This paper draws on lessons from Brazil’s Maria da Penha legislation, passed in 2006, and from Bangladesh and Ghana. It argues that women’s organising is vital not only to get laws passed, but also in monitoring their implementation and holding governments to account. The effectiveness of domestic violence legislation depends on: the monitoring of policies by civil society organisations, appropriate training for all service providers, cross-agency coordination, public support, and adequate budgets at all levels of government.
Domestic violence is multi-faceted, complex and devastating to women. An estimated one in three women in the world is affected by domestic violence, independent of their social standing and cultural background.
The mobilisation of women has helped to make domestic violence more visible. In addition, feminist organisations and researchers have made important contributions to the formulation of policies and legislation.
In many countries around the world, laws are now in place making domestic violence against women a crime. Yet implementation often lags behind legal reforms. Regular monitoring of domestic violence legislation is therefore needed. UN Women notes that such monitoring involves:
- Determining the prevalence of cases of violence against women, and the laws, policies and protocols used to address them.
- Evaluating the laws, policies and protocols used to address violence against women and proposing changes to provide greater safety for victims and accountability for offenders.
- Revealing unintended consequences of, and gaps in, laws, policies, and protocols.
- Pressuring government to apply international standards or to change its actions.
- Revealing the need for a coordinated community response to enforce the laws, and for capacity-building and training for the professionals who must enforce the laws.
Women’s organising is vital for publicising the harmful nature of domestic violence and for formulating and monitoring domestic violence legislation. Donors need to support feminist organisations and initiatives to confront domestic violence. Further, comprehensive legislation packages are needed to confront domestic violence against women. These should include punitive, protective and preventive measures and provisions for the monitoring of implementation. It is also important to:
- Provide appropriate budgets at all levels of government to combat domestic violence.
- Provide adequate training for the police on how to ensure a fast response to women in a situation of domestic violence, and awareness-raising on women’s rights for all relevant service providers.
- Promote cross-agency collaboration and coordination. The implementation of domestic violence legislation requires multi-agency communication and collaboration, at local, state and federal level and across the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government. Cross-agency collaboration does not usually occur without government intervention to encourage it.
- Build public opinion in support of domestic violence legislation. In countries where a culture of machismo is still strong, it is crucial to promote the implementation of comprehensive anti-violence and conflict resolution curricula in schools. Public awareness campaigns on domestic violence are also needed.
- Promote monitoring and evaluation by civil society. Policies should also help to develop a culture of accountability, and of systematic data gathering at all levels.