Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences
MANDATE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. It addresses the issue of violence against women – whether caused or condoned by the State or by private actors – and its causes and consequences. The Special Rapporteur adopts a “comprehensive and universal” approach to the elimination of violence, including identifying causes of violence that relate to the civil, cultural, economic, political, and social spheres of life. The Special Rapporteur gathers information on violence against women from governments, treaty bodies, specialized agencies, other special rapporteurs, and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and makes recommendations to eliminate all forms of violence against women at all levels of government.
The work of the Special Rapporteur relies on the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women for guidance. For other documents relevant to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, visit here.
The Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective throughout the work of his or her mandate. The Special Rapporteur also works with all special procedures, treaty bodies, and Human Rights Council mechanisms to support the integration of a gender perspective into their work. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women also supports the Commission on the Status of Women.
COMPOSITION AND WORKING METHODS
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly-qualified individual.
The UN Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteurship in 1994 with Resolution 1994/45. The Commission extended the mandate in 2003 with Resolution 2003/45. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2008 (Resolution 7/24), 2011 (Resolution 16/7), and 2013 (Resolution 23/25).
In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, and submits activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.
One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge about the situation of violence against women and its unique causes and consequences. The Special Rapporteur engages with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including government officials, civil society groups, community leaders, and individuals during country visits. It is possible for the Special Rapporteur to carry out country visits jointly with other special procedures mandate holders.
The Special Rapporteur generally undertakes one to five visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. View the list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports here.
More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.
Receiving Information & Complaints
The Special Rapporteur receives complaints about cases of alleged violence or threats of violence directed against women because of their sex. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State. The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment on the allegation, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. He or she may also write to the government jointly with other special procedures mandate holders.
Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.
The Special Rapporteur only processes complaints where the alleged violence or threats of violence is directed at women because of their sex. The definition of violence against women, according to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, encompasses, but is not limited to:
- physical, sexual, and psychological violence that takes place in the family, such as battering, sexual abuse of female children, marital rape, and female genital mutilation;
- physical, sexual, and psychological violence that takes place in the general community, such as rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work and school, and trafficking in women and forced prostitution; and,
- physical, sexual, and psychological violence carried out or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
In all of its communications with States, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to clarify the situation, with a view to ensuring the effective prevention, investigation, and punishment of acts of violence against women and compensation for victims of violations.
The Special Rapporteur keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until he or she includes them in the joint communications reports to the Human Rights Council, which are public.
The identities of alleged victims are always included in contact between the Special Rapporteur and State authorities, but the names of victims under the age of 18 will not be published in any subsequent public reports. Victims who might be at risk if their names are published or who request that their identity remain hidden will also have their names excluded from public reports.
Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, relates to a general pattern of violations, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.
The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations concerning an imminent threat, or fear of a threat, to the right to personal integrity or the life of a woman. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.
Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council
The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.
SUBMITTING INFORMATION OR COMPLAINTS
Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form. Information and complaints submitted to the Special Rapporteur should include the details requested on the webpage and on the model complaint form, including:
- identity and other details of the complainant;
- identity and other details of the victim;
- description of the alleged incident, including the rights which have been or may be violated;
- if applicable, a description of how a specific law, practice, or policy affects women in general or women in a particular group; and,
- with regard to violations committed by private individuals or groups, information that might indicate that the government failed to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish, and ensure compensation for the violations.
The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax: +41 22 917 90 06
To contact the Special Rapporteur with regard to another matter (not a complaint), use the email address: email@example.com.