United Nations report offers guidelines for legislation on violence against women

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NEW YORK, 11 November (DESA) - A report issued by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime offers good practices and lessons learned designed to assist States in enhancing existing legislation and developing new laws to address violence against women.

Based on an expert group meeting held in Vienna, Austria, from 26 to 28 May 2008, the report -- "Good practices in legislation on violence against women" -- provides guidelines and a model framework for legislation on violence against women, including detailed recommendations, commentaries and examples of good practices. The 70-page document also summarizes the prevailing approaches for addressing violence against women in different legal systems.

"The purpose of this report is to assist States and other stakeholders in enhancing existing, and developing new, legislation on violence against women," said Carolyn Hannan, Director of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women. "While States have made significant progress in the enactment of such legislation, numerous gaps and challenges remain."

Under current international law, States are obliged to address violence against women, including through the enactment of legislation. The first laws directly addressing domestic violence were passed in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1970s and early 1980s. Since the 1990s, numerous States have adopted or revised legislation on violence against women. These legal reforms, however, have varied significantly in terms of the forms of violence they address, the type of action they mandate and the area of law (constitutional, civil, criminal, family) they reform.

The United Nations Secretary-General's 2006 in-depth study on all forms of violence against women notes that, as at 2006, only about half of United Nations Member States had in place legislative provisions that specifically addressed domestic violence, and fewer than half had legislation on sexual harassment or on trafficking. Even where legislation existed, it was often limited in scope and coverage.

In response to the Secretary-General's study, the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006 adopted resolution 61/143, calling upon Member States and the United Nations system to intensify their efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

In February 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a multi-year campaign to increase public awareness, political will and resources for preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, with the ultimate goal of carrying out national action plans and implementing or strengthening national laws.

To order a copy of the report, please contact the Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2 UN Plaza, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10017; Fax: +1 212 963 3463; e-mail:

To view the report online, please see:

For media queries, please contact the Department of Public Information, Martina Donlon, Tel: +1 212 963 6816, e-mail:

For information media - not an official record