CEDAW Committee Decisions relating to Violence Against Women and Girls
December 1, 2021
The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the Committee’s decisions in respect of communications related to domestic abuse. However, the selected decisions do illustrate the Committee’s sustained and consistent approach to holding states to account for failures to treat domestic abuse sufficiently seriously whether in terms of having inadequate legal procedures and protective measures or whether by inadequate implementation of such procedures and measures. The cases also demonstrate the Committee’s insistence on identifying and addressing reliance upon gender stereotypes which result in discrimination against, ill-treatment, or inadequate protection of women and girls.
The synopsis of each case sets out the key findings and does not set out the background facts in any great detail.
A.T. v Hungary (2005)
The Committee noted that in General Recommendation No.19 it had stated that “States may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence, and for providing compensation” and decided that Hungary had, by not providing a remedy for immediate relief from abuse and by not according court cases involving domestic violence sufficient priority, failed to fulfil its obligations under CEDAW.
The Committee recommended that the State take immediate and effective measures to guarantee the physical and mental integrity of the author of the complaint (complainant) and her family and ensure that she was given a safe home, received appropriate child support and legal assistance as well as proportionate reparation. The Committee also made several general recommendations for the State, including assuring victims of domestic violence the maximum protection of the law by acting with due diligence to prevent and respond to such violence against women; providing training on the Convention and the Optional Protocol to legal 3 professionals; and ensuring that the national strategy for the prevention and effective treatment of violence within the family is promptly implemented and evaluated.
GOECKE v Austria (2007)
The Committee concluded that although Austria had a comprehensive system for addressing domestic violence the Austrian Police had failed to exercise due diligence in protecting G and as a result she had been killed by her abusive husband.
The Committee recommended that Austria strengthen its implementation and monitoring of the relevant legislation a nd that the relevant authorities should respond to complaints of domestic violence with due diligence.
YILDRIM v Austria (2007)
The Committee held that the Austrian police force’s failure to detain Y’s husband was in breach of the State’s due diligence obligation to protect Y, noting that a perpetrator’s rights cannot superseded women’s human rights to life and to physical and mental integrity. The Committee also took note of the correlation between lenient attitudes towards women’s cultural subordination and domestic violence. Although Austria prosecuted Y’s husband to the fullest extent for her death, the Committee found violations of CEDAW and recommended that Austria strengthen its implementation and monitoring of the relevant legislation and ensure enhanced coordination between police and judicial officers to protect women victims of gender-based violence.
VERTIDO v The Philippines (2008)
The Committee held that the State Court erred in relying on gender-based myths and stereotypes about rape and rape victims in V’s case and stressed that there should be no assumption in law or practice that a woman gives her consent where she had not physically resisted unwanted sexual conduct. The Committee recommended that the State provide V with appropriate compensation, review the definition of rape under existing law to ensure that lack of consent is an essential element of the crime of rape, remove any requirement that sexual violence be committed by violence or force, and require appropriate training for judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officers in understanding crimes of rape and other sexual offences.
JALLOW v Bulgaria (2011)
Failure by the state authorities to investigate allegations of domestic abuse which had been based on stereotypical views of women and their roles in marriage amounted to a breach of CEDAW.
The Committee urged Bulgaria to compensate the author of the communication and her daughter for the violations of their rights and recommended that the state adopt measures to ensure that women survivors of domestic abuse, including migrant women (as the author was) have effective access to justice and other services (for example, translation services). It also called on Bulgaria to adopt legislation and other measures to ensure that domestic abuse is considered when determining issues of residence and contact.
V.K. v Bulgaria (2011)
The Committee found that the refusal of the State’s courts to issue a permanent protection order against the complainant’s husband, together with the lack of refuges for women, violated the State’s obligation to effectively protect the complainant against domestic violence. The Committee further concluded that the refusal of the State’s courts to issue a permanent protection order was based on discriminatory notions of what constitutes domestic violence.
GONZALEZ CARRENO v Spain (2014)
The Committee held that the Spanish authorities had failed to take the best interest of the child into account in permitting the child’s father to have unsupervised contact with her which culminated in his killing child and then himself during a contact visit. In doing so the Committee built upon its jurisprudence that a State can be held responsible for acts of individuals if it fails to exercise necessary diligence in order to prevent violations of the CEDAW Convention. Additionally, the Committee ruled that Spain must provide training to judges and other professionals to avoid similar failures in the future. Spain subsequently responded by stating that it would introduce new mechanisms to protect children in gender violence cases.
S.V.P. v Bulgaria (2012)
The Committee found the state had failed effectively to protect V against sexual violence (she, aged 7, having been sexually assaulted by a neighbour) to provide adequate compensation, to ensure V’s rights to health, including reproductive health and education, to provide V with proper rehabilitative services, and to guarantee V’s right against re-victimization by B. The Committee requested the State to adopt specified changes to State laws, including amendments to provide effective protection from re-victimization and to provide appropriate support and financial compensation to victims, and enact new policies, including health care protocols and hospital procedures, to address sexual violence against women and girls.
R.P.B. v The Philippines (2014)
The Committee held that the provision of sign language interpretation was essential to ensure R.P. B’s full and equal participation in the proceedings relating to her allegation of rape by a neighbour and that the State party erred in relying on gender-based stereotyping, which resulted in sex and gender-based discrimination and disregard for the individual circumstances of the case, such as R.P.B’s disability and age. The Committee recommended that the State provide R.P.B. with the appropriate compensation and free-of-charge counselling, review the existing law and remove any requirement that sexual assault be committed by force or violence, guarantee the free and adequate assistance of interpreters, ensure that all criminal proceedings involving rape and other sexual offences are conducted in an impartial and fair manner, free from prejudices or stereotypical notions regarding the victim’s gender, age and disability, and provide adequate and regular training on the Convention, the Optional Protocol and the Committee’s general recommendations.
X and Y v Georgia (2015)
The CEDAW Committee found that the Georgian State had failed to enact criminal law provisions effectively to protect women and girls from physical and sexual abuse within the family, provide equal protection under the law to victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and protect them from domestic violence in violation of CEDAW. The Committee also cited the state’s due diligence obligations to prevent, investigate, and punish acts of domestic violence by non-state actors.
Amongst the failures identified the Committee found that the State had failed to take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices that are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.
In addition to providing X and Y with adequate financial compensation, the Committee recommended that the Georgian Government ensure that victims of domestic violence and their children are provided with prompt and adequate support, including shelter and psychological support, Intensify awareness-raising campaigns and introduce a zero-tolerance policy in respect of violence against women and, more specifically, domestic violence, ratify the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (‘the Istanbul Convention’), and provide mandatory training for judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel, including prosecutors, on the application of the applicable legislation including on the definition of domestic violence and on gender stereotypes, as well as appropriate training on the Convention, the Optional Protocol thereto and the Committee’s general recommendations, in particular General Recommendation No. 19.
O.G. v Russian Federation (2017)
The Committee determined that Russia had not adopted comprehensive legislation to prevent and address violence against women and noted recent amendments to national legislation that decriminalized battery under which many domestic violence cases are prosecuted due to the absence of a definition of “domestic violence.” This failure to amend legislation relating to domestic violence directly affected O.G.’s access to remedies and protection. The Committee determined Russia violated O.G.’s rights under the Convention. It recommended that Russia provide financial compensation to O.G., adopt comprehensive legislation to prevent and address violence against women, including domestic violence, reinstate criminal prosecution of domestic violence, introduce a protocol for handling domestic violence complaints at the police station level to ensure adequate protection, renounce private prosecution in domestic violence cases, ratify the Istanbul Convention, provide mandatory training for judges, lawyers and law enforcement personnel on the Convention and related documents, investigate allegations of gender-based violence against women promptly and provide safe and prompt access to justice, provide rehabilitation programs to offenders, and develop and implement effective measures with relevant stakeholders such as women’s organizations, to address stereotypes and practices that condone or promote domestic violence. A written response and report to the Committee on actions taken by the State was also required to be submitted within six months.
L.R. v Moldova (2017)
The CEDAW Committee found that attempting to force L.R., a victim of domestic violence, to undergo in-patient psychiatric testing clearly demonstrated gender bias towards victims of domestic violence and was a “disturbing practice”. The CEDAW Committee welcomed proposed new laws in Moldova, including provisions on compensation, legal aid for victims, and measures to protect victims, including stronger action on non-compliance with protection orders and access to shelters.
However, the Committee found significant discrimination against L.R. including the apparent privileging of her abusive husband’s property rights and right to housing above her right to physical and mental integrity, and a persistent use of stereotyped, preconceived and discriminatory notions of what constitutes domestic violence. The Committee asked for measures to be taken to guarantee the physical and mental integrity of L.R., and for her to be provided with reparation “proportionate to the physical and mental harm suffered and the gravity of violations of her rights.” The CEDAW Committee also asked for comprehensive approaches to be developed to ensure better access to justice for victims of violence, including an end to compulsory psychiatric evaluation of victims.
J.I. v Finland (2018)
The Committee found that judicial authorities when deciding the custody of the complainant’s child, applied stereotyped and therefore discriminatory notions in a context of domestic violence by treating what appeared to be a repetitive pattern of unilateral violence by the father of the child as a disagreement between parents, affirming that both parents committed violence despite no real evidence to support this, by dismissing the importance of F.’s criminal conviction, and by then according custody to a violent man. The Committee also cited its recently adopted General Recommendation 35 on violence against women.
X v Timor Leste (2018)
The CEDAW Committee found that Timor-Leste had violated X’s rights by “their failure to address the issue of ongoing domestic violence, in the collection of evidence, the treatment of the author [complainant][, the support and counsel that she received, the treatment of her testimony and the sentencing decision relating to a vulnerable breastfeeding mother, failed to discharge their obligations under the Convention” during the criminal investigation, trial and sentencing of her for killing her abusive partner when acting in self-defence.
The Committee also confirmed that consideration of alternatives to custody should be given to breast-feeding mothers in line with the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders, 2010.
O.M. v Ukraine (2019)
The Committee concluded that the author (complainant), a Ukrainian citizen who was married to a Jordanian national, living in Jordan and the victim of abuse by her husband, did not receive timely and adequate assistance from the Ukrainian Embassy in Amman over a long period, during which she suffered domestic violence and during which a custody dispute in respect of the author’s child was ongoing in the sharia court. No representative of the Embassy assisted her during the proceedings, and the Embassy offered her no legal assistance, with the explanation that no consular staff was familiar with sharia law. The Committee noted that it remained unclear why, in the absence of qualified lawyers in the Embassy, the authorities did not guide the author to a relevant legal counsel in Jordan or did not hire a lawyer to represent her. The author also was not offered the services of an interpreter, despite the fact that the proceedings were conducted in Arabic, a language that she does not speak sufficiently well. The Committee considered that the Ukrainian authorities’ omissions resulted in the breach of the author’s rights under the Convention, to be given protection, assistance, and support as a victim of gender-based violence.
The Committee recommended that the State provide reparations, including recognition of the “moral damages” she suffered as a consequence of the inadequate and untimely assistance received from the Ukrainian Consulate services in Jordan to O.M. and that it ensure that consular protection, in line with the Convention, and as enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine, is effectively provided to Ukrainian women in vulnerable situations abroad, that legal support in gaining access to justice and to all legal guarantees of protection, including against gender-based discrimination and in child custody disputes, is afforded to its female nationals abroad who claim to be victims in need of assistance, that consular staff are fully trained on matters pertaining to the conventions it has ratified or acceded to, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and that further measures to reach an agreement with Jordan on legal aid and child custody matters be taken.