Throughout this knowledge module, reference to certain provisions or sections of a piece of legislation, part of a legal judgment, or aspect of a practice does not imply that the legislation, judgment, or practice is considered in its entirety to be a good example or a promising practice.

Some of the laws cited herein may contain provisions which authorize the death penalty. In light of the United Nations General Assembly resolutions 62/14963/16865/206, and 67/176 calling for a moratorium on and ultimate abolition of capital punishment, the death penalty should not be included in sentencing provisions for crimes of violence against women and girls.

Other Provisions Related to Domestic Violence LawsResources for Developing Legislation on Domestic Violence
Sexual Harassment in Sport Tools for Drafting Sexual Harassment Laws and Policies
Immigration Provisions Resources for developing legislation on sex trafficking of women and girls
Child Protection Provisions Resources on Forced and Child Marriage
Other provisions related to dowry-related and domestic violence laws
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Aggravating circumstances

Last edited: January 08, 2011

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Legislation should include a description of aggravating circumstances. These circumstances should result in increased penalties upon conviction. (See: UN Handbook, 3.11.1)

Examples of aggravating circumstances include: 

  • the age of the survivor;
  • relationship between perpetrator and survivor;
  • use or threat of use of violence;
  • if the survivor suffered mental or physical injury as a result of the assault; 
  • multiple perpetrators or accomplices;
  • use or threat of use of weapons;
  • if the survivor is physically or mentally impaired; and
  • multiple acts of sexual assault.

(See: UN Handbook; Gender-Based Violence Laws in Sub-Saharan Africa, p. 26.)


Example: the Crimes Act (1900) of New South Wales, Australia, includes the following description of "aggravated sexual assault."

61J Aggravated sexual assault
(1) Any person who has sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of the other person and in circumstances of aggravation and who knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse is liable to imprisonment for 20 years.

(2) In this section, "circumstances of aggravation" means circumstances in which:

(a) at the time of, or immediately before or after, the commission of the offence, the alleged offender intentionally or recklessly inflicts actual bodily harm on the alleged victim or any other person who is present or nearby, or
(b) at the time of, or immediately before or after, the commission of the offence, the alleged offender threatens to inflict actual bodily harm on the alleged victim or any other person who is present or nearby by means of an offensive weapon or instrument, or
(c) the alleged offender is in the company of another person or persons, or
(d) the alleged victim is under the age of 16 years, or
(e) the alleged victim is (whether generally or at the time of the commission of the offence) under the authority of the alleged offender, or
(f) the alleged victim has a serious physical disability, or
(g) the alleged victim has a cognitive impairment, or
(h) the alleged offender breaks and enters into any dwelling-house or other building with the intention of committing the offence or any other serious indictable offence, or
(i) the alleged offender deprives the alleged victim of his or her liberty for a period before or after the commission of the offence. Article 61J


Example: Criminal Code Act (1974) of Papua New Guinea states that circumstances of aggravation may include circumstances not described in the legislation. 349A.