Tackling Impunity for Sexual Violence
Rape and sexual assault are a daily occurrence in every country of the world. The act of rape is in itself inherently violent, there should never be a need to prove additional ‘force’ or violence. The way laws are framed in many countries dismisses this reality and limits victims’ access to justice.
- What are the problems with laws on sexual violence?
- Sexual violence and international law
- What is Equality Now doing to end impunity for sexual violence?
- Has there been progress?
Equality Now works to ensure justice systems better protect women and girls; prosecute and punish perpetrators and prevent further violations of women's and girls’ rights, including through deterrence.
In many jurisdictions around the world the law on rape, either through its text or through its manner of implementation or lack of it, sends a signal that sexual violence has only happened if a victim actively tries or is unable to resist. In reality, there are a whole range of circumstances under which a survivor of rape may feel coerced or threatened.
The law should never interpret a woman’s lack of physical resistance to sexual violence as consent.
The law should prevent sexual violence and allow survivors access to justice when rape is perpetrated against them. The law and the justice system should protect all complainants in equal measure, no matter their gender, race, class, disability or any other socio-economic status.
Our 2017 report, The World’s Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic found 7 key gaps in the law around the world:
At the same time as reviewing and amending laws on rape, governments should look at intersecting issues and relevant laws, such as those on child marriage and those on abortion, including where pregnancy is a consequence of rape, to ensure removal of all discrimination against women and to give women control over their bodily integrity. Government and government-sanctioned male control over women’s bodies, through discriminatory laws on rape, so-called honor crimes, reproductive rights and legalization of prostitution is common across the world. All such provisions rob women of the right to live their lives free from violence and according to their own real choices. ^
Being able to live a life free from sexual violence is a fundamental human right. There are also various regional and international laws and guidelines including:
- Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention
- Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, known as the Maputo Protocol
- Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belém do Pará
Violence against women and girls is rooted in inequality. Our work to advance global gender equality supports our efforts to get justice for survivors and victims of sexual violence – with the ultimate goal of preventing violence altogether.
Equality Now uses the law to end violence against women and girls by:
- Advocating for strong laws and policies to protect women and girls from sexual violence
- Making sure that the justice system works, with proper investigation, prosecution, and punishment of offenders
- Pushing for legal procedures that support survivors and prevent re-victimization
- Working with partners to bring specific cases to national, regional and international courts to underscore the global nature of this human rights abuse
- Highlighting the gaps in law through our reports such as The World's Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic and Roadblocks To Justice: How The Law Is Failing Survivors Of Sexual Violence In Eurasia
Countries across the Middle East and North Africa have repealed so-called marry-your-rapist laws.
Malta repealed a law that allowed bride kidnapping - if the offender, after abducting a person, shall marry such person, he shall not be liable to prosecution.
Governments still have a long way to go to transform their laws into policies and practices into instruments that are going to prevent sexual violence, provide better access to justice for survivors (including specialized services) and punish sexual violence adequately.