Controlling Violence against Women
In 1999, Jessica Lenahan-Gonzales’s estranged husband took their three girls by violating a permanent restraining order. Despite multiple requests, the police failed to enforce this order which resulted in the death of the three girls by the estranged husband. A legal case was filed against the police force but the court rules that the police could not be sued for failing to enforce a restraining order.
When the case reached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), it found that the US failed to protect Lenahan and her daughters from domestic violence and did not provide equal protection before the law. The IACHR also rules that all states have a legal obligation to protect women from domestic violence which is a problem widely recognized by the international community as a serious human rights violation and a form of discrimination.
Violence against women is a pandemic. Many nations have failed repeatedly to provide recourse for victims of gender violence. There have been several calls for the adoption of stronger gender-violence legislation. These laws should ideally address four forms of violence against women – rape, marital rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment.
On a global scale, Europe and North American display the strongest overall legal protection. In general, regions where women possess greater economic decision-making power are also the regions which appear to have stronger VAW-related legal protection.
The weakest legal protection for women is found in Western Asia. There are zero laws for marital rape and zero legal protection against domestic violence. Overall, rape receives the strongest legal protection globally followed by domestic violence, sexual harassment and marital rape.
It is believed that regions where women are more prominent players at the government level can play a major role in strengthening that region’s legal protection for gender-based violence. As the percentage of women in the legislature increases, so does legal protection against domestic violence and sexual harassment.
In addition, international laws can make a difference in strengthening domestic violence legal protection. As countries adopt the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), they are more likely to adopt full legal protection against domestic violence. The central premise of CEDAW is to “embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation.”
Overall, it is evident that stronger laws matter. Violence against women can be effectively curtailed through the creation and implementation of laws that protect their rights and their lives.