VIOLENCE: UN discussion focuses on gender-sensitive reparations

Summary: On 25 June, the Human Rights Council started its annual full-day discussion on women’s human rights by holding a discussion on remedies and reparations for women and girls who have been subjected to violence.

Opening remarks

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that gender based discrimination was a pervasive human rights violation, often translating into abuse, violence and discrimination, and the Council should send a strong message that gender-based violence in all its forms was unacceptable. 

Gender-senstive reparations

The concept of remedies enshrined in international human rights law encompassed the right to equal and effective access to justice and to adequate, effective and prompt reparation for the harm suffered.  Without reparation the obligation to provide effective remedy was not discharged, not only as reparation but as retribution, rehabilitation and guarantees for no repetition.  Recently there had been progress in the conceptualisation of gender-sensitive reparations. 

The Office of the High Commissioner was currently executing four pilot initiatives that had been designed in consultation with survivors and local and international organizations in follow up to the recommendations of the high-level panel on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Office of the High Commissioner and United Nations Women were working on a guidance note on reparations for victims of conflict-related sexual violence.  The existing body of literature and experience had highlighted a number of general principles and programmatic guidelines to ensure that reparation policies and measures were guided by non-discrimination considerations and were gender sensitive, including adequate information for women and girls concerning their right to reparation, that the definition of victims took into account differences between women and children, and other issues. 

Forms of reparation

Gender considerations must be paramount in assessing the harm suffered.  In the case of sexual violence and other gender-based crimes, the multidimensional and long-term consequences of the harm affecting women and girls must be taken into account.

In deciding the form of reparations, a number of elements must be kept in mind, including existing obstacles and challenges women may face in owning land or receiving and managing money.  The Special Rapporteur had also stressed the need to ensure that economic compensation and reintegration measures looked into the types of material benefits that could help enhance the autonomy of women and create opportunities traditionally denied to victims. 

Only women and girls themselves could determine what forms of reparation were best suited to their situation, what was culturally appropriate and did not expose them to further harm and victimisation, and the underlying causes that exposed them in the first place.  While the conceptual framework was clearly delineated a review of programmes and schemes revealed a gap between conception and delivery.  This forum could serve as a space to exchange lessons learned.  The Council, through its mechanisms, including Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review, should engage and advocate for increased commitment and leadership to ensure prompt, adequate, and effective reparation for women who had been subjected to violence.


The panellists were Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Carla Ferstman, Director, REDRESS; Chris Dolan, Director, Refugee Law Project; and Patricia Guerrero, La Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas.


Further information


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