The 66-page manual provides a model framework for legislation addressing violence against women. This framework is divided into 14 chapters, discussing broad topics such as implementation, monitoring and evaluation, as well as more specific guidance on protection orders and sentencing. The handbook is targeted at parliamentarians, government officials, civil society and U.N. staff, and was borne of out a May 2008 meeting of experts -- convened by the Division for the Advancement of Women and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime -- regarding legislation of address violence against women.
The handbook is intended to assist states without (or with inadequate) legislation to address violence against women, thus meeting their international legal obligations "to enact, implement and monitor legislation addressing all forms of violence against women."
The publication is important in light of news, released in anticipation of last week's 10th International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, that "70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime." The prevalence of such violence is exacerbated by inadequate legal protections for female survivors of violence throughout the world. Consider, for example:
► under the Egyptian penal code, the murder of a wife (but not of a husband) who has committed adultery is dropped to a misdemeanor on account of "extenuating circumstances";
► in Yemen, men who kill female relatives for "immoral behavior" such as sex outside of marriage, receive a maximum of only one year in prison--as opposed to harsher penalties for other murders;
► female genital mutilation is still legal in states such as Gambia; and
In the United States, the International Violence Against Women Bill, slated for re-introduction before the House of Representatives this week by Rep. William Delahunt, includes provisions for assisting nations with high levels of violence against women to develop legal and judicial protections for victims of gender-based violence. If passed, this bill, along with the United Nations' handbook, represent a start to assisting states to meet their international legal obligations to address violence against women.
Hopefully, these efforts will translate into a reduction in the prevalence of violence against women throughout the world.