The investigation and documentation of human rights violations creates the platform for most, if not all, actions to advocate for changes in law, policy and practice. Fact-finding must be conducted using ethical research techniques and preserving the confidentiality of victims of human rights abuses. Evidence gathering should be aimed at uncovering the information needed to objectively evaluate a government’s compliance with international obligations to protect women and girls from violence and identifying the problem to be addressed with advocacy. At times, it may also be necessary to preserve the anonymity of government sources of information in order to protect those with intimate knowledge of the government’s compliance. Regardless of the sources of evidence, researchers must be fair, accurate, reliable and impartial or run the risk of undermining the entire effort.
Several NGOs have developed methodologies and guides for investigation and documentation of human rights violations against women and girls.
Women, Law & Development International and Human Rights Watch include a step-by-step guide for investigating and documenting violations of women’s human rights. See: Women’s Human Rights Step by Step, Women, Law & Development International and Human Rights Watch, Chapter 6, 1997.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a human rights monitoring manual, which contains basic principles for monitoring, suggestions for prioritizing human rights violations, and interviewing techniques. See: Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2001 available through the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.
The Advocates for Human Rights, a U.S.-based NGO, has created methodologies for research on domestic violence and employment discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace which may provide useful guides for other advocates who are developing their own methodologies. See: Sample Methodologies and Guidelines, StopVAW.