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

Research best practices, Gather testimonials and Review research

Last edited: October 30, 2010

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  • In addition to documenting the nature and extent of the problem, human rights researchers should examine best practices in addressing violence against women and girls. Such best practices serve as models for new law, policy and practice that may be adapted in a particular context. For example, the UN Division on the Advancement of Women and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime published “Good Practices in Legislation on Violence Against Women” in 2008. This report contains a framework for legislation and highlights good practices.
  • This knowledge asset also contains promising practices in addressing all forms of violence against women and girls. These promising practices should be reviewed by those advocating for new laws on violence against women and girls.

Gather testimonials by those whose human rights are affected

  • Women and girls who have been denied their right to live free from violence can provide compelling stories for legislators, parliamentarians and other government officials.  While decision-makers may at times argue with advocates on the facts, they are not as likely to argue with personal stories. Therefore, it is critical to provide such testimony; but only when the victim is comfortable in presenting her story. Those willing and able to testify should address the following questions:
    • What is the individual testifier’s interest in the proposed legislation?
    • Why is the individual willing to tell his/her story?
    • What does the individual want the policymakers to do?
  • These stories can be used with law and policy makers and also as a part of monitoring reports.

Example:  In Senegal, a grassroots movement of women supported each other in telling their stories and providing testimony before the Parliament when it was considering a law prohibiting female genital mutilation.  The coalition of non-governmental organizations successfully convinced the legislators to take action to stop FGM.(See: Female Genital Mutilation: A Guide to Laws and Policies Worldwide, Anika Rahman and Nahid Toubia, p. 80, 2000)

Review Research and Determine What Change is Needed

After investigating and gathering evidence, advocates must carefully review and analyze all of the research results.  If the authors of the research or human rights report have made recommendations, those recommendations will likely point out the change needed.  In the absence of such recommendations, advocates should answer the following questions: 

  • Where is change needed?
    • What are the important issues facing the constituency?
    • What do the constituents think is the most important issue?
  • What is the change needed?
    • Define the goals – make them realistic, achievable, and worthwhile
    • Define the objectives
    • Consider the political climate and probability of success
    • How has the problem been addressed in the past, if at all?
  • Why is the change needed?
    • Create a simple message that all members of the legislative effort can agree on
    • Create a truthful, non-technical message
  • How will change happen?
    • Who can make the objective happen?
    • How can those individuals be influenced?
    • Who will support you in the effort?
    • Who will oppose you in the effort?

See: Legislative Advocacy Resource Guide: Promoting Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Global Rights, 9-12, 2005)

CASE STUDY: ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography, and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), an organization dedicated to ending sexual exploitation of children, has created a guide for advocates on strengthening laws addressing child exploitation. The guide focuses on the fact that legal reform must begin with a comprehensive review of the current status of national laws and international legal obligations. ECPAT International’s guide also contains a checklist for legal reform, which can also be read as a checklist of advocacy objectives.  The checklist first identifies the international treaties which all states should ratify in relation to child sexual exploitation. The checklist goes on to identify the types of issue-specific definitions that should be included in national laws. The checklist describes the provisions that should be included in national laws relative to sexual abuse and exploitation, child prostitution, child pornography, child sex tourism, and extradition/mutual legal assistance so that national reviews can identify gaps and language that needs to be altered. Finally, the checklist clarifies the importance of data collection as well as establishing, through law, a national infrastructure to punish and track offenders and to support victims.

See: Strengthening Laws Addressing Child Sexual Exploitation: A Practical Guide, ECPAT International.