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
Related Tools

Roles of Police

Last edited: February 27, 2011

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See also the Security Sector Module.

The UN Handbook sets forth basic obligations of police in responding to violence against women. Legislation should provide that police officers should:

  • respond promptly to every request for assistance and protection in cases of violence against women, even when the person who reports such violence is not the complainant/survivor;
  • assign the same priority to calls concerning cases of violence against women as to calls concerning other acts of violence, and assign the same priority to calls concerning domestic violence as to calls relating to any other form of violence against women; and
  • upon receiving a complaint, conduct a coordinated risk assessment of the crime scene and respond accordingly in a language understood by the complainant/survivor, including by:
    • interviewing the parties and witnesses, including children, in separate rooms to ensure there is an opportunity to speak freely;
    • recording the complaint in detail;
    • advising the complainant/survivor of her rights;
    • filling out and filing an official report on the complaint;
    • providing or arranging transport for the complainant/survivor to the nearest hospital or medical facility for treatment, if it is required or requested;
    • providing or arranging transport for the complainant/survivor and the complainant/survivor’s children or dependents, if it is required or requested;
    • providing protection to the reporter of the violence, and;
    • removing the alleged perpetrator from the scene if there is cause to believe that the complainant/survivor is at risk for harm.

See: UN Handbook, 3.8.1.

Legislation should require the police to inform the complainant/survivor of her rights and options under the law.

Promising practice:  Family Violence: A Model State Code, Section 204, describes a comprehensive written notice that police should be required to give to a complainant/survivor for later review. The Commentary to the Model State Code notes that “An officer may be the first to inform a victim that there are legal and community resources available to assist him or her.  Written notice is required because a victim may not be able to recall the particulars of such detailed information given verbally, particularly because the information is transmitted at a time of crisis and turmoil. This written menu of options…permits a victim to study and consider these options after the crisis.”

The notice describes the options which a victim has:  filing criminal charges, seeking an order for protection, being taken to safety, obtaining counseling, etc.  The notice contains a detailed list of the optional contents for an order for protection.  This would be of great assistance to a complainant/survivor who may not be familiar with the purpose of an order for protection.  When a complainant/survivor is given a written notice and description of these options, it enables her to consider her options and to decide what is best for her safety and for the safety of her family.


Legislation should specifically preclude police from offering mediation or assisted alternative dispute resolution services to parties. Police should not attempt to improve relations in the family by offering these services or by mediating a dispute. (See: UN Handbook 3.9.1; Section on Mediation or assisted alternative dispute resolution)

Drafters should consider a probable cause standard of arrest, which allows police to arrest and detain an offender if they determine that there is probable cause that a crime has occurred even if they did not witness the offence. (See: Minnesota 518B.01 subdv. 14(d)(2)(e) and law of South Carolina, Sec. 16-25-70 (A); Law Enforcement Reform Efforts, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)

Police should exercise due diligence in pursuing and investigating all cases of maltreatment of widows, including filing a report on reported cases of property grabbing. Legislation should empower the police to intervene in property grabbing and forced eviction to protect widows’ human rights.

(See: The following sub-sections in Drafting Legisation: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls, Harmful Traditional Practices, Honour Crimes; and Implementation of Laws on Violence against Women and Girls)

Promising Practice: The Zambian Police’s Victim Support Unit treats property grabbing from widows as a criminal offence.  The unit is made up of specially trained officers who provide support, advice, and referrals to other supportive services for women victims of violence.