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Chapter 11

Strategies to Combat Domestic Violence

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Introduction to the Chapter


Women activists around the globe united to campaign against domestic violence starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  They were successful in many ways.  They forced the international community to acknowledge violence against women as a human rights issue.  They persuaded international, regional, and state authorities to change the law.  Yet women everywhere remain vulnerable to violence.

This Chapter addresses that reality.  It provides an overview of the problem (Part I), the international law justifying holding states responsible for the actions of non-state actors (Part II), the international and regional human rights law on violence against women (Part III), and different state solutions (Part IV).

Documents from the Chapter

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For all United Nations Treaties, the source marked "Original" contains the UN General Assembly Resolution (G.A. res.) adopting the relevant treaty, which is found in the "Annex" following the Resolution.  The source marked "UN High Comm'r for Human Rights" contains the relevant treaty, without the G.A. res. When following a link that requires searching for a symbol, there are several preliminary steps: first, copy the listed symbol and click the link, second; select a language; third, clicking the "Simple Search" button; and fourth, paste the symbol into the "Symbol" blank and click the "Search" button.

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Human Rights Reports

Human Rights Watch, Honoring the Killers:  Justice Denied for “Honor” Crimes in Jordan.

Human Rights Watch PDF

Attribution: Human Rights Watch. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-

No Derivative Works 3.0 United States.


Map of Jordan

Jordan is located in the Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia and South of Syria.


Amnesty International, Pakistan:  Violence Against Women in the Name of Honour.

Amnesty International USA HTML*

*Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved by Amnesty International.

Map of Pakistan

Pakistan is located in Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea, between India on the east, Iran and Afghanistan on the west, and China in the north.

Amnesty International, Pakistan:  Insufficient Protection of Women.

Amnesty International USA HTML*

*Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved by Amnesty International.


Human Rights Watch, Violence Against Women in Brazil.

Human Rights Watch PDF

Attribution: Human Rights Watch. License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-

No Derivative Works 3.0 United States.

Brazil is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east; Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the north; Uruguay ot the south, and Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru to the west. Its northern rainforest is the location of the mouth of the Amazon River, the largest river and the largest associated river basin in the world.

*Note: Brazil conducted a census in August 2000, which reported a population of 169,872,855; that figure was about 3.8% lower than projections by the US Census Bureau, and as close to the implied underenumeration of 4.6 for the 1991 census.




Velasquez Rodriguez Case,

Judgment of July 29, 1988, Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (Ser. C) No. 4 (1988).

Inter-American Court of Human Rights/Human Rights Comm'te PDF

Note: The Velasquez Rodriguez Case at pages 426-432 of the text does not concern domestic violence as such. An important decision by the European Court of Human Rights, however, cites the decision and other international law sources in finding violations of the [European] Convention for the Protection of Human Rigths and Fundamental Freedoms where the state fails to take effective action against domestic violence. See Opuz v. Turkey, below, in "Other Developments."

Map of Honduras

Honduras is located in Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Nicaragua and bordering the Gulf of Fonseca (North Pacific Ocean), between El Salvador and Nicaragua.

*Note: Estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.


Delgado-Paéz v. Colombia,

Case No. 195/1985 (1990), U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/39/D/195/1985.

UN High Comm'r for Human Rights/Human Rights Comm'te HTML

Map of Colombia

Colombia is located in Northern South America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Panama and Venezuela, and bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between Ecuador and Panama.


Ms. A. T. v. Hungary,

U.N. Doc. CEDAW/C/32/D/2/2003 (2005)


University of Minnesota Human Rights Library





Map of Hungary

Hungary is located in Central Europe, northwest of Romania.*


International Documents


Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 19, Violence against women (Eleventh session, 1992),

U.N. Doc. A/47/38 at 1 (1993), reprinted in Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.6 at 243 (2003).


UN Division for the Advancement of Women





Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women,

G.A. res. 48/104, 48 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 217, U.N. Doc. A/48/49 (1993).
Original PDF
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF



Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women,

33 I.L.M. 1534 (1994), entered into force March 5, 1995.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights HTML
Organization of American States Office of International Law HTML


Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa,

Adopted by the 2nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, Maputo, CAB/LEG/66.6 (Sept. 13, 2000); reprinted in 1 Afr. Hum. Rts. L.J. 40, entered into force Nov. 25, 2005.

African Union PDF


Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

G.A. res. 39/46, [annex, 39 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 51) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (1984)], entered into force June 26, 1987.
Original PDF
UN High Comm'r for Human Rights PDF



Preliminary Report Submitted by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes, and Consequences

Economic and Social Committee, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1995/42 (1994).

Original PDF


Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence
CETS No.: 210 (2011) enters into force when ratified by 10 states, see

Council of Europe PDF

Other Developments

In Opuz v. Turkey, the Court finds that Turkey violated the European Convention Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (freedom from torture), and 14 (no sex discrimination as to Convention articles). In the decision, the Court relied heavily on the Velasquez Rodriguez Case, located above and at page 426 in Women's Human Rights.

Opuz v. Turkey,

__ Eur. Ct. H.R. __, Application No. 33401/02, (June 9, 2009).

European Court of Human Rights HTML*

*The decision is rather long; for the relevant principles applied by the Court, see especially paragraphs 128-132, 137-39, 150-51, 153, 158-59, 183-85, and 198-202.


In the following case, Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes v. Brazil, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also applies the Velásquez Rodríguez Case principles to a state that fails to take effective action against domestic violence.  Specifically, it rules that Brazil violated the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará) because of its judicial ineffectiveness in dealing with domestic violence.

Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes v. Brazil,

Case 12.051, Inter-Am. Comm'n H.R., Report No. 54/01, Annual Report 2000, OEA/Ser.L./V/II.222 doc.20 rev. (2000).

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

*For the Commission's application of the Convention of Belém do Pará, see especially paragraphs 51-58. The Convention is reprinted in part in Women's Human Rights at pp. 446-448.


The Amici Curiae Brief below, filed in Campo Algodonero v. Mexico before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, highlights the international and regional human rights law that applies when a state fails to investigate, prosecute, and punish the worst forms of violence against women. In 2003, the Inter-American Commission's Women's Rights Rapporteur reported that in the past decade over 268 women and girls had been murdered in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Government attorneys investigated and prosecuted less than 20% of these crimes and obtained even fewer convictions. Over 250 women and girls remain missing. Groups of murder victims' families and groups of women who were raped while being held by kidnappers sued the Mexican government for its failure and that of the authorities in Ciudad Juárez and the State of Chihuahua (where Cuidad Juárez is located), to effectively investigate these crimes.

Amici Curiae Brief in Support of Petitioners Presented by Amnesty International,

Campo Algodonero v. Mexico, Case Nos 12.496, 12.497 and 12.498 (2009).

Inter-American Court on Human Rights

Mexico is bordered on the north by United States and on the south by Guatemala and Belize; it is bordered on the east by the Gulf of Mexico and on the west by the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. Ciudad Juárez is located in the northern state of Chihuahua, and is the seat of the municipality of Juárez; it is located directly across the border from the U.S. city of El Paso.


The following is a case from South Africa dealing with whether or not the national domestic violence law violates the Constitution. The issue arose out of the conviction of an army officer (the appellant) in the Magistrate’s court in Pretoria for breaching an interdict issued by a magistrate ordering him not to assault his wife or prevent her or their child from entering or leaving their home. He appealed his conviction on procedural and constitutional grounds. The judgment of the Constitutional Court noted that domestic violence transgressed a constitutionally guaranteed right to be free from violence from either public or private sources; domestic violence both reflected and re-enforced patriarchal domination, challenged the non-sexist foundations of the Constitution and violated the right to equality. South Africa was also obliged by international law to take steps to combat domestic violence.

State v. Baloyi,

1999 (1) SA 1 (CC) at 22.

Constitutional Court of South Africa


In 1999, Jessica Gonzales' three daughters were murdered by her estranged husband, despite the fact that she had called police numerous times because of her fear for their safety. She sued the police claiming that she had been deprived due process rights when the police failed to enforce the restraining order against her husband. The United States Supreme Court held for the municipality, finding no due process right to the enforcement of a civil protection order. After this loss, Gonzales brought her case in from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Her petition was granted, as shown below, in the admissibility report, and the decision is expected shortly (as of August 21, 2009).

Town of Castle Rock, Colorado v. Gonzales,

545 U.S. 748 (2000).

United States Reports PDF External Link


Report on Admissibility of Jessica Gonzales and Others v. United States,

Jessica Gonzales and Others v. United States, Petition 1490-05, Inter-Am Comm'n H.R, Report No. 52/7, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.07 (2007).

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights PDF External Link


Supplemental Amici Curiae Brief in Support of Petitioner Presented by Legal Momentum,

Gonzales v. The United States of America, Petition No. P-1490-05 (2009).

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights


Merits Decision, Jessic Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States

Jessic Lenahan (Gonzales) and Others v. United States, Case 12.626, Inter- Am Comm'n H.R., Report No. 80/11 (2011).

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights PDF External Link*

* Click on Report No. 80/11

Information on Other Topics: Sex Trafficking and Violence

Against Women in War

Chapter 11 deals with violence against women that occurs in an intimate family setting. However, there are other forms of violence against women that take place outside of the home, such as human trafficking and gender-based war crimes. Trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery in which people – with women and girls the majority – are kidnapped or deceived or forced into different forms of servitude.  The U.S. State Department has reported that more than 12 million people are trafficked worldwide each year, the majority of whom are women.   

Women also suffer at the hands of criminals and troops who believe they have impunity to commit heinous sexual crimes in combat zones.  For example, according to the U.N., up to 500,000 women were raped during the Rwandan Genocide, and up to 64,000 during the conflict in Sierra Leone.

For readers interested in exploring these topics, the websites below link to relevant international, regional, and state instruments and offices and to NGOs that fight for women’s rights to be free from sexual violence and trafficking.”

Treaties and Conventions

Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), and its’ Optional Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Prevent Trafficking in Persons

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Other International Organizations and Documents

UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict

UN Division for the Advancement of Women (Now UN Women)


Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children

UN Security Council Resolution 1820


UN General Assembly Resolution on Trafficking in Women and Girls


UN General Assembly Resolution Doc. A/RES/58/147 on Elimination of Domestic Violence Against Women


United States Government Information

United States State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, led by Ambassador Luis C. DeBaca

United States Office of Global Women's Issues

United States Department of Justice Office to Fight Trafficking in Persons

Human Rights Reports/NGOs

ILO Mekong Sub Regional Project to Prevent Human Trafficking in East Asia

Global Fund for Women

Global Alliance in Trafficking Against Women

WHO - Preventing Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Against Women

Women for Women International

Amnesty International Report: Violence Against Women in Conflict