Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences

In her report to the 26th Session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, focuses broadly on developments in the United Nations regarding violence against women, its causes and consequences, over approximately 20 years. Below is a short summary of some of the issues raised. Download the full text. Please note that this is not an official UN summary.


Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences

Rashida Manjoo


Report published: 28 May 2014


Hierarchies of violence - neglecting day-to-day abuse

A more recent challenge is the creation of hierarchies of violence against women, especially through political and funding actions. This is particularly evident in the articulation of sexual violence in conflict situations as being different and exceptional, as opposed to it being a continuation of a pattern of discrimination and violence that is exacerbated in times of conflict — as reflected in recent armed conflict situations. The prioritizing of this manifestation of violence has led to numerous concerns, including a shift away from an understanding of violence against women as both gendered and as part of a continuum of violence; a shift in resources, in some instances, despite the need to address all manifestations of violence, including at the national level; a shift in focus by some United Nations entities; and the effect of donor-driven priorities in this process. The views of many women’s rights defenders is that these shifts have led to “privileging” the manifestation of violence against women in conflict situations, to the detriment and ignoring of the low-level “warfare” that women and girls experience in their homes and communities on a daily basis. (para. 66)


Shift in understanding of gendered responses and a move towards a focus on men and boys

There are many ideologies about the role of men and boys. Often, the focus is not on women as autonomous beings, disproportionately affected by inequality, discrimination and violence; but rather, violence against women is conflated with the interests of men and boys. The tendency is for men’s groups to argue both that the majority of men are not implicated in abuse and that all men suffer the consequences of being socialized into dominant perceptions of hypermasculinity, and that that accounts, in part, for recourse to violence. Thus, the argument is that since both men and women are subject to gender stereotypes, and that corrupt and corrupting forms of power are as damaging to men as to women, both men and women would benefit from the dismantling of gender stereotypes. (para. 73)

One strategy associated with the engagement of men and boys is to appeal to the idea that women deserve respect as mothers, sisters, wives and so on. Emphasizing personal relationships is said to make it easier to understand the consequences of violence against women. This is also seen as an effective strategy in overtly patriarchal societies, in which calls to consider women as rights-bearing individuals, irrespective of their marital status, are considered too radical to attract support, even among women themselves. This implicit suggestion thus distorts the issue of women as autonomous individuals deserving of respect, and renders regard for the rights of women contingent on their status in the private sphere, which further reinforces the public/private dichotomy. (para. 74)


As regards the other challenges raised in the present report, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the Secretary-General initiate a study on the impact of such challenges in the quest to eliminate violence against women. (para. 78)




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