by improving laws and policies and raising awareness of women’s rights; providing redress by strengthening institutional responses to gender-based violence; and raising the cost to men of engaging in gender-based violence by establishing or increasing criminal sanctions and mandating participation in treatment programmes. Findings include the following:
- Efforts to improve laws and policies have focused on international conventions to provide: an overarching legal framework to support (or in some cases supersede) national legislation; new specialised legislation on gender-based violence; and reform of national civil and criminal codes.
- Poor implementation is a central problem in legal reform. Common issues include lack of coordination between family and criminal courts, police or prosecutor reluctance and unwillingness or inability of the judiciary to enforce the laws
–frequently due to lack of resources and specialised knowledge.
- Initiatives to improve institutional responses to gender-based violence have included training professionals, reorganising police or courts, and providing a more comprehensive and supportive response to survivors. The most effective appear to be strengthening and reforming the justice sector as a whole and building partnerships between the justice system and other sectors. Support services for survivors, run mainly by NGOs, are inadequate in most countries.
- The education sector has lagged far behind the health sector in developing a policy response to violence against women, despite growing evidence that sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence are widespread in educational settings.
Evidence suggests that improving survivors’ access to judicial services cannot be done without broad reform of the judicial system addressing systemic problems such as corruption, procedural delays, lack of transparency and the lack of any formal judicial presence in rural or poor urban settings. Further policy implications are that:
- Researchers must develop methodologies for high-quality data collection on gender-based violence across a number of countries.
- Violence prevention requires community-wide interventions, bringing into play myriad social and cultural factors.
- There is at least some indication that promoting nonviolence among boys is more effective than targeting adults and school girls.
- Training is most effective when given to all levels of personnel (including officials at the highest levels) and when it is linked to changes throughout the institution
–in policies, procedures, resources, and monitoring and evaluation.