Gender-based violence is a human rights concern.

People who experience gender violence may suffer from different human rights violations – for example the right to life, freedom from torture and degrading treatment, freedom from discrimination and the right to safety and security. All these rights can be found in international and regional human rights documents, in particular by the United Nations and by the Council of Europe.

Instruments and measures adopted by the United Nations

The right to life, gender equality, prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex, protection of physical integrity, the right to health - to mention a few of the human rights impacted by gender-based violence - are safeguarded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights.

In order to step the combat against violence and discrimination against women, the United Nations adopted specific instruments and measures.

Instruments adopted by the Council of Europe

As a human rights issue, gender equality and gender-based violence are addressed firstly by human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter.

The growing awareness of the extent and persistence of the problem has led to the creation of specific instruments addressing gender-based violence in its various forms.

Action at national level remains essential

Despite the significant progress achieved with the instruments mentioned above, recognition and existing legal measures are not sufficient. Effective mechanisms and processes for violence prevention and gender mainstreaming need to be put in place. In addition to the international human rights mechanisms, important policies or bodies at national level need to include:

  • National committees for gender advancement with a clear plan of action;
  • Equality ombudsman;
  • Effective legislation to ensure legal and substantive equality;
  • Affirmative action, such as quotas for women in education and employment;
  • Women’s NGOs, LGBT+ organisations and women’s or LGBT+ studies in universities. These may play an important role in advocacy or lobbying efforts.