International Development CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Christian Aid

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Christian Aid is a Christian organisation that insists the world can and must be swiftly changed to one where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty. We work globally in 45 countries for profound change that eradicates the causes of poverty, striving to achieve equality, dignity and freedom for all, regardless of faith or nationality. We are part of a wider movement for social justice. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance where need is great, tackling the effects of poverty as well as its root causes.

1.2 Christian Aid addresses sexual and gender-based violence in all spheres of our work supporting a range of partners in their efforts to change damaging cultural practices and behaviour, and to ensure women’s right to freedom from fear and violence. For example, we support partners to lobby for preventative and protective legislation, and to hold their governments to account for their adherence to international commitments such as the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (in Myanmar for example our partners are now using international human rights framework, in the form of CEDAW and UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 & 1820, to lobby government and other actors to advocate for more government action in this area); we work with faith and traditional leaders to change social norms around violence against women and girls (in Egypt Christian Aid funds Bless anti-FGM workshops to educate women and girls on the health risks posed by FGM) ; we support partners in training young men on conflict resolution, sexual health and gender (in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic) as well as training on civilian rights, child protection and sexual violence for army officers (in the DRC)

1.3 Christian Aid is a member of the Gender & Development Network (GADN) and has also worked with DFID to advise on their theory of change for addressing VAWG.

1.4 We welcome the opportunity to provide written evidence to the International Development Committee on violence against women and girls.

2.0 Summary of recommendations

2.1 Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic around the world. Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Up to seven in ten women experience violence in their lifetime and this persistence of violence against women and girls is a key obstacle to the achievement of gender equality and the realisation of women’s rights. Christian Aid therefore regards VAWG as both a cause and symptom of gender inequality and unequal power relations. It limits the opportunities of people to flourish and live decent lives and is therefore an urgent development issue which requires a strong, unequivocal response from governments, including DFID, and from global civil society.

2.2 We welcome DFID’s focus on Violence against Women and Girls and would stress the need for a long-term commitment in this area. We hope that there will be a greater focus on the root causes of violence against women and girls, the enabling environment, and on addressing social norms that perpetuate inequality and violence, as set out in DFID’s Theory of Change;

2.3 The international community needs to put much greater emphasis on protection and prevention of violence in the context of humanitarian response;

2.4 We welcome the Government’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) and would like to stress the importance of long-term appropriate strategies to strengthen the rule of law;

2.5 On sexual violence in conflict, we would urge DFID and the FCO to stress the impact of gender-based violence on men, as well as women and girls, in their communication;

2.6 Christian Aid would like to see Violence against Women and Girls, addressed in the post-2015 development framework. We believe that the best way of driving forward progress on gender equality, would be for the UK Government to support a stand-alone transformational goal on gender equality as well as ensuring that action on gender is mainstreamed throughout the framework.

3.0 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

3.1 It is important at the outset to distinguish between the widespread violence against women and girls globally, which often goes on behind closed doors and often within the household, the acceptance of harmful practices, and sexual violence in conflict, where the breakdown of law and order can lead to an increase in VAWG and where rape can be used against both men and women as a weapon of war. Domestic violence is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses globally and tends to intensify during and after conflict. These phenomena are not unrelated, but different strategies may be needed in order to address these injustices.

3.2 DFID’s Theory of Change on VAWG helpfully identifies a range of interventions required for tackling VAWG including empowering women & girls, changing social norms, building political will and legal & institutional capacity to prevent and respond, and providing comprehensive services (including specialist services). All of these are essential but not all have been adequately resourced and/or addressed, not only by DFID but by other actors including NGOs and faith groups.

3.3 Whilst Christian Aid welcomes DFID’s commitment to addressing VAWG, we believe that DFID’s current programming focuses too much on the effects of VAWG rather than the root causes of problem—namely the social norms which perpetuate dominant masculinities and submissive femininities, and an acceptability of inequality between women and men. In many societies both men and women still accept VAWG as ‘normal’ or even acceptable. As long as these damaging social norms persist within societies, any existing laws, policies and programmes addressing VAWG are unlikely to be applied comprehensively and with a commitment to creating a society in which VAWG is not only undesirable, but unacceptable.

3.4 Addressing these damaging social norms is not always easy, but it can be done. In Christian Aid’s work, programmes which have been especially successful in changing damaging social norms have included all or some of the following features:

Ensuring all international development and humanitarian programmes, regardless of thematic focus, do not inadvertently reinforce existing damaging social norms, by ensuring they are gender sensitive and at the very least ‘do no harm’ .

Leadership on alternative social norms and practices by traditional and faith leaders

Working with both men and women—creating safe spaces for both men and women (and especially youth as part of life-skills education) to discuss social norms

Emphasising not just the social benefits, but the economic and health benefits of more positive social norms for both women and men

Harnessing the power of the media to support more positive social norms

Ensuring that all of the above is supported by (and in turn supports) appropriate laws, policies and services aiming to address VAWG eg by ensuring rights holders and duty bearers are aware of their rights and entitlements, roles and obligations.

3.5 On the subject of sexual violence in conflict more specifically (also discussed below in the context of the PSVI), Christian Aid wants to urge DFID and the FCO to recognise the huge numbers of men who are also victims of sexual violence during conflict. A 2010 survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 22% of men and 30% of women in Eastern Congo reported conflict-related sexual violence. Few UN agencies, governments and NGOs acknowledge this. The Refugee Law project, a DFID funded Christian Aid partner, is working to address this issue practically through medical care but is also advocating for the phenomenon to be addressed. The view that women are the rape victim and that men are the perpetrators, is the dominant one and thus international human rights law leaves out men in nearly all instruments designed to address sexual violence. The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 treats wartime sexual and gender-based violence as something that only impacts on women and girls and thus whilst there does need to be a specific push around the role of women in peace-building, we would also urge DFID and FCO to consider provision and policies appropriate for male survivors of sexual violence.

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

4.1 There is no short-cut, quick-win approach to addressing these damaging social norms that underlie VAWG—in some countries it may take generations—this often does not sit well with current DFID funding cycles. Nevertheless, we believe that helping to create a world in which VAWG is unacceptable is a worthy goal for DFID. Christian Aid would encourage a long-term commitment by DFID to addressing the causes of VAWG.

4.2 Christian Aid welcomes the new research and innovation fund launched by DFID at the end of 2012. It is good to see a strong focus on prevention, including behavioural change, coming through in the terms of reference and we hope that this will lead to bold research that will be able to test the theory of change and in particular explore the effectiveness of different interventions aimed at changing social norms, including work with faith groups, and work with men and boys.

5.0 Co-ordination and integration of DFID’s work on VAWG with the other priority areas outlined in DFID’s Gender Vision, and with other areas of DFID programming

5.1 The centrality of gender to DFID’s work, as evidenced by the departmental Business Plan and the Strategic Vision for Girls and Women, is encouraging. However as the ‘One Year On’ assessment of the strategy makes clear, there is a widely recognised evidence gap about ‘what works’, particularly in improving the enabling environment, crucial for VAWG but also for the other pillars in the strategic vision. It is therefore good to see that in addition to the new fund, the ‘pipeline programmes’ on enabling environment , will all have a research component.

5.2 There are very clear links to be made with DFID’s efforts to combat HIV and its position paper, “Towards Zero Infections”. In the words of Michel Sidibe, speaking at the launch of ‘We Will Speak Out’ in 2011 (a coalition of like-minded church groups, international aid agencies and Christians committed to end sexual violence), “people forced into sex are automatically denied the means to protect themselves against HIV”1.

5.3 Regarding sexual violence in conflict, we would argue for a comprehensive approach, which goes beyond just combating impunity through co-ordination and capacity-building (the focus of the G8 Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative), although we do very much welcome the Government’s leadership in this area. However, the success of the PSVI approach does depend in part on the host Government’s willingness to engage on all levels. In DRC, many of the structures are already in place that are in charge of co-ordination and that focus on comprehensive responses to, and prevention of, sexual violence cases. The main challenge is not necessarily capacity, but often insecurity, inaccessibility and a lack of Government co-operation. This has meant that the deployment of experts in the so-called ‘Rule of Law Prosecution Support Cell’ has been limited in effect due to failing requests of the DRC Government (permission needs to be granted at the highest levels), as well as timely access to areas. This underlines the importance of undertaking a joint assessment, with key actors involved in fighting GBV in country, to map out what exists, what works, what doesn’t work and what would be needed, before any deployment of external experts.

5.4 Moreover there needs to be a focus on long-term appropriate strategies to strengthen rule of law and to ensure accessible, available and gender-responsive justice. The success of the PSVI approach relies on the victim choosing a judicial path and depends on investigations taking place in a timely manner. However, there are of course multiple obstacles that women and girls face when accessing justice which must be recognised and addressed. Legislation and judicial/legal officials must be accessible and trusted by the population, responsive to gender dynamics and the particular needs of women and girls, and a fair and functioning judicial/prison system to guarantee follow-up steps is essential. Short-term responses that do not fit within a longer-term strategy may even bring about unintentional consequences. For instance, the failure of the DRC Government and the international community to work on judicial reform and the judicial apparatus meant that many countries (although not the UK) resorted to supporting mobile courts. Short term justice progress, however, came along with magistrates that were paid high per diems to take part in mobile courts and that subsequently refused to work in fixed courts (as they would not benefit from additional financial means).

6.0 The extent to which DFID’s humanitarian responses address VAWG

6.1 In the context of humanitarian crisis, the need to address VAWG is considered a life-saving activity when responding to immediate needs. Whilst some countries, most notably DRC, have received attention due to the high incidence of rape and sexual violence, the prioritisation of VAWG in humanitarian response is still fairly rare. The DARA Humanitarian Response Index for 2011 found that gender considerations in emergencies are often seen as add-ons and while many donors may have gender policies in place, these are rarely monitored2. In DRC for example, whist there has been a major focus on medical and psychosocial assistance, prevention and protection activities have often been left out or received considerably less attention. In humanitarian settings (IDP camps for example), there is a need for protection activities to be reinforced (and linked to preventing VAWG activities) and it is encouraging therefore the read about DFID’s work on this area in Pakistan3. For those responding to humanitarian crises, it is of course essential that the highest possible standards are upheld but it is worth noting that in Haiti, where there was a context of natural disaster rather than conflict, the operational UN response has been repeatedly subject to accusations of widespread sex abuse, with large numbers of peacekeepers suspended from duty and charged by authorities.4

6.2 In DRC, Christian Aid’s humanitarian response has also involved measures to address the social and cultural barriers which deter women from speaking out and community leaders and their wider communities from supporting them. Education measures engaging a range of local actors are important to tackling the culture of impunity.

7.0 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

7.1 2013 offers a number of important opportunities for international leadership on the issue of VAWG and the UK is to be congratulated for putting sexual violence in conflict firmly on the G8 agenda, during its Presidency year. This year’s Commission on the Status of Women also offers a crucial opportunity to address VAWG in all its forms. We have already seen global outrage at the horrific rape and subsequent death of an Indian woman in Delhi—we now need to see leaders speaking up about VAWG around the world, sending out a strong message of zero tolerance and implementing existing commitments, including their obligations under the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

7.2 The UK Government National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 Women, Peace & Security, is another laudable initiative. However, in reality, we are all too aware of the challenge and in the last 25 years, only 1 in 40 peace signatories have been women. 10 years on from 1325, 16 peace processes have been undertaken, 5 of which involved no women at all5.

7.3 This year’s Commission on the Status of Women will be discussing the issue of VAWG as well as the post-2015 agenda (see below). The CSW is a significant moment for governments and civil society to come together and this year, there is potential for a set of global standards to be agreed, or a ‘convention’ on violence against women and girls. The failure to agree conclusions at the 56th Session of the CSW was very concerning and there is pressure therefore, for world leaders to ensure a successful outcome this year. We hope that the UK Government will do all it can to build a strong coalition of the willing going into CSW, and continue to work with UN Women, the UN Secretary-General, NGOs and broader civil society to create momentum for change.

7.4 The position of ‘International Champion on VAWG’, currently held by Lynne Featherstone, now DFID Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is a very important role which we very much hope to see retained (by a Minister) in the future. We also welcome the cross-government strategy (led by the Home Office), for tackling violence against women and girls.

8.0 VAWG and the Post-2015 Agenda

8.1 Christian Aid is actively engaging in the post-2015 development process and would like to see a future development framework which seeks to reduce inequality in all its forms. The gains that have been made on gender equality must not be lost and therefore we would argue that a stand-alone gender goal should be retained in order to inspire action and secure the high-level political support needed for progress on gender equality. The rationale for both a stand-alone goal and the mainstreaming of gender across a new framework is set out in the GADN briefing paper, Gender Equality and the Post-2015 Framework6.

8.2 A stand-alone goal allows for the possibility of a fuller-range of targets, building on MDG 3 and its target on gender parity in education, but bringing in a wider range of issues to achieve a truly transformational goal. A target to reduce VAWG, an injustice that was referenced in the Millennium Declaration itself, could be a very useful policy instrument, and would send out an important message that VAWG is not only intolerable from a human rights perspective, but is also a core development issue.

8.3 There may also be other goals within a new framework which are highly relevant. Whilst it is too early to say whether there will be additional goals on areas such as conflict, peace-building and governance, debates are on-going and include discussions about personal security, access to justice and VAWG. The Peace-building & State-building Goals (PSGs) which have been established under the New Deal for Fragile States may feed into the post-2015 process and a number of indicators have already been proposed (subject to consultation). These include the incidence of rape and sexual violence under the Security Goal (with an awareness that incident reporting may go up initially), and the percentage of people who feel they have affordable access to the justice system under the Justice Goal (disaggregated by gender)7.

8.4 Finally, it goes without saying that if we take DFID’s Theory of Change seriously, then we should also seek to see progress in tackling VAWG as a result of other gains in gender equality. For example, an increase in the number of women in political leadership (another possible target under a post-2015 Gender Equality goal), should lead to positive social and cultural change, a pre-requisite for reducing the numbers of women and girls affected by violence. Christian Aid welcomes the Secretary of State’s commitment to ensuring that gender is at the heart of the post-2015 agenda8, and we hope that the UK Prime Minister, in his High-Level Panel role, as well as the Secretary of State, will champion a truly transformational and comprehensive goal on gender equality throughout the post-2015 negotiations.

January 2013









Prepared 12th June 2013