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Last edited: December 30, 2011

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Alongside efforts to advance a strong national legal framework outlining the sector’s commitments in violence prevention and response, implementation of national legislation and changes in operational practices can be supported through the development of national, including sectoral or institutional policies, strategies or action plans with specific objectives on addressing gender-based violence. These policies and plans should explain how laws will be implemented and describe the role of police and uniformed personnel, among other key actors and institutions. Relevant policy frameworks and illustrative examples of each include:

  • National action plans on violence against women and girls

  • National action plans on Security Council Resolution 1325

  • National action plans on specific forms of violence

  • National security policies/strategies

  • National ‘White Papers’ on defense or civil security issues

  • National cross-sectoral strategies

  • Institutional strategy or policy on violence against women or human rights




National action plans on violence against women and girls

These set out overall government policy commitments for preventing and responding to gender-based violence, offer an opportunity to establish institutional, technical and financial mechanisms to ensure implementation of commitments.


Dedicated strategies or national action plans are usually led or coordinated by the women’s machinery and produced by an inter-ministerial committee representing defense, health, interior and justice institutions, in consultation with parliament and civil society.


Sri Lanka: The 2005 Plan of Action Supporting the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act commits to enhance police response capacity by:

  • reviewing and improving domestic violence risk assessment processes;

    • strengthening institutional training for police on the issue;

    • streamlining primary investigations for more survivor-friendly processes (as part of a collaborative case-management approach with one-stop crisis center);

    • developing investigation and evidence  gathering protocols to increase the potential for Protection Orders that do not require the abused person to attend court; and

  • improving facilities and resources, response and case management (particularly Women’s and Children’s Desks).

Belize: The National Gender-based Violence Plan of Action (2010-2013) includes commitments to:

  • review and revise existing police protocols for responding to both domestic violence and sexual offences, including statistics on both offences, and

  • develop and implement a mandatory arrest policy to require arrest in any incident of domestic violence where there is reasonable evidence to do so.

The United Kingdom’s “Call to end violence against women and girls: Action Plan” (2011) sets out clear time-bound targets, indicating the ministries and bodies responsible for implementation. The Plan follows the 2009 strategy “Together we can end Violence Against Women and Girls”, which included various commitments to improve police response capacity. The Plan commits to: 

  • Raise awareness within the Armed Forces to ensure staff/their families understand the nature of abuse and how to seek help

  • Evaluate the police specialist unit approach to investigating rape. See Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Support Programme, 2011.

  • Coordinate a National Stalking Strategy Group supporting the ACPO Stalking Working Group, with police, prosecution, Home Office, Justice Ministry and experts to build awareness of stalking, risk assessment, and improve police response/ prosecution.

  • Learn how police forces in other countries respond to violence and work with partners to consider how effective approaches might be applied in England and Wales.

  • Develop police learning programmes on various forms of violence.

  • Conduct pilot Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Protection Orders, which require perpetrators to vacate the victim’s residence up to 28 days.

  • Implement statutory domestic violence homicide reviews (section 9, 2004 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act).

  • Review the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, looking at police attitudes and training on stalking, and the effectiveness of restraining orders in preventing harassment and stalking.

  • Address cyberstalking by ensuring links are made between different agencies working on stalking, e-crime and communications data, particularly the police.

National action plans on Security Council Resolution 1325

Set out how the national government will meet its commitments under UNSC Resolution 1325. These plans often outline specific actions to be taken by security sector institutions to address violence against women. They have been developed in over 25 countries (as of early 2011)

Liberia’s Plan prioritizes training and capacity building for security institutions as a strategy to protect the rights of women and girls and to improve their security. The Plan establishes indicators for tracking progress, including:

  • Number and quality of community and gender sensitive training sessions

  • Number of women participating in training sessions

  • Analysis of evaluation forms from training participants

  • Greater understanding among National Police personnel of their protective role in communities, evidenced by faster response to incidents involving violations of women and girls’ rights.

The Netherlands includes commitments to the following:

  • Admission to and training of more women in all state security institutions

  • Facilitation of contacts in sector reform between security institutions and civil society, as a means of giving women a voice in all activities

  • Sharing of experiences, expertise and knowledge between women’s and peace organizations and SSR practitioners

Norway’s Plan contains the following security commitments:

Representation, participation and recruitment

  • Increase proportion of women in the armed forces and the police, with leaders responsible for recruitment to be held accountable.

  • At least 25% of military officer school students will be women.

  • Inviting women to enlist for national service on a voluntary basis (from 2006).

  • Continued efforts by the Norwegian Police University College to recruit more women students for basic training.

  • Responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Police to recruit women to the Crisis Response Pool, including personnel from the entire judicial system.


Training and education

  • The Ministries of Defense, Justice and Police will task the Norwegian Police University College, military schools and training institutions to integrate women, peace and security issues into basic and specialized training programmes.

  • Before international deployment, Norwegian personnel will be trained to deal with mission-specific situations (including an introduction to the UN Codes of Conduct and the NATO Policy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings). The ministries will be responsible for ensuring personnel are trained.

  • All personnel will receive instruction in international law, particularly humanitarian and human rights law, including on gender-based violence.

  • The quality and content of existing training materials will be reviewed to ensure alignment with Resolution 1325.

  • Gender perspectives must be integrated into all exercises for international missions.

  • The Ministry of Defense and armed forces must integrate gender perspectives into planning of all international activities, including for international operations.

Conflict prevention, mediation and peacebuilding

  • Norwegian personnel in peacekeeping contingents, field trips and other delegations involved before, during or after conflicts will comprise both women and men. A larger proportion of women is necessary in order to cooperate with and consult larger numbers of local women.

Protection and Human Rights

  • The ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Justice and the Police will strengthen their competence related to gender perspectives on human rights and armed conflict.

  • The Government will continue to enforce guidelines and codes of conduct to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by Norwegian personnel engaged in operations abroad.

  • Norway will provide more training on the NATO Policy on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and the UN’s zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse before personnel are deployed internationally. Any breaches will be reported and those responsible liable to prosecution and punishment under national legislation.

National action plans on specific forms of violence

Specific action plans have been developed around domestic violence, trafficking, sexual violence, among other forms, which may complement or be developed in the absence of a general action plan on the issue.

National security policies/strategies 

National security policies outline the internal and external security threats to the state and its population identified by a government, present its overall approach to addressing the threats and an action plan for achieving security will be achieved (Albrecht and Barnes, 2008).

They are often developed within the framework of international and regional agreements and drafted by a national security body with members from several ministries, which should include a representative from the gender ministry/unit and involve consultation with parliament and civil society. Some security policies have explicitly recognized women’s security issues and referred to different types of violence against them as security threats, but greater integration of the issue into these policies is needed.


Belgium’s Plan National de Sécurité 2008-2011 recognizes both domestic violence and trafficking amongst the 12 national security priority areas.

  • “The prevention of domestic violence and violence against elderly people will be pursued. The police services will contribute to this through rapid detection, correct recording of these crimes, receiving victims appropriately and referring them to competent relief services…Our approach will take into account the EU plan of action and the implementation of the national plan against domestic violence together with communities and the regions.”

  • “The Belgian police has subscribed to the EU action plan of 1st December 2005 against the trafficking of human beings” which places emphasis on economic and sexual exploitation.

Jamaica’s National Security Policy (2007) recognizes both domestic violence and human trafficking as threats to national security, which disproportionately affect women:

  • “Domestic violence is one of the more pervasive and common forms of violence plaguing the society. It contributes to the overall pattern of crime and violence due to its debilitating effects on the social fabric and its role in socialising youth to violence as a means of dispute resolution. Women and children are disproportionately at risk from domestic violence.” (p12)

  • “The smuggling and trafficking of persons between countries is of increasing concern in the Caribbean. This is another lucrative source of income for organised criminal networks and constitutes a significant threat against children and young women.” (P14)

National ‘White Papers’ on defense or civil security issues 

Papers are often drafted by the defense or interior ministry with varying levels of inter-ministerial and external consultations, and may provide an opportunity to establish and advance sectoral commitments to addressing discrimination and violence against women. 

The 1996 White Paper on National Defense for the Republic of South Africa, by the Ministry of Defense involving broad consultation with other ministries, political parties, non-government organizations, defense actors and the public, commits to:

  • Ensure that the National Defense Forces, Department of Defense and leadership “will be broadly representative of the racial and gender composition of South African society” (ch 6, para 5 ) to be achieved through:

    • “selective recruitment, accelerated training, civilianization of present incumbents and lateral entry” (ch 3, para 28) and

    • the implementation of an affirmative action and equal opportunity programme (ch 6, para 38) and

    • “special education and training courses, career development plans, and the reorientation of recruitment and promotion systems” (ch 6, para 39)

  • “Seek to identify and eliminate discriminatory practices and attitudes in the Defense Force” (ch 6, para 40)

  • “Establish a training and civic education programme for military personnel that will cover respect for multi-cultural diversity and gender equality” (ch 3, para 37)


National cross-sectoral strategies

Strategies may cover issues such as violence reduction, community safety, gender, among other cross-cutting areas, and may help to strengthen the security sector’s engagement with coordinated responses while establishing specific roles and targets for security personnel and improve the overall effectiveness of integrated multisectoral mechanisms to eliminate violence against women and girls.

The National Programme for Reducing Violence in Finland (2007-2008) aims to mainstream violence prevention into all local security planning and includes a separate section on reducing violence against women– both physical and sexual violence.  

  • “Reducing violence against women in Finland is important in order to increase the well-being of citizens and to reduce suffering. Finland has a duty, also based on international agreements, to reduce violence against women and to report actions taken for reducing violence against women. Reducing violence against women increases equality. Serious violence against women as well as men is, for the most part, carried out by men.” (p26)

  • The National Programme include specific recommendations for police actions to reduce violence against women:

  • To improve their training to act in instances of violence

  • To develop readiness to answer home calls

  • To improve skills in helping victims of domestic violence to receive support and help from other agencies

  • To develop a safety plan to help individuals experiencing threats of violence

There are also a variety of other interventions proposed relevant for security personnel:

  • Developing and maintaining special services for victims (i.e. to liaise with hotline services and shelters, including for immigrant victims)

  • Violence reduction programmes for perpetrators (i.e. informing them about violence reduction programmes)

  • To improve the detection of sexual crimes

Institutional strategy or policy on violence against women or human rights

Institutional strategies, policies and procedures may be produced by individual ministries (e.g. Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defense) or bodies (e.g. Police Service, Armed Forces) to guide the practices of security management and personnel and advance the implementation of national policy commitments. These should:

  • Cover details of measures to be taken at a strategic and operational level to improve the role of the institution in the prevention and response to violence against women and girls. as well as a timeframe and details for monitoring progress

  • Define the responsibilities of different internal divisions and units for the implementation of specific initiatives and actions (e.g. investigation of cases; monitoring complaints/ misconduct by security personnel; etc)

  • Clearly establish the standards of behaviour expected of individual officers in terms of respect for women’s human rights and accountability mechanisms to ensure the institution will achieve these standards

  • Prohibit all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse by security sector personnel and identify how the institution will deal with allegations of abuse

    • Be developed using a consultative and inclusive process in order to increase understanding and sanctioning of both internal and external discrimination, harassment, abuse and other human rights violations.

Australia: Living Free from Violence- Upholding the Right: Victoria Police Strategy to Reduce Violence against Women and Children 2009-2014  

Building on the achievements and lessons of the original Violence against Women Strategy: The Way Forward 2002 (Victoria, Australia), the second police strategy was developed through a reflective and consultative process, drawing upon the broader government policy framework and plans on preventing and responding to violence against women. The five-year institutional strategy sets out four core objectives:

  • Respond to and investigate family violence, sexual assault and child abuse more effectively;

  • Take a leadership role in driving integrated service delivery;

  • Reduce risk to children and young people of ongoing exposure to violence through prevention and early intervention; and

  • Increase members’ understanding about issues to VAWC in order to provide appropriate policing responses.

 The objectives are accompanied by a list of 7-9 action items, and specific performance targets to measure progress in each area. The strategy features case studies on family violence and child abuse interventions which have informed the current framework. It includes a plan for monitoring and evaluating the objectives, confirming the availability of data and identifying the respective bodies responsible for gathering, reporting and overseeing the monitoring process. The Strategy is a model of a comprehensive and integrated approach to institutional planning on the issue.


See also the Australasian Policing Strategy on the Prevention and Reduction of Family Violence (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008).

South Africa: The Strategic Plan for the South African Police Service 2005-2010 has a specific strategy on Crimes against Women and Children, which aims to reduce the incidence of crimes against women and children, as well as to ensure the proper investigation of sexual offences such as rape and assault. The framework includes:

  • An anti-rape strategy, with actions to reduce rape and improve case investigation and survivor services through a consistent approach implemented in all provinces.

  • Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, 1998, involving the review of existing training packages on policing of domestic violence, and development of a comprehensive, accredited domestic violence prevention training programme (in 2003).

  • The ‘Victim Empowerment Programme’, which trained over 33,693 police nationwide in survivor empowerment, with a focus on police skills to support survivors in a sensitive manner, including documenting intimate accounts of violence and referring individuals to professional services (e.g. trauma counselling, legal advice and medical assistance).

  • Operationalization of a community-based survivor empowerment programme by Survivor Support South Africa at 307 police stations, involving 3,300 volunteers. The programme established survivor-friendly facilities (e.g. private statement taking rooms at high-crime stations, mainly supporting survivors of rape, sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.

Bangladesh: As part of broader government efforts to advance women, the police developed the 2008-2010 Strategic Plan among other policies addressing gender equality in the institution. The strategy plans for the creation of protocols on improving police sensitivity and capacity to support survivors of violence; and is part of the UNDP/DFID supported Bangladesh Police Reform Programme, which includes a gender-sensitive policing component.