Violence Against Women and Girls

Written evidence submitted by Amnesty International UK

Summary of recommendations

1. The Department for International Development (DFID) has made significant and welcome progress in addressing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), including DFID’s Theory of Change for Tackling VAWG, the inclusion of VAWG as a pillar for action in DFID’s 2011 Strategic Vision for Girls and Women and the new violence against women research and innovation fund. However, Amnesty International UK recommends more work is carried out to integrate DFID’s current best practice on VAWG throughout all of DFID’s work.

2. We welcome that VAWG is a UK government priority for their Presidency of the G8 in 2013. However, we recommend a more coordinated and coherent cross-government approach to addressing VAWG alongside the key departments such as the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This would help better deliver on cross government work such as the UK National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (NAP), and the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI).

3. Amnesty International UK recommends that DFID should:

I. ensure best practice on addressing VAWG is mainstreamed and prioritised in country programmes;

II. undertake a qualitative and quantitative assessment of both the implementation and impact of the Theory of Change for Tackling VAWG guidelines;

III. prioritise VAWG in conflict and post-conflict countries, including an explicit priority goal on tackling VAWG in the next Operational Plan on Afghanistan;

IV. evaluate and increase funding and technical support to Women’s Rights Organisations (WRO) and Women Human Rights D efenders (WHRDs) across all areas of their work, including inviting consultation and active participation on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and S ecurity (NAP) ;

V. assess and improve the accessibility of DFID funding streams to smaller WROs and projects run by WHRDs working on VAWG.

4. We recommend that DFID uses the 20th review of the International Conference on Population and Development programme of action (ICPD+20) to strongly advocate for the inclusion of progressive language and a comprehensive and integrated approach for sexual and reproductive rights for all.

5. We strongly support the I nternational D evelopment C ommittees (the Committee) recommendation that women’s rights should be explicitly set out in quantitative detail in the post-2015 framework. In addition, we would strongly recommend the inclusion of a rights based target on violence against women in the post-2015 development goals.

Amnesty International UK

6. Amnesty International UK is a national section of a global movement of over three million supporters, members and activists. We represent more than 230,000 supporters in the United Kingdom. Collectively, our vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. Our mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of these rights. We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.


7. Amnesty International UK welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the work of the Committee in its assessment of the UK’s efforts to combat VAWG.

8. Violence Against Women and Girls is one of the most pervasive abuses of fundamental human rights. Every day thousands of women and girls are abused and murdered (often by family members), raped in armed conflicts and attacked for defending women’s rights. It affects women and girls globally, and in all walks of life, and is committed in order to exert power and control, to undermine equality, and to ensure women’s subordination. It remains a scandal that in many contexts violence against women and girls continues to be tolerated, justified and overlooked.

9. Violence against women has been identified as a grave human rights violation because of the way that it violates many other rights simultaneously, seriously impairing the ability of women and girls to enjoy their full range of human rights including the right to health, the right to education, the right to physical and mental integrity, the right to determine the number and spacing of their children, and the right to life and to freedom from torture.

10. States have obligations to take appropriate measures to prevent, prosecute all forms of, and protect women and girls from violence. In order to effectively address violence against women, a comprehensive approach is required, which also tackles the root causes, such as gender inequality.

The extent to which DFID programmes on VAWG support the right policy instruments and reflect best practice, as outlined in DFID’s Theory of Change and related guidance

11. We welcome the high priority DFID has placed on preventing violence against women and girls overseas [1] and DFID’s Theory of Change for Tackling VAWG, in particular the focus on securing the rights of women as the most effective way of tackling gender inequality and subsequently VAWG.

12. The Theory of Change guidelines reflect best practice and are a helpful framework from which to understand how tackling impunity and increasing women and girls' access to justice contribute to creating longer-term change for women and girls. We recommend DFID undertake a qualitative and quantitative assessment of both the implementation and impact of the Theory of Change for Tackling VAWG guidelines in all operational plans and programmes.

13. We welcome the recognition in the Theory of Change guidelines that women’s rights organisations and WHRDs create and sustain positive change in women and girls’ lives. We recommend that DFID focus on the protection needs of WHRDs and incorporate this into the Theory of Change guidelines.

14. Amnesty International UK is concerned that the principles and best practice highlighted in DFID’s Theory of Change have not yet been fully mainstreamed into key DFID country programmes. Sexual violence/VAWG is only a top priority in two out of twenty seven bilateral aid programmes [2] . Where women are included as a top priority, the overarching trend is to improve maternal health and access to education. Whilst these are desirable objectives, there should be more recognition that high levels of VAWG can negatively affect the ability to reach these objectives, and indeed others. We recommend that the best practice highlighted in DFID’s Theory of Change for Tackling VAWG is prioritised and mainstreamed on the ground/in country throughout DFID’s Country Programmes, particularly in conflict, post-conflict and crisis affected countries.

15. We are concerned at the lack of specific objectives on VAWG in conflict, post-conflict or crisis countries. In DFID’s Operational Plan for Afghanistan (a country in which 87% of women suffer violence [3] ), for instance, tackling VAWG is not a strategic priority area and is only mentioned in relation to the UK National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 [4] . We recommend that the next DFID Operational Plan on Afghanistan (post-2014) should include an explicit priority goal on tackling VAWG and DFID should seek to combat VAWG through support for women’s shelters and legal services.

The effectiveness of DFID funding mechanisms for VAWG and the systems in place to measure their impact

16. Women who defend human rights are active on a variety of issues, often highlighting violations that have long been neglected. Because they raise "sensitive" issues, such as sexual violence and sexual and reproductive health rights, and challenge the status quo of male-dominated structures, WHRDs around the world face threats, intimidation, abduction, sexual violence and even killings. Attacks against WHRDs are often gender-based, with women being targeted both because of their activism and because they are women.

17. At a recent conference organised by Peace Brigades International, the Associate Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace, and Security, GAPS-UK, Womankind Worldwide, and Amnesty International UK, concerns about lack of support, protection and accessibility to funding were raised by a number of small WROs and WHRDs from different countries.

18. We welcome DFID’s Guidance on Monitoring and Evaluation for Programming on VAWG. However we believe it is necessary to better assess and improve accessibility of funding streams to smaller WROs and projects run by WHRDs working on VAWG.

19. Amnesty International UK recommends that DFID funding priorities should emphasise the need to support advocacy for the promotion of women’s rights. Specific funding or resource pools for WHRDs and their activities should include funding relief for WHRDs at risk – such as emergency support, legal defence fund, psycho-social counselling, and provisions for family care.

20. We further recommend that DFID examine and improve how accessible funding is to WHRDs, especially for those who face multiple barriers to accessing funds such as those who work in remote rural areas, do not speak English, may not have access to online funding mechanisms and work on the most marginalised issues.

21. We recommend that DFID staff receive adequate training about the role and protection needs of human rights defenders, including the incorporation of gender-specific recommendations to ensure specific focus on issues related to WHRDs.

Strength of UK leadership role internationally on VAWG, including the effectiveness of DFID’s work with multilateral partners and the UK’s International Champion for VAWG position

22. One of the most important fronts in the struggle for women's human rights is around sexual and reproductive autonomy, and the coercive and often violent ways in which that autonomy is suppressed. Much of the gender based violence inflicted on women is aimed at restricting and controlling their sexuality and reproductive capacity, whether in the form of so-called ‘honour killings’ of women who are believed to have had sex outside of marriage, or in the form of marital rape, or the targeting of pregnant women as a strategy of conflict.

23. These and other sexual and reproductive rights violations are happening worldwide on a massive scale and are clearly proscribed under international law. The international community affirmed sexual and reproductive rights as human rights in the Programme of Action adopted at the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Together with other UN instruments, they articulate what states must do to respect, protect and fulfil women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

24. As governments embark on the next stages of negotiating the ICPD + 20 review, we urge the m to take a strong lead in negotiations to maintain and strengthen both commitments and action in the area of sexual and reproductive rights. We urge the UK Government to build on the leadership shown on VAWG by advocating strongly for the inclusion of progressive language and a comprehensive and integrated approach for sexual and reproductive rights for all, essential components of any strategy to prevent, respond to and ultimately end gender based violence.

25. We welcomed the creation of the UK’s International Champion on Violence against Women as a positive step to ensure there is high-level leadership on tackling VAWG. Despite this positive step forward, we remain concerned that the role of International Champion is hampered by lack of overarching responsibility for VAWG policy across the UK government. We recommend that the International Champion post should be have sufficient access, authority and resources to drive this strategy throughout the UK’s government work on VAWG.

Cross-governmental working within the UK, particularly co-operation between DFID, the FCO and the MOD on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and the UK Government National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 Women, Peace and Security

26. We welcome the leadership shown by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to address the impunity surrounding sexual violence in conflict, and the commitment to prioritising action to prevent conflict related sexual violence during the UK presidency of the G8. W e particularly welcome the commitment to consult with NGOs, Civil Society Organisations, and experts in the framing of this important initiative.

27. DFID has a key role to play in ensuring that the commitments expressed through PSVI prevent and respond to gender-based violence. We recommend DFID ensures that cross-governmental PSVI work is a priority and adequately resourced in all its operational plans and strategies for countries affected by violent conflict.

28. In particular, we recommend greater recognition and support (both funding and technical) for the role WROs and WHRDs in community development, delivering essential services, supporting survivors of gender based violence, advocating for change and holding their own governments to account would b e welcome across all areas of DF ID’s work.

29. UN Security Council resolution 1325 was adopted in recognition of the particular and disproportionate impact of conflict on women. It constituted an important recognition of women as active agents in peace and security, rather than victims of conflict. Together with subsequent resolutions, the Security Council sets out important commitments to address the impact of armed conflict on women. We welcome that progress has been made on the UK government’s NAP in training, country programmes, operations and increased allocation of staff resources. However, assessing progress on the UK government’s NAP is made difficult by a focus on activities rather than impact and outcome orientated changes. The lack of reporting against indicators and a lack of time frames makes it difficult to assess whether the NAP is on course for completion at the end of its three year period.

30. We welcome that DFID has scaled up programme work on 1325 as detailed in the NAP Annual Review. The current UK NAP runs from 2010 to 2013 and we will soon see its evaluation and development of a 2014-2016 NAP. We recommend the consultation process for the 2014-2016 NAP includes UK government led consultations with WROs and WHRDs in conflict-affected countries

31. Whilst VAWG and work on Women Peace and Security (WPS) are two overlapping spheres of work; scaling up work on VAWG is not the same as setting up distinct projects on WPS. We recommend that all three departments working on the NAP take concrete measurable steps to ensure effective implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, as well as resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960. This entails genuinely recognising women as active agents of positive change, and to be included as active and full participants, on an equal basis with men, at all stages of conflict prevention, peace processes, and in transitional justice efforts.

32. We are concerned that, despite progress made and an increase of resources, institutional barriers remain that will hinder the implementation and effectiveness of the NAP. There is still a lack of a holistic and coherent approach and understanding of the importance of gender equality and women’s human rights across key government departments tasked with delivering aspects of the NAP, notably between the MOD, FCO and DFID. There is no specific budget attached to the UK government’s delivery of NAP. We recommend that to ensure the NAP is successfully implemented there should be clearly allocated funding along with cross-government co-ordination and leadership.

33. It is vital that women’s rights are central to the UK Government’s conceptualisation of stability and security. We recommend that the UK Government should measure progress on women’s participation by using indicators, including the number of women taking part in peace talks, the gender content of peace agreements and the extent to which post-conflict reparations, economic recovery programmes and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes benefit women.

Key events in 2013: the 57th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March

34. It is crucial that this year CSW adopts strong agreed conclusions especially in view of the importance of this year's priority theme, being "Elimination of violence against women", and also in light of CSW’s failure last year to adopt agreed conclusions; due to disagreement on crucial human rights issues, including the very notion of "gender".

35. We recommend that the UK government demonstrate a firm commitment to women’s rights and in particular we recommend that they affirm the commitments to sexual and reproductive rights for all, including - as a minimum - by reaffirming the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action as well as all subsequent advances on the issue during ICPD and Beijing Review processes.

36. We recommend that the UK government champion the role of WHRDs as legitimate and vital actors and press UN Member States and other relevant parts of the UN system to create an environment conducive for WHRDs to carry out their important work free from harassment, intimidation or attacks. At CSW all states must commit to protecting WHRDs from violations by offering effective security measures, and by promptly and impartially investigating violations against WHRDs with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.

VAWG within the post-2015 development goals

37. The need to tackle the impact of VAWG was specifically recognised by the Millennium Declaration; yet by omitting to set targets or indicators on VAWG, the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fail to address one of the most significant barriers to women’s equality.

38. Moreover, we believe that VAWG has seriously undermined the fulfilment of all of the MDGs. Early and/or forced marriage, for example, is a major cause of disruption to girls’ education [5] and many girls are the victim of sexual violence in school, which affects the targets on education (MDG 2 and MDG3). In Uganda, for instance, Amnesty International found high levels of sexual violence and exploitation of girls in schools [6] . Pregnancy has a major impact on the numbers of girls who drop out of school and as abortion law in Uganda is unclear [7] , many women and girls are forced to carry pregnancies arising from rape to term. There are no provisions to accommodate young mothers in school, and many drop out, with grave consequences for their future. Conversely, education of girls is closely related to greater decision-making power over finances and reproductive health issues like condom use or seeking treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases in future life.

39. VAWG also negatively impacts on women’s participation in political and civil life (MDG3). In Afghanistan, Amnesty International has documented the impact of violence on women in public life, where many high profile women have been killed. Najia Sediqi, Head of the Department of Women's Affairs in Laghman, was killed as she travelled to work in December 2012. Sediqi had held her post for only a few months following the murder of her predecessor, Hanifa Safi. Safi was killed in July 2012, when an improvised explosive device attached to her car was remotely detonated.

40. Amnesty International UK strongly supports the Committees’ recommendation that women’s rights should be explicitly set out in quantitative detail in the post-2015 framework [8] . In addition, we would strongly recommend the inclusion of a rights based target on violence against women in the post-2015 development goals. The UK Government currently plays a lead role in the development of the post-2015 framework through its co-Chairpersonship of the UN High Level Panel on the MDGs. We urge the UK Government to ensure that the issue of VAW is fully integrated into the debate.

February 2013

[1] Business Plan 2011-2015, DFID, May 2011:; A new strategic vision for girls and women: stopping poverty before it starts, DFID, 2011:

[2] DfID Bilateral Aid Review results: country summaries, March 2011

[3] Global Rights Report – March 2008 www.

[4] Operational Plan 2011-2015 DFID Afghanistan June 2012:

[5] Amnesty International ‘I can’t afford justice: violence against women in Uganda continues unchecked and unpunished’, 2010

[6] Amnesty International ‘I can’t afford justice: violence against women in Uganda continues unchecked and unpunished’, page 28, 2010

[7] Centre for Reproductive Rights ‘A technical guide to understanding the legal and policy framework on terminations of pregnancy in Uganda’ 2012,

[8] International Development Committee, Post-2015 Development Goals: Potential Structure, Point 61 (accessed on 22nd January 2013)

Prepared 13th February 2013