Documento - Making Rights a Reality. Human rights education workshop for journalists
AI index: ACT 77/054/2005
Making Rights a Reality
Human rights education workshop for journalists
Making Rights a Reality
Human rights education workshop for journalists
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Violence against women is a worldwide human rights scandal. From birth to death, in times of peace as well as war, women face discrimination and violence at the hands of the state, the community and the family.
This pack is designed for human rights educators working with journalists. It includes detailed instructions on how to organize and run a two-day workshop for news journalists working in print, broadcast and electronic media.
The material explores the causes and consequences of violence against women and the legal mechanisms and tools available to combat such violence. It makes clear that women’s rights are human rights and encourages participants to incorporate work on women’s rights into their daily journalistic practice.
The pack includes all necessary supporting materials for each session, such as case studies, facilitator’s tips and handouts, as well as a list of useful resources and background information.
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Amnesty International would like to thank Reuters and the BBC training departments in London for their advice during the development of this training pack. Additional thanks go to all the participants of the AI-organized regional consultation meeting on HRE and SVAW, held in Cairo, June 2004.
Amnesty International Publications
First published in 2005 by
Amnesty International Publications
Peter Benenson House
1 Easton Street
London WC1X 0DW
© Amnesty International Publications 2005
AI Index: ACT 77/054/2005
Original language: English
DS Print/Redesign, Enfield, United Kingdom
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publishers.
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights to be respected and protected.
Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.
Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system, nor does it support or oppose the views of the victims whose rights it seeks to protect. It is concerned solely with the impartial protection of human rights.
Amnesty International is a democratic, self-governing movement with more than 1.8 million members and supporters in over 150 countries and territories in every region of the world. It is funded largely by its worldwide membership and public donations.
Cover photo: A group of women participates in
a parade to celebrate International Women’s
Day in Montevideo, Uruguay, 8 March, 2002.
© AP Photo/Marcelo Hernandez
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This activists’ toolkit consists of seven related publications designed to be used by all those working to challenge violence against women:
Making rights a reality: Gender awareness workshops (AI Index: ACT 77/035/2004), a general human rights education pack on the basic concepts of gender and women’s rights.
Making rights a reality: Campaigning to stop violence against women (AI Index: ACT 77/052/2004), a guide to advocacy. It provides information on practical methods of securing change such as lobbying, using the media and legal advocacy in criminal and civil courts.
Making rights a reality: The duty of states to address violence against women (AI Index: ACT 77/049/2004), a guide to human rights law and standards relating to states’ duties under international law to address violence against women.
Making rights a reality: Violence against women in
armed conflict (AI Index: ACT 77/050/2004), a guide to international legal standards relating to violence against women in armed conflict. Access electronic copy under ACT 77/050/2005
Making rights a reality: Human rights education workshop for youth (AI Index: ACT 77/053/2005*), a human rights education pack on women’s rights in international law aimed at young people.
Making rights a reality: Human rights education workshop for journalists (AI Index: ACT 77/054/2005*), a human rights education pack on women’s rights in international law aimed at people working in the news media.
Making rights a reality: Human rights education workshop for non-governmental organizations (AI Index: ACT 77/055/2005*), a human rights education pack on women’s rights in international law aimed at people working in non-governmental organizations.
* Please note updated index number
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Making Rights a Reality
Human rights education workshop for journalists
SESSION 1: Opening the workshop 7
Step 1: Introductions 7
Step 2: Icebreaker 8
Step 3: Expectations 8
Step 4: Explaining the agenda 8
Alternative activity to replace Steps 1-3 9
SESSION 2: Human rights and the role of the media 10
Step 1: Identifying key human rights issues 10
Step 2: How the media impacts on human rights issues 11
Step 3: Ending the session 11
Alternative Session 2 12
SESSION 3: How gender sensitive is the media? 13
Step 1: Gender analysis of newspapers and magazines 13
Step 2: Consolidation and statistics 15
SESSION 4: Forms, causes and consequences of VAW 16
Step 1: Identifying different types of violence 16
Step 2: Roots and fruits exercise 17
Step 3: VAW as a cultural problem 18
SESSION 5: The cultural debate 19
Step 1: Gender roles 19
Step 2: Making the link between gender roles and discrimination 20
Step 3: ‘Cultural relativism’ 20
Step 4: Meeting the challenge! 21
SESSION 6: Closing Day One 22
Step 1: Reflecting on the day 22
Step 2: Preparing the participants for Day Two of the workshop 24
SESSION 1: Exploring and implementing legal instruments 25
Step 1: Recap Day One and set the agenda for Day Two 25
Step 2: The value of international human rights law 26
Step 3: Applying international human rights law to journalism 26
Alternative approaches to Step 3 28
SESSION 2: Holding governments to account 29
Step 1: Short film and comments 30
Step 2: Due diligence 30
Step 3: Exercise on due diligence 30
3: Practical exercise – applying legal documents and
Step 1: Icebreaker 32
Step 2: Applying international human rights law 32
Alternative approach to Step 2 33
SESSION 4: Interviewing skills 34
Step 1: Preparation 35
Step 2: Role-playing interview 35
Step 3: Feedback 35
SESSION 5: Closing session 36
Step 1: Recapping 37
Step 2: Personal reminder 37
Appendix 1: Energizers and group-forming activities 39
Appendix 2: Participants’ agenda 41
Appendix 3: Logical flow chart 43
Appendix 4: Recommendations for gender-sensitive reporting 44
Appendix 5: Presentation – Portrayal of women in the media 45
Appendix 6: Presentation – Forms and contexts of VAW 47
Appendix 7: Case studies 51
Appendix 8: Notes on women’s human rights 59
Appendix 9: Presentation – Due diligence 62
Appendix 10: What is due diligence? 64
Appendix 11: No excuses left – confront sexual violence 66
Appendix 12: Interviewing survivors and witnesses of human rights
Appendix 13: Evaluation form 73
Appendix 14: Useful web links/contacts 74
“In the home and in the community, in times of war and peace, women and girls are beaten, raped, mutilated and killed with impunity.”
It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women, Amnesty International, 2004 (AI Index: ACT 77/001/2004)
This pack is part of a series of human rights education (HRE) components to support Amnesty International’s current global campaign to Stop Violence against Women (SVAW). The key aims of the campaign, which was launched in 2004, are to:
Raise awareness of violence against women and girls (VAW) as a global epidemic and a human rights scandal.
Collaborate with women’s organizations to expose and bring about redress for all forms of violence.
Call upon states to fulfil the obligations laid out in international treaties and conventions to which they are already legally bound.
Call upon states to sign and ratify treaties relating to VAW such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol.
Abolish laws which are inherently discriminatory and pave the way for violence to occur.
Demand justice and redress for survivors of VAW.
In the light of the 1995 Beijing Platform’s media diagnosis and the recommendation to make efforts towards “a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media”,1Amnesty International (AI) has identified journalists as key stakeholders in promoting awareness of VAW and building a culture where it is neither tolerated nor encouraged.
This two-day workshop and the accompanying resources are aimed principally at print journalists. However, they can be adapted for journalists of all mediums (including broadcast and Internet). The overall aim of the workshop is to engage journalists in AI’s SVAW campaign by sensitizing them to issues of gender, specifically gender-based violence, and reinforcing the importance of the role of the media in helping to bring about behavioural and attitudinal change.
The key objectives of the workshop are to:
Share understanding of the role of the media in human rights and the challenges faced by journalists in this area.
Explore the portrayal of women in the media and the impact of stereotypes on women.
Raise awareness among journalists of the different forms of VAW and the scale of its impact on women’s lives and on communities.
Enable journalists to become familiar with and apply the legal human rights framework, including international mechanisms and the concept of due diligence, as a tool to support their reporting on VAW.
Encourage journalists to apply gender sensitivity to all areas of their work and equip them with relevant tools to strengthen their reporting on VAW, including techniques for interviewing survivors of violence.
Offer journalists information and resources to support their reporting on VAW.
Facilitate communication and information-sharing between journalists, AI and local women’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Flexibility of the workshop
The two days of the workshop have been designed to run consecutively. However you may find that some journalists are unable or reluctant to participate on two consecutive days. If this is the case, you could run each day interdependently (but in the sequence given). Participants’ level of commitment will vary for many reasons: the part of the world they work in, the medium they work in (broadcasters often have much heavier workloads and less flexible deadlines, especially for live television), the press agencies they belong to and the level of responsibility they have within their jobs.
The sequence of the workshop is as follows:
Day One is content-focused and concentrates on gender awareness and the forms, causes and consequences of VAW.
Day Two has a more practical focus and introduces legal instruments and how to apply them to reporting on VAW.
Depending on the level of gender- and VAW-awareness of the participants and the time they have available to commit to the workshop, they could possibly skip Day One, although it is preferable that they attend both days. A needs analysis questionnaire would help to identify the level of their knowledge of VAW and whether the first day is pitched at the appropriate level. If some journalists only attend Day Two for this reason, AI recommends that some gender-awareness activities are incorporated into Day Two to ensure that some self-reflection takes place, and that handouts on VAW from Day One are put into their resource packs.
A selection of gender-awareness activities can be found in AI’s publication on gender sensitization, Making rights a reality: Gender awareness workshops (AI Index: ACT77/035/2004).
What is most important is to engage with the journalists rather than lose their participation because of inflexibility!
AI also recommends that the facilitation is done in collaboration with the following:
An AI educator
A representative from a local women’s NGO
A journalist trainer
The representative from a women’s NGO will be extremely useful for any complex issues around VAW and will also be an excellent way of engaging with local grass-roots organizations, a strong recommendation of the SVAW campaign.
Having a journalist trainer will help to give AI’s workshop credibility among journalists and will also ensure that it can be adapted and modified to match the particular skills of the participants. Another advantage is that it may encourage the trainer to apply aspects of the workshop to their core work with trainee journalists. Gender-sensitizing of student journalists has been identified as an important means of ensuring that journalists are engaged on women’s issues from the off-set and may get them into an early habit of applying gender sensitivity to their practice and refraining from using harmful gender stereotypes.
Although the impact of these workshops will require a long-term process of evaluation, pilots of this workshop have already begun to show results. Facilitators and AI staff have been invited to give radio and press interviews about VAW and the workshops have been reported in the local papers. This is a great opportunity, not only to raise awareness of the issue, but also to raise the profile of AI generally.
Important information about this workshop and accompanying resource material
The methodological framework, which shapes the workshop design and activities, is participatory and interactive. The workshop has been developed to draw on the experiences of the participants and create an interactive dialogue of knowledge, ideas and experiences. AI recommends that the relationship between facilitator(s) and “learners” be one not only of mutual respect but that also allows a feeling of equality and sharing to be created, where the facilitator is open to learning and not simply to conveying information.
The workshop and accompanying resources have been tested in different countries and as far as possible aim to reflect an approach to the issues of women’s rights and VAW which is multicultural. At the end of the pack, generic materials are provided (see Appendices); however, the resources are not exhaustive and AI recommends that facilitators of this workshop consider the following tips:
Prepare well for the workshops beforehand to be familiar with all the sessions and activities and to develop a clear understanding of the issues being raised. You should feel free to adapt the structure of particular sessions within the workshop to match the needs of your target audience and to take account of the local cultural and political context, without changing the objectives of each session.
Obtain copies of other relevant materials, in particular legal materials such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) and relevant national treaties and legal documents as they will provide useful background reading.
Use the checklist given at the beginning of each session to ensure you have all the materials required before you begin each session.
This workshop has been designed for a group of 15-20 participants and timings of sessions are based on working with a group of this size – if your group is significantly bigger or smaller you will need to adjust overall time allocations. Equally, these timings are approximate as every group is different. Facilitators should endeavour to work within the time frames provided but use their own judgement to adjust in places where they consider more or less time is needed. Key to timing is to be flexible but remember that if people have signed up for a two-day workshop you should not cut it short to lunch time on the second day or work until midnight unless previously agreed!
Some energizers and warm-up activities are included in the main body of the workshop. However, depending on the pace of the workshop and the participants’ energy levels it is often useful to slot in short energizers after lunch or breaks to keep your participants active and alert. For a short selection of activities please see Appendix 1 on energizers.
Although all the sessions are designed to encourage participants to engage actively with the subject under discussion, it is often the case that some members of a group are more active and articulate than others. As the facilitator, it is important to encourage equal participation. The methods used in the workshop, such as small group work and interactive techniques go some way to ensure equal participation but sometimes this is not enough and it is the facilitator’s responsibility to find ways to tactfully limit the participation of some while encouraging more input from others.
Getting the right dynamic between the participants is important as when groups function well they are an invaluable tool in a workshop, enabling rich discussion and a positive and powerful space in which to share and learn. Getting the whole group and the smaller working groups to function well is key to the smooth running of a successful workshop – here are a few ideas to encourage equal participation:
Arrange participants in a circle or horse-shoe style, so that everyone can clearly see one another and no one is being blocked by anyone else.
Always respond to contributions from participants in a positive way, valuing what they have said even if you need to rephrase it or question it. Making people feel safe to speak even when unsure will encourage them to contribute to discussions.
Use body language to bring a verbal contribution to a close – for example, by raising your hands slightly in front of you as if you were about to speak, then simply picking up on something being said and using the opportunity to move the discussion to other participants or onto another subject.
Mix up the groups so the same people are not always working together.
Different people learn in different ways and at different paces, so keep an eye on how different participants react to new ideas and try to ensure you pace yourself at the mid-range level. Don’t make assumptions about participants’ knowledge, but equally remember you are working with self-motivated adults.
Don’t single people out or force people to say something but do say things such as “Would anyone who hasn’t spoken yet like to add anything?”, or “Let’s open the floor to others who haven’t had an opportunity to share as much”. However, avoid direct questions which have a right or wrong answer such as “What does X mean?” as people can feel under pressure and embarrassed if they feel they cannot respond.
If a participant seems withdrawn or conversely is being too outspoken use the opportunity of the break to casually raise the issue with that person concerned – but never within earshot of other participants!
Good facilitation is the most important ingredient:
Be an active facilitator but don’t dominate the workshop – remember your role is critical to ensuring the workshop is a success. Use your experience of what works well to engage the participants and to ensure they feel able to speak openly.
Be clear about the aims and objectives of the sessions as far as possible so that participants understand what you are trying to achieve with each session – although do bear in mind that often it is important to draw out ideas from the participants so telling them too much could defeat your intended aim.
Be open to not being able to answer every question but try to ensure you are informed about the topic at hand and confident about the stages of the workshop and their aim. Throughout the pack you will notice that examples of answers are listed in italics below some of the question. These are for the facilitator’s benefit and should not be read out unless the participants are having difficulty.
Remember that the participants remain responsible for their own learning process. However, you must facilitate this process. Don’t sit around doing nothing while participants are working in pairs or groups – one of the worst things for participants is to see their facilitators doing nothing or looking bored while they are working hard in their groups.
Keep an eye on the time and give the participants notice prior to having to complete any piece of work.
Be friendly and approachable and have a sense of humour, although don’t ever make inappropriate jokes!
And remember that language is a powerful medium not only in terms of content but also in terms of the inclusiveness of what is said – you may want to include yourself in the language and ideas being shared by saying “we” instead of “you”– this a choice that the facilitator(s) should make prior to the start of the workshop.
Finally AI strongly recommends that you are alert to the sensitive nature of the topics under discussion and:
Let participants know before the workshops about the content that will be explored and make sure they are clear about the aims of the workshops. You should send out the outline of the agenda for the participants (see Appendix 2 – Participants’ agenda) at least one week before the workshop begins.
Explicitly raise the outline and content of the workshop at the very beginning (see Appendix 3, Logical flow chart) of the workshop in order to create a safe working environment and underline the importance of respect throughout the workshop: the key to workshops where deeply held views and issues of prejudice and discrimination are being discussed is to allow people to express their views, even if not everybody shares them, but not to allow any participant to directly offend another.
Sexist or prejudicial views expressed as ideas should be accepted but then questioned, deconstructed, fed back to the participants asking them to step into different shoes, revealing the root causes of such views and/or the consequences (try to use an example not related to the topic in hand but which illustrates the same point). Using race as a topic has been a very useful tool for helping participants relate to issues of prejudice and discrimination, particularly in workshops in some cultures where participants have expressed views on cultural relativism. Note:Abusive or personally directed offensive remarks should be openly dealt with by making it clear to the person concerned that such speech or behaviour will not be tolerated.
Be aware that participants should not be directly invited to share personal experiences of VAW. Any sharing should emerge from the exercises in this pack as volunteered information and needs to be handled with sensitivity. (See the guidelines on disclosure below.)
Allow adequate time for debriefing in sessions where participants may have shared personal stories or if disclosure takes place – never cut a participant short if they are recounting a personal experience of VAW even if this means the session will run over the allotted time.
Note on the layout and contents of this pack
The Appendices include some suggested PowerPoint presentations. These are also available electronically from the HRE database. Please contact the HRE team (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the International Secretariat for advice on access. Although they can be used in their current format, we recommend that facilitators adapt them or devise their own to meet local needs and to suit personal styles of presentation.
(Adapted from Advice for Handling Questions or Inquiries from Persons Alleging Violence Against Themselves or Someone Else, AI Canada (Eng), 2004.)
One in every three women worldwide will at some point be a victim of physical abuse.
Although participants should not be directly invited to share personal experiences of VAW, the facilitator should be prepared for a participant disclosing that they themselves have experienced or witnessed abuse.
Disclosure in workshops where participants have not been directly asked to share personal experiences of violence comes most often from women who are no longer being abused. However, the facilitator should also be sensitive to the fact that there may be women in the group who are currently being abused and it is possible that perpetrators of abuse may also be present.
If anyone discloses that they have experienced or witnessed VAW the following steps should be taken:
1) Respect the person and do not judge.
Take the disclosure seriously and provide a supportive environment to the individual making the disclosure regardless of the nature or extent of the violence. It is not necessary or appropriate to judge whether what the person has experienced is violence. It should always be noted that VAW includes physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. Acknowledge the violence whoever the perpetrator is. Kind words and support from an understanding and compassionate individual at the moment of disclosure are crucial.
2) Have ready a list of addresses and phone numbers of individuals and groups who can help. If a participant is reaching out or looking for support, having phone numbers and contacts for appropriate resources is critical. Have the names and phone numbers or web addresses of organizations that can support or provide assistance to women and girls who have experienced violence always available during the workshops. It is a good idea to leave these in a discrete place where participants can access them privately if they so wish. A blank table for you to fill in with organizations relevant to the participants in your group is included in the materials section at the back of this pack.
It is important to negotiate and seek the explicit approval of organizations before referring individuals in need of their support. Groups or individuals involved in providing support and counselling to individuals traumatized by violence have standard guidelines which you need to be aware of and incorporate in your referral role.
Do not try to counsel the individual but do make time to listen. An HRE facilitator is not trained to provide counselling to individuals who have experienced violence and you should never present yourself as such. An HRE facilitator is responsible for facilitating discussions on VAW and gender and creating an environment that enables learning around the topic and issues. If confronted with a situation of disclosure, acknowledge the personal experience and find the time and the space to speak to that person in a safe and secure environment. Explain what you can and cannot provide and encourage them to contact organizations that can provide support.
Session 1: Opening the workshop
Clarification of the agenda.
Flip chart stand
Flip chart paper
Some sections and structures may prefer more formal openings than the one suggested here, sometimes with media presence or even a representative from the government. If this is the case, allow more time for the opening and adjust the session accordingly.
Begin by thanking the participants for giving their valuable time to this workshop. Explain that you appreciate them making space in their busy professional schedules and thank those who have travelled a substantial distance to attend. Invite the other facilitator(s) to share this introduction with you. (5 minutes)
Step 1: Introductions
You and the co-facilitator(s) should introduce yourselves and explain your role in AI or other organization. Then invite the participants to do the same. Remind participants to be brief – they should only say their name and the press agency they work for or their area of journalism at this stage. Reassure them that they will have an opportunity to get to know each other better very shortly. (15 minutes)
You may wish to replace this activity with one from the list of energizers and icebreakers (Appendix 1).
Invite everyone to come into the centre of the room for the next activity, “lifeboats”. Explain that they should imagine they are all at sea, and should move around as if swimming or in boats. After a minute or so, the facilitator says (with urgency!) that there is a storm and everyone must get into (imaginary) lifeboats quickly with people who have something specific in common. Choose something from the following list or add your own:
Those who are wearing the same colour shoes
Those who wear glasses and those who do not
Those who are wearing the same coloured clothing (you choose the item!)
Those who are AI members and those who are not!
Once in lifeboats, people should greet one another, and try to get to know each other’s names. Repeat the exercise three or four times as appropriate. (10 minutes)
Step 3: Expectations
Ask people to stay in their final “lifeboat” groups and find a space in the room or near to the room where they can discuss their key expectations of the workshop. They should take a couple of marker pens and a piece of flip chart paper with them. If time is limited, ask the groups to prioritize just two or three key expectations and to choose one person from the group to feed them back in plenary.(10 minutes)
Step 4: Explaining the agenda
List all the groups’ key expectations on a flip chart during the plenary report back. Once all the groups have reported back, thank them for their openness and enthusiasm. Explain the outline of the workshop using a chart of its logical flow and try to link it to the expectations they have raised (see Appendix 3, Logical flow chart). (15 minutes)
It is possible that an expectation will arise that will not be covered by the workshop. In this case, explain that while it is not always possible to meet everybody’s expectations in the given time, you hope that most of their expectations will be met and that the workshop will provide a safe space for open discussion and personal self-reflection, leading to an increased understanding of VAW. Explain that you will also aim to strengthen their journalistic skills regarding VAW.
The aims of this workshop are primarily to sensitize the participants to VAW and encourage them to gain a new awareness of how they report stories on women generally and VAW in particular. However, it is important to bear in mind that many of the participants will not necessarily have an immediate affinity to AI’s work. What they will have is a desire for knowledge and tools to improve their practice. Therefore it is important to highlight how the workshop and its aims can benefit them as professionals.
Leave a few minutes for any points of clarification or questions on the agenda before beginning Session 2. (5 minutes)
Alternative activity to replace Steps 1-3
Pieces of card cut out in the shape of feet, stepping stones, or another locally relevant shape
Quickly go around the room with each participant saying their name and which press/broadcasting organization
or title they work for. Ask them to be brief at this stage. (15 minutes)
“Stepping stone” technique: Hand out the card cut-outs and ask participants to write a response on each “stone” to the following questions:
How did you get involved in journalism?
Why are you interested in human rights/VAW?
What do you hope to gain from this workshop? (10 minutes)
Once they have finished they should spend 5 minutes discussing their expectations with the person sitting next to them. Stick a piece of paper with the name of the workshop on it in the centre of a wall. Then invite them to come over and stick their “steps” on the wall, so that they move towards the workshop.
Encourage everybody to look at the rich variety of experiences and motivations. You can draw these together, pulling out interesting ideas. Summarize some of the key expectations onto a flip chart. (15 minutes)
Return to Step 4 of the original activity. (20 minutes)
Session 2: Human rights and the role of the media
Create a better and shared understanding of participants’ views regarding human rights, their perceived responsibilities and the challenges they face.
Flip chart paper
Laptop and projector for PowerPoint/OHP (for alternative exercise)
Point out that participants have all shown great commitment by coming to this workshop. Now they are going to think in more detail about the picture of human rights in their own country, the challenges they face as journalists, and their own perceived role in the arena of human rights.
Ask them in plenary to tell you what they think some of the key human rights issues are. You may need to prompt this discussion by giving examples of some rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, the right to adequate schooling, etc. Then ask how these rights may be violated in the given country (or region). Collect the answers onto a flip chart. Try to ensure maximum participation from everybody during this exercise, making sure that nobody dominates by giving too many issues at once. (5 minutes)
Once you have collected about 10 issues, ask the participants to try to categorize them into broad areas of rights, such as civil and political rights (CPR), economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), women’s rights, rights of the child, physical and psychological integrity (this would include, for example, torture and police brutality).
Then ask them to prioritize four main issues (at least one should be VAW-related). (5 minutes)
Now divide them into four groups, and explain that each group is to take one of the human rights issues and discuss the following questions:
l How are these issues covered by the local media?
2 What are the forces at play (in the social/political context; for example, government/big corporations’ agendas)?
3 What kind of impact does media coverage have on the issue?
Give them 20 minutes to do this and ask them to capture the main points of their discussion onto flip charts. They should select a rapporteur for the plenary feedback. (20 minutes)
In plenary invite each group to give feedback. (15 minutes)
Once they have finished, you can use the following prompt questions to generate further reflection.
1 How significant is the role of the media?
Very! It reaches out to wide audiences, informs public opinion and plays a part in shaping people’s behaviour.
2 What shouldbe the role of the media in human rights?
They should inform people of their human rights and promote human rights and an end to human rights violations.
3 What obstacles do they as journalists face in the field of human rights coverage?
You might encourage them to categorize these obstacles into those that are external to their work (for example, other domestic or international issues dominating the news; cultural practices that make certain abuses of human rights appear acceptable; cultural taboos; or discriminatory laws) and those that are internal (for example, censorship or harassment of the press by the government or its agents; power struggles within media organizations; men predominantly holding positions of influence in the press; editors blocking stories; or self-censorship). (10 minutes)
This may be a controversial debate as journalists are likely to feel sensitive about how what they do is perceived, especially by NGOs (including AI!).
It is important not to allow the participants to feel that their profession is under attack or being held responsible for perpetuating human rights abuses. The point of the discussion is to help them step back and look at the power at their disposal. The key message is that they have a part to play in striving to end human rights violations, informing public opinion and leading the way in promoting positive behaviour in accordance with human rights values.
You may also have among the participants journalists who are human rights defenders (HRDs) themselves and who have found themselves at risk because of their efforts to defend human rights in their reporting. In some parts of the world such people are often harassed, threatened and even arrested for reporting on human rights issues. Discussing the obstacles they face should allow them to seek solidarity with other participants, allow them to vent their frustrations in a safe and open space and hopefully begin a dialogue which can be continued long after the workshop.
Step 3: Ending the session
Pull together the picture that is appearing of human rights in the country and the complex mix of influences and obstacles. Try to remain positive, pointing out that although these influences and obstacles exist, we must not forget the power of the media to bring about change and that being in this workshop is the beginning of strengthening ties and building solidarity to overcome some of these obstacles. (5 minutes)
Alternative Session 2
In some countries, a more formal opening will be preferred. You could invite two journalists or guest speakers (in advance of the workshop) to deliver a presentation on what they think are the main obstacles facing journalists in the area of human rights. Try to have a gender balance (one woman and one man).
Their presentations should each last 5-10 minutes maximum. They should be encouraged to use visual support if possible to make the presentations easier and more interesting for the participants to follow (make sure you have the appropriate equipment – PowerPoint, OHP, etc. – available to them in the workshop). The facilitator should chair this session and open the floor for comments and questions after each or both presentations. Leave at least 20 minutes for questions, debate and discussion.
The discussion could be followed up with some of the specific questions outlined in Step 2 above. (30-40 minutes)
Session 3: How gender sensitive is the media?
Participants do a gender analysis of national papers and magazines.
Participants explore the impact of the media’s portrayal of women and of gender-insensitive reporting.
Selection of local newspapers
Generous selection of local magazines
Scissors – 1 pair per group
Flip chart paper
Laptop and projector/OHP
Explain that it is very easy to be caught up in any profession and unable to look objectively at our practice. Explain that they are now going to step out of their roles as journalists and into the role of readers. They are going to divide into groups and become press monitors, analyzing the local press with a “gender lens”.
Divide the participants into four groups, hand out a selection of local newspapers and magazines and ask them to discuss the following:
How are women portrayed in images?
How are men portrayed in images?
What type of language is used? Is it sexist?
How many articles have women as the focus?
What types of articles are these (for example, politics, health, arts, crime, education)? Compare these to the articles about men.
How many articles are written by men and how many by women?
How many sources/quotations are from women?
Groups 1 and 2 should think not only about which images are used but the contexts in which they appear.
If Group 3’s activity proves difficult, or if the papers used do not contain enough examples, you could ask this group to supplement the activity by thinking of as much sexist and gender-insensitive terminology as they can and then to offer gender-sensitive alternatives. Appendix 4 includes some examples of gender-neutral terminology and can be given as a handout.
Depending on the level of experience of the journalists, you may want to focus only on the images. Use your professional judgement to gauge the appropriate level of analysis for this exercise.
They should present their findings on flip chart paper. Give Groups 1 and 2 scissors and sticky tape or glue and ask them to select the images they find particularly illustrative and stick them onto flip chart paper to make a montage of images for their feedback. The other groups should be encouraged to be equally creative with the papers and magazines if they so wish. (30 minutes)
Bring the groups back together and invite them each to present back their flip charts/findings to the rest of the group. (20 minutes)
Some key points likely to emerge from the activity:
Portrayal of women
Beauty, objects of sexual desire, commodity for advertising, etc.
Absence from public life and current affairs (politics/economics/education)
Absence from newspapers/journals – confined to women’s magazines and news related to family, beauty, etc.
Portrayal of men
Power, domination of public life.
Careers, business, economics, politics etc.
Make a comparison between these portrayals during the feedback session.
Titles always given in male form – i.e. chairman rather than chairperson (see Appendix 4).
Articles devoted to women and by women
Rarely the central focus of a news story.
Underrepresented (if at all) in politics, business, economics, etc.
Women are confined to areas of beauty and the domestic sphere. (Further discussion of this topic can be found in Chapter 3 of It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women(AI Index: ACT 77/001/2004).
Rarely quoted in articles (unless the article is women-focused, see previous point).
Stick their flip charts on a free wall after each presentation. Once all the presentations have been given, use the following questions (and any more of your choosing) to prompt further discussion on the topic:
What is the impact of images in the media on women and society as a whole?
Try to pull out the fact that they create stereotypes which are
often harmful, with women in the role of sexual objects and
What are the consequences of such stereotypes?
They lead to prejudice which leads to discrimination.
This women’s NGO gives some interesting insights into the exploitation of women in advertising by major fashion brands. English only, but the images can be printed and used by facilitators working in all languages. Also see Chapter 3 of It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women(AI Index: ACT 77/001/2004).
Interesting debates may arise over the representation of women in the images selected. For example, some people may have very different views of what constitutes a positive or negative image. Some people may see the female body (particularly in various stages of nudity) as sexual exploitation and others as beauty (this view was aired during one pilot workshop by female as well as male participants). If this debate arises, rather than take sides, it is necessary to try to highlight that whatever views we have, we must try to also assess the overall impact of these images of the female body on women and girls in their day-to-day life. The discussion is likely to lead to a consensus that there are expectations imposed upon women to conform to a particular model of “beauty”, and that this is often given greater cultural value than women’s education, careers or participation in public life.
Try to also relate it to the issue at hand by posing the question: “How could these representations pave the way for violence against women?” Possible answers may be that gender stereotypes lead to prejudices about women (that women are merely the object of male fantasy) leading to their being discriminated against and “confined” to gender roles which exempt them from full participation in public life and ultimately from accessing fundamental human rights, which paves the way for VAW.
Step 2: Consolidation and statistics
As you bring this session to a close, you could try to link it with Session 2 (the role and responsibility of the media) by asking the following prompt questions:
What does this session show us about how the media is informing the public? Are journalists objective?
No, they are all too often relying on stereotypes and loaded and gender-insensitive language; underrepresenting women, etc.
Are people getting information that is correct and relevant?
No, because the media is failing to include a balanced gender perspective.
What is the impact of this portrayal by the media?
Women’s roles are devalued, their issues are ignored, they are less visible in society and therefore less informed and more vulnerable to discrimination.
You can then end using a PowerPoint or OHP presentation of the material shown in Appendix 5, which reinforces the representation of women with some useful statistics and an introduction to the way the media deals with violence, most of which have been taken from the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) media monitoring report. This leads well into the next session which looks at forms of VAW in more detail. (10 minutes)
The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) coordinate a global monitoring report of the media, particularly with reference to gender. See Appendix 14 for their email address.
Session 4: Forms, causes and consequences of VAW
Participants gain a shared understanding of the scope of VAW in their country (or region).
Participants explore more deeply the root causes of VAW.
Participants analyze the role of the media in covering VAW.
Flip chart paper and pens
Large poster (or 4 flip chart pages stuck together) with 3 interlocking circles
Large poster (or 4 flip chart pages stuck together) with outline of a tree
Case studies (1 per group) with variety of forms and contexts of VAW; e.g. physical, psychological, violence during conflict and violence in the family or community. (See Appendix 7 for a selection of SVAW case studies.)
Laptop and projector or OHP
The representative from a local women’s NGO would be a good lead person for this session and should be the key person to deal with questions in the area of VAW and any sensitive debates around culture.
Ask participants in plenary how they would define violence and write the key points that come from their answers onto a flip chart. Can they identify three main categories from that definition? Try to draw out:
Using the first part of the presentation (Appendix 6, slide number 3) give the UN’s definition of VAW. This is the definition that AI has centred its campaign around. Do not give the full presentation yet as this comes later on.
Divide the participants into three groups and give each group a category to focus on. Ask them to brainstorm the forms of VAW that they can think of under that category in their country (or region) and to writethem onto Post-it notes. 10 minutes)
While they are doing this, hang up a large flip chart with three big interlocking circles, and give each circle one of the titles shown in the diagram below.
Invite them back to plenary and ask them to place the Post-it notes on the relevant circles. They can use the interlocking areas (where all circles meet in the middle) for forms of VAW which they feel have more than one category. Ask them what they have realized from this activity.
Possible answers – that there are many forms of VAW, all of which have short- and long-term impacts, especially in the area of health. All the forms are interconnected.
Now give the rest of the presentation (see Appendix 6) which goes into more detail, giving examples of the different forms and contexts of VAW as set out in the campaign. Once the presentation is finished, leave plenty of time for questions. You could also give participants photocopied handouts of the presentation for reference. (15 minutes)
Step 2: Roots and fruits exercise
Stick up a large flip chart with the outline of a tree. Invite participants to return to their interlocking circles flip chart and transfer different forms of VAW onto the trunk of the tree. Ask people to remain in the same groups as before and give each group one of the following issues to discuss:
Group 1: What is the healthimpact (for the individual and for society) that results from these forms of VAW?
Possible answers: the spread of HIV/AIDS; internal damage to sexual organs; constant headaches from beatings; unwanted pregnancies; extra demand on health and social services.
Group 2: What is the socio-economicimpact?
Possible answers: homelessness; social exclusion; poverty.
Group 3: What are the root causesof these forms of VAW?
Possible answers: discriminatory laws; cultural prejudices; stereotypes which render women inferior; exclusion of women from the public sphere. (15 minutes)
Participants should put their answers on Post-it notes. Invite participants back to plenary, and ask them to put their Post-it notes on the tree. Groups 1 and 2 should put theirs in the branches. Group 3 should put theirs on the roots.
Explain that we now have a visual representation of VAW in society. Ask participants what the picture reveals. How do they feel about this? How can we ensure that the fruits of our society are not “poisoned” but rather remain healthy and tasty! (10 minutes)
Try to elicit from the participants the following points:
we need to deal with the root causes of VAW; if not we will bear the consequences and do untold damage to our communities;
stereotypes create discrimination in culture and practice;
the media plays a role in reinforcing these stereotypes, and but also has considerable power to influence public opinion and behaviour!
You can leave the tree on the wall as a reference for the rest of the workshop.
Step 3: VAW as a cultural problem
Highlight the fact that culture and tradition often reinforce, condone, legitimize and tolerate VAW and act as obstacles to trying to end it. Explain that the next session will look more closely at how this happens and explore ways in which journalists can deal with such cultural obstacles.
You could read some short testimonies from It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women (AI Index: ACT 77/001/2004). (They can be found in shaded boxes throughout the report.) You can also use the case studies included in this pack. These illustrate different forms of VAW and will bring the horrors of the issue to life (see Appendix 7). Another source of relevant cases would be local women’s organizations.
If there is time, try to get some reactions from the journalists about the cases and point out that VAW is clearly a global issue which permeates all cultures, religions and ways of life. A good source of global statistics covering all regions and different forms of VAW can be found in the AI report, Making Violence against Women Count: facts and figures – a summary(AI Index: ACT 77/034/2004). (10 minutes)
Session 5: The cultural debate
Journalists will explore strategies for dealing with culturally ascribed discriminatory practices and attitudes which help pave the way for VAW.
Flip chart paper
1 ½ hours
This session will get to one of the key points of this workshop – cultural stereotypes, which are reinforced and given further legitimacy by the media. It also attempts to harness the role of journalists in exerting positive pressure in that area. Give them space to reflect on what the real obstacles are and time to think proactively about overcoming them. Hopefully, they will at the same time reflect on their own behaviours and culturally held beliefs. In this way, there is a chance that positive change will be triggered. Journalists cannot be expected to sensitize the public until they themselves are sensitized!
Step 1: Gender roles
In plenary ask participants to give a distinction between “sex” and “gender”.
“Sex” refers to the biological make-up of men and women, and “gender” to the socially attributed roles that society and culture has prescribed to them.
Write the words “women” and “men” at the head of two columns on a flip chart. Ask participants to reflect on the types of roles in society attributed to women and men. Write some of their answers under the appropriate column to build a picture of the gender roles in their country/society.
Ask the following prompt questions:
Are these roles valued equally?
No! For example, women’s roles are often tied to the domestic sphere; in employment they are likely to be paid less than men.
How do they impact on women and girls compared to men and boys?
They restrict women’s access to education, health care, leisure time and other fundamental rights; they devalue women; make them vulnerable to abuse, exclusion, and poverty. (10 minutes)
Step 2: Making the link between gender roles and discrimination
Link these gender roles to the earlier session on stereotypes (see Session 3) and repeat the message that they are discriminatory and, as has been seen, are reinforced and legitimized through culture and the media. Use the “tree” from the last session to remind them of the way in which discrimination is a key factor in the continuation and reinforcement of gender-based violence.
According to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (UN DEVAW), “...violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men”.
For the full text see: www.ohchr.org/english/law/
Invite participants to openly discuss specific cultural norms or practices from their country or region that might be leading directly or indirectly to VAW. As they are talking, capture the issues they raise onto a flip chart. (10 minutes)
Step 3: ‘Cultural relativism’
In order to discuss these “culturally relative” issues more closely, ask the participants to work in their groups as before and to look at some of the SVAW cases (use a selection of cases from Appendix 7 from different regions to show that cultural taboos are global). They should pull out some examples of the way in which culture has either lead to VAW or had an impact on the survivors of VAW (e.g. In many societies a woman who has been raped may be ostracized by her husband, family or community because of culturally specific notions of “honour”). Using the case studies will help to give the issue of VAW a global perspective. (10 minutes)
Come back to plenary and ask each group to report their findings. (10 minutes)
Be wary of the fact that in discussions over culture, the criticism may arise that AI is trying to impose its “Western values” on other cultures. It is very important to stress that AI (and, indeed, the international system of human rights) does not rate any culture above another. Indeed, AI works to defend economic, social and cultural rights and believes in the right of all people to practise their culture and enjoy a cultural identity.
If counter-arguments arise, here are a couple of key issues to highlight:
Universality of human rights: No one should be deprived of their fundamental human rights.They are for everyone regardless of race, colour, religion, culture, gender, etc. Therefore, VAW is never acceptable, and cannot be justified or condoned because of cultural beliefs and practices.
Culture: Point out that AI would only ever challenge cultural practices that condone direct or indirect forms of VAW or other human rights violations.2. AI also recognizes the need to engage with cultural leaders and educate them on VAW, rather than alienate them because their views may be at odds with AI’s. AI believes strongly in engagement and discourse and encourages others particularly those in the media to do the same.
“It is imperative to re-engage and take direction from local people on how women’s rights may be promoted in a given context... Without [the local population’s] participation and endorsement, no strategy to advance women’s rights will succeed.” UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, January 2003 (UN Doc. E/CN.4/2003/75, para 70)
Once each group has reported back, ask them in their groups to put together a short role-play or to design a poster to try and show the role of culture in VAW and a positive strategy that they could devise to try to overcome it.
This could include the way they report on the issue or how they may try to get cultural leaders on board, for example. Allow their creativity to emerge without guiding them too much. (20 minutes)
Give each group 5 minutes to perform their role-play or present the ideas behind their poster. Allow time at the end for further comments or questions. (20 minutes)
Step 4: Meeting the challenge!
As journalists they have the opportunity to work towards eliminating harmful practices and beliefs which devalue and harm women and abuse their fundamental rights.
What role do you think journalists can play in challenging discriminatory attitudes and practices?
What impact would it have on VAW in your country (or region) if you could start implementing those strategies? (10 minutes)
Discussions like this will give journalists a much needed space to discuss their practice and air frustrations.
Session 6: Closing Day One
Final remarks and summing up.
Evaluation of progress at end of Day One.
Photocopies of a piece of paper with 3 large shapes of your choice (for example, a triangle, a star and a circle)
Step 1: Reflecting on the day
Give each participant a piece of paper with three shapes on it (see opposite) and ask them to write their reflections of the day in the following way:
Circle:write down the things they covered today which they felt reinforced their current understanding.
Star:write down anything new they have learned.
Triangle:write down anything that they now see from a different angle.
Ask them to compare and discuss these with their neighbour. (15 minutes)
You could then spend a few minutes in plenary asking people to share some of their reflections about the day with the whole group.(5 minutes)
Try to pull together all the issues of the day:
The portrayal of women in the media and the way in which stereotypes impact on women and pave the way for VAW.
The forms, causes and consequences of VAW.
The way in which discriminatory elements within cultural practices and traditions act as obstacles to guaranteeing human rights.
Strategies to overcome such obstacles.
The potential of journalists to promote human rights, inform others of their rights and sensitize people to the root causes of VAW. (5 minutes)
Step 2: Preparing the participants for Day Two of the workshop
Explain that tomorrow you will look at a selection of international legal human rights documents and at how they can be applied to different cases of VAW.
International human rights law is a very useful tool both for dealing with “cultural relativism” and for combating VAW because it demonstrates the universality of rights. By signing up to international treaties governments are accepting the legal authority of the treaties and the principles within them.
Governments are therefore obliged to ensure that cultural practices do not lead to or justify VAW.
If possible, hand out copies of the legal documents now so that participants have a chance to read them once and familiarize themselves with them before starting the Day Two sessions. (See “materials” list for Day Two, Session 1.)
Take any final questions. (5 minutes)
In closing, you could use the Logical flow chart (see Appendix 3) to remind participants of the timetable for tomorrow. Make sure that everyone is clear about the starting time. Finally, thank everyone for their contributions and say your goodbyes!
END OF DAY ONE
Session 1: Exploring and implementing legal instruments
Participants will gain a better understanding of legal instruments (international and national/regional) pertaining to human rights and of how to apply them to their reporting on VAW issues.
Case studies (see Appendix 7)
Copies of legal documents (see Appendix 14. The documents we recommend using are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; CEDAW; DEVAW; and a relevant regional or national document, for example, the penal or family code)
Four flip charts – each divided into 4 to form 4 boxes with space at the top to write the title of the case study. Number the boxes 1-4, and give each legal document a corresponding number.
Step 1: Recap Day One and set the agenda for Day Two
Remind participants again of what they covered yesterday. Use the Logical flow chart (see Appendix 3) if the participants find it helpful:
A gender analysis of the media. They looked at the portrayal of women in the media and the way in which stereotypes impact on women and pave the way for VAW.
The potential of journalists to promote human rights, inform others of their rights and sensitize people to the root causes of VAW.
Some of the forms, causes and consequences of VAW.
Discriminatory elements within cultural practices and traditions that act as obstacles to guaranteeing human rights;
Strategies to overcome such obstacles.
Today will be a lot more practical. The participants will be looking at the way in which international human rights law can act as a tool both to strengthen their reporting on VAW and to challenge cultural acceptance of VAW. Specifically, they will look at:
National and international legal instruments.
The responsibility of the state to protect women from violence, even in the domestic sphere. (5-10 minutes)
Step 2: The value of international human rights law
Invite participants to share their views of the benefits of using the human rights framework when reporting on VAW.
Credibility: the international nature of the standards shows that they are not just a Western concept or the agenda of NGOs.
They offer a strategy for tackling cultural relativism.
They offer a legally binding framework for addressing VAW and holding governments to account.
Explain that the legal human rights framework consists of different elements:
Treaties(also called Conventions or Covenants) are formal,
legally binding agreements between states. When a state
ratifiesa treaty it is signalling its decision to adhere
fully to the treaty’s provisions and be
legally bound by them.
Declarations(sometimes called Resolutions) are general statements of principles adopted by intergovernmental bodies (the UN or regional human rights bodies) which can carry considerable legal authority, although they are not necessarily legally binding.
It is important to highlight the following points to strengthen the argument of a government’s legal commitment to eliminating VAW:
The human rights framework is not imposed on states but rather agreed by them. For example, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) was agreed to by all states in the General Assembly of the UN.
Even if a country has not ratified either CEDAW or DEVAW, most states have ratified human rights treaties which explicitly outlaw any form of discrimination. (This principle of non-discrimination is built into the fabric of all human rights agreements, including the UDHR and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.)
There may be some criticisms of human rights law pertaining to the difficulties in enforcing it (compared to national laws) and the common perception that it is abstract. It is important therefore to make the following points:
The International Criminal Court is a mechanism which is already seeing individual women take governments to court over rape and sexual assault in armed conflict.
Governments generally do not want “bad publicity” regarding their role in the international community. This can cause political embarrassment (such as in the case of donor governments with human rights initiatives abroad) and also damages potential trade agreements which have human rights clauses in them. (10 minutes)
Step 3: Applying international human rights law to journalism
This exercise gives participants time to look at one of the four legal documents in some detail and to select relevant articles from the document to apply directly to a case.
Due to the time constraints it is not possible to study the legal documents in great detail (this is only an introduction to SVAW for journalists) which is why it is recommended that the participants are given the documents in advance of the workshop so they have at least had a chance to familiarize themselves with them before beginning this exercise.
Divide participants into four groups (you could use one of the participatory activities in Appendix 1 if you feel that people need a short energizer to raise their energy levels).
Give each group one case study and one legal document. The aim of the activity is for the groups to spend 20 minutes on each case and select all the relevant articles from one legal document which correspond to the case. Each group will need a piece of flip chart paper (prepared before the workshop) divided into four boxes (see opposite).
Case X – Rape during conflict
Diagram of flip chart for Step 3
Tell them they have 20 minutes to select all the relevant articles from their legal document which correspond to the case.
Once they have finished, they should pass their flip chart paper and case study to the group on their right. This will mean that every group has a new case to look at.
They now repeat the above stage with the new case.
The activity repeats itself until all the groups have seen all four cases. (1 hour 20 minutes)
You will now have four case studies, each of which has four sets of articles that apply to it. Hang them on a wall and ask the participants to spend a few minutes studying them. This will give them the chance to see some examples of relevant articles from the other legal documents they have not studied.
While they are doing this, ask a few questions to bring out any interesting issues that arose (such as common links between the documents or similar or complimentary articles). (10 minutes)
The principle of non-discrimination
In plenary, stress the fact that the principle of non-discrimination exists in all the international documents. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone should enjoy fundamental human rights without discrimination on the grounds of sex. The UN Charter also affirms the equality of rights for women and men. The right not to be discriminated against is fundamental to the core principle of human rights and cannot be ignored under any circumstances.
General Recommendation 19 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women states in paragraph 1:
“Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men.”
In paragraph 7, it goes on to state:
“Gender-based violence, which impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms under general international law or under human rights conventions, is discrimination within the meaning of article 1 of the Convention.”
All human rights documents are based on the principle of non-discrimination, which means that even documents which do not make specific reference to gender or VAW, such as UDHR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, can still be applied on the basis that discrimination is present.
At the end of the session give them a copy of the list of web addresses (see Appendix 14) where they can find the documents for themselves or write them up on a the flip chart. There is also a useful handout (see Appendix 8) with information on the evolution of women’s rights in international human rights which can be handed out to participants for further reading at the end of this session. (10 minutes
Encourage participants to take time during the break to look at the other flip charts more closely. Explain that they will have a chance later to begin applying them to their writing which will reinforce what they have just learned. Leave the flip charts on the wall as they will serve as a very good guide and reference for their practical exercise in the afternoon..
Alternative approaches to Step 3
There are various ways in which you could adapt this exercise if you are short of time or if you feel that it is too challenging. Some suggested alternatives are:
give each group the same case, and leave out the “carousel” activity (passing the flip charts around the groups every 20 minutes).
reduce the number of legal documents (just use two legal documents instead of four, or give each group the same document) but give each group a different case.
How you choose will depend on where you want the emphasis of the learning to be (the variety of contexts of VAW or the variety of legal frameworks).
If you conducted a needs analysis in advance of this workshop, use the data as a guide for where the emphasis should lie. [end box]
The facilitators could volunteer to write up the posters and send them to the journalists after the workshop. This would be an excellent way to reinforce their learning from the workshop, and give them an easy reference to help them apply these legal mechanisms in their reporting on VAW. It will also give both AI and the women’s NGO an opportunity to maintain contact with the journalists and provide concrete follow-up to the workshop.
Session 2: Holding governments to account
Participants will understand the concept of due diligence and how to apply it to their reporting.
Presentation on due diligence (Appendix 9)
Handout on due diligence (Appendix 10)
Video or DVD of the short film, It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women(SVAW launch video, available from the International Secretariat)
Video or DVD player
Logical flow chart (Appendix 3)
Worth keeping in mind…
The first part of this session involves participants watching a short film about VAW and then discussing the issued raised. Exercise caution and sensitivity when leading this discussion. There may be some very emotional reactions, particularly from women who may have experienced some of the types of violence shown, but also from men who may have been indirectly affected by or witnessed VAW (for example, when they were children). For advice on how to deal with any extreme reactions, please refer to the paragraph on disclosure in the Introduction of this pack.
Among the sensitive topics mentioned in the film is the subject of marital rape. Be prepared for a particularly heated debate around this issue. There may be participants, including women, who do not agree that rape within marriage can exist. Cultural and religious arguments may well be used to justify positions.
You should give some time to this debate as it is an important part of the process of openly questioning views in a safe environment. The discussion and subsequent self-reflection might lead some participants to begin challenging elements of their own deeply held beliefs. However, the discussion must be controlled carefully. We recommend that a representative from a women’s NGO be present at this workshop as a resource person or facilitator. This highly sensitive debate is an ideal time to draw on their local experience and knowledge of VAW.
It might be useful to have at your disposal some legal definitions. For example, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been defined by the International Criminal Court to focus on the coercive acts of the perpetrator, including threats and psychological oppression, rather than focusing on physical force alone. Instead of defining rape solely in terms of forced vaginal penetration with a penis, the definition of rape is gender-neutral (acknowledging that men and boys can also be raped) and refers generally to the invasion of the victim’s body, including rape with objects and forced oral sex.
It could also be useful to have ready passages (or interpretations of passages) from relevant religious texts or local penal codes which talk about protecting women from violence.
Step 1: Short film and comments
Show the 10-minute video, It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women. This is an excellent resource for reinforcing the different forms and contexts of VAW. It contains moving individual testimonies which help to bring home the reality, horror and impact of VAW. It also introduces the concept of “due diligence” (the responsibility of the state to protect women from VAW), giving a variety of examples of incidences where the state has failed to act to prevent VAW or to bring perpetrators to justice. (10 minutes)
After the video ask the participants for their reactions.
Follow up with more specific questions:
What forms of violence were mentioned?
What were the contexts?
What were some issues raised around rape?
- Rape as a tool of war during conflict
- The spread of HIV/AIDS; social exclusion of rape survivors
How far did prejudice and discrimination, condoned by culture, impact on the survivors of VAW?
Examples include women not seeking justice for rape due to the shame attached, and women being driven out of the home by their partner after they have been raped because of issues of honour.
Points to elicit from the discussions:
The universalityof VAW: the fact that it is a global epidemic without borders, not restricted to economic or development issues, ethnicity, nationality or culture (although these can all be contributing factors, especially where certain aspects of identity intersect. For example, women from poor or marginalized ethnic minority communities are likely to be even more vulnerable, suffer greater discrimination, have less access to justice, etc. For more information see Chapter 4 of It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women).
Indifferenceof the state as an aggravating factor.
The responsibilityof the state to act for the protection of women (referred to in legal terms as the concept of “due diligence”), and the impunityenjoyed by state actors when they fail to exercise due diligence. (10 minutes)
General Recommendation 19 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Paragraph 9) states:
“Under general international law and specific human rights covenants, States may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence, and for providing compensation.” (Emphasis added.)
Step 2: Due diligence
Now give the presentation on due diligence (see Appendix 9). This reinforces themes covered in the video. Allow some time for questions at the end of the presentation and give participants the accompanying handout on due diligence (Appendix 10). (15 minutes)
Step 3: Exercise on due diligence
Hand out copies of the press release “No excuses left: Confront sexual violence” (see Appendix 11) and give the participants a few minutes to read it. (10 minutes)
Ask them to discuss the following points (this could be done either in plenary or in pairs or small groups):
1 Why is due diligence applicable in this case?
2 What are the key factors giving rise to due diligence?
Possible answers might include:
Police indifference. The police failed to take a statement from the girl while in hospital and made little effort to find the man despite evidence of stalking, breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon and causing grievous bodily harm.
Age of consent too low. This could be seen to be not protecting the rights of girls, thereby putting them in danger.
The courts do not provide a safe space for women to give evidence of VAW, particularly of rape.
Domestic Violence Act is clearly not being implemented. (10 minutes)
Ask the participants how useful they think the concept of due diligence could be in their reporting. (5 minutes)
Hopefully they will see that due diligence is a very useful concept, particularly as it redirects responsibility for VAW in the private sphere back to the public domain. Governments are under an obligation to take effective steps to end VAW. Under this obligation, governments must not only ensure that their agents do not commit acts of VAW, they must also take effective steps to prevent and punish such acts by private actors.
If a state fails to act diligently to prevent VAW — from whatever source — or fails to investigate and punish such violence after it occurs, the state can itself be held responsible for the abuse. This is known as the standard of due diligence (see above). This does not absolve the actual perpetrators and their accomplices from being prosecuted and punished for the initial acts of violence. (See Chapter 6 of It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women (AI Index: ACT 77/001/2004).
Session 3: Practical exercise – applying legal documents and mechanisms
Participants practise applying the framework of international human rights law, including the principle of due diligence, to cases of VAW.
Participants consider gender-sensitive approaches to reporting on VAW, including practising and discussing interviewing techniques.
If you have a journalist trainer facilitating with you, it would be ideal for them to closely monitor both this and the next session so that they can guide the groups’ writing and integrate general advice on their journalistic writing style. This will enable the participants to feel that they are gaining valuable all-round practice.
Step 1: Icebreaker
Crocodiles and islands
Clear a space in the room. Put three or four pieces of flip chart paper on the floor and explain that these are “islands”. People should walk around them and when you give the signal, “Crocodile!”they should all find an island to stand on. Anyone who does not find a place on any of the islands is out of the game. Ask them to now walk around again, and go to all the flip chart paper/islands and fold them in half. Play a few rounds, making the “islands” smaller each time. As the islands get smaller they will find it harder and harder to find a space. Eventually most people will be out but they will have had a good run around and be energized ready for the next activity. (5 minutes)
Step 2: Applying international human rights law
Explain to the participants that in this session they will have the opportunity of applying the legal framework to their reporting. Invite them to stay in the same groups as before and to choose a case of their choice or think up a case which is particularly relevant for the context in which they work or specialize. They should write a very short article on the story (approximately 200 words).
Remind them to consider the following points (write these up on the flip chart):
Avoiding stereotypes or sexist language
Dealing with the cultural relativism
Relevant legal instruments
The concept of due diligence
They will have 35 minutes to do this, and should collectively put their article onto a flip chart. Remind them to choose a rapporteur for the feedback. (35 minutes)
The groups then present their piece of writing, giving the other groups the chance to comment. Alternatively the groups could stick all their finished articles on a free wall and spend a few minutes reading one another’s and then give written comments on a piece of paper next to the article. (20 minutes)
Alternative version of the exercise:
You could ask them to work in pairs, discuss their articles with their partner and critique each other’s work. Some participants may prefer this, and it will give them a chance to write a more substantially sized article. If you have radio or TV journalists attending, you could adapt the activity by asking them to put together a short radio or TV report. More experienced journalists may want to work alone and produce longer articles.
This session should be carefully monitored and facilitated by a journalist trainer if possible so that all aspects of their journalistic skills can be strengthened and any extra instruction given.
You could arrange for a journalistic writing prize to be awarded for the best piece of reporting on VAW. They could submit a real piece for the competition after the workshop.
Session 4: Interviewing skills
Participants learn the importance of a gender-sensitive approach to interviewing survivors of VAW.
Cards or slips of paper each with one of the following “cases” written on them. (These should be prepared in advance. Alternatively, they could be written up on a flip chart and numbered 1 to 4.)
A domestic servant who has been regularly beaten by her employer and locked up in her room at night.
A woman who has been beaten by her husband for over 10 years and is threatened with death if she ever leaves him.
A woman who has been sentenced to death for adultery.
A young woman (18) who has been forced to marry an abusive relative.
You can add other scenarios that you feel are relevant, selected from the SVAW campaigning materials (It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women or one of the campaigning leaflets reproduced in Appendix 7), or a case that would be locally relevant provided by a local women’s NGO. We recommend choosing a scenario that does not include sexual violence, as this is far more complex and would require much more time and training. Only attempt this if you have a woman representative from a women’s NGO or a journalist trainer with experience in this area. You might want to refer participants to Chapter 6 of Investigating Women’s Rights Violations in Armed Conflict (Amnesty International Publications and the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, 2001). You can also refer them to another AI publication, Monitoring and Investigating Sexual Violence (Amnesty International and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), AI Netherlands, 2000. See www.amnesty.nl or www.africanbookscollective.com).
Step 1: Preparation
Refer back to some of the cases used earlier and on Day One and ask participants what challenges they might face in conducting an interview with the women involved. List their key points onto a flip chart. Allow participants to relate any direct journalistic experience that they have had in this area. The key message here is that the task demands great sensitivity and understanding and is difficult for both the interviewee and interviewer. (10 minutes)
Hand out copies of Appendix 12 which has guidelines on gender-sensitive research methodology. Give them 10 minutes to read through it and deal with any questions. (10 minutes)
Step 2: Role-playing interview
Divide the participants into pairs (if they make up an odd number, you or the co-facilitator should partner up with somebody). Give each pair a scenario and explain that you want them to role-play the situation; one will play the role of a journalist, the other of a survivor. Give them 10 minutes to prepare and allow 20 minutes for all the performances. (30 minutes)
Monitor this session closely and take notes of anything particularly interesting. These can be fed back to them after the exercise, or after they have discussed the question below. However, ensure that this is done sensitively; do not let anyone feel that they are being singled out or personally criticized. For this reason it is important to concentrate on positive examples of things that worked well. The idea is to use examples to illustrate the important learning points.
Step 3: Feedback
Write the questions below on flip chart (or prepare it beforehand). Ask them to discuss the questions in their pairs before sharing their answers with the whole group:
How successful did you find the interview and why?
How did each participant feel (especially the “survivor”)?
Which were the most challenging aspects?
How will you apply this experience to your work in future?
Note any key points arising from the plenary discussion onto the flip chart. (10 minutes)
Reiterate the fact that interviewing survivors of VAW is highly sensitive and requires intensive specialist training which the time restrictions of this workshop do not allow.
You can also find some useful information on the internet, such as the following in English:
www.lshtm.ac.uk/hpu/docs/WHO.pdf (recommendations from WHO on interviewing trafficked women) and
For other language resources, you will need to do some research before the workshop.
Session 5: Closing session
Wrap up the workshop.
Conduct an evaluation.
Blank postcards (preferably AI/SVAW ones)
Contacts list (participants and sections/structures/IS)
Evaluation forms (see Appendix 13)
We have now come to the closing session. It is important that the participants leave feeling motivated and ready to apply what they have learned.
It is very tempting to end a workshop early and skip the last session as the participants are almost certainly tired and have already given a lot of valuable time. However, we recommend that you spend sufficient time on this session as it will:
Help pull together the whole workshop
Allow time for outstanding questions to be asked
Give everybody the chance to network and strengthen the new relationships they have built over the past two days
Give you the opportunity to hand out any further AI or other relevant materials
Step 1: Recapping
Remind participants of all the areas they have covered (using the Logical flow chart if you find it helpful) and elicit some of the key elements that emerged from each session. It may be useful to refer to the work that they produced on flip charts to illustrate some of those points. It is important to reiterate the following:
VAW exists everywhere; it is not restricted by economics, religion, culture or geography.
VAW is a global epidemic, with profound short- and long-term physical and psychological consequences, including health implications which can be fatal and which have a knock-on effect on society as a whole.
VAW happens during conflict and in times of peace.
Stereotypes reinforced in the media play a role in perpetuating discrimination against women which paves the way for VAW and other human rights abuses to occur.
VAW continues due to discriminatory attitudes and laws which devalue women, to state indifference, and the impunity enjoyed by state actors.
VAW is not inevitable and journalists can play a crucial role both in the dismantling of stereotypes and in exposing the scope and extent of VAW in society.
Journalists are responsible for ensuring that they apply gender sensitivity in all areas of their practice, and hopefully this workshop has been useful in supporting them in this.
International human rights law and the principle of due diligence are tools that journalists can use to address VAW and hold governments accountable.
Journalists also have a role to play in raising public awareness of existing legal human rights mechanisms. (5 minutes)
Return briefly to their expectations of the workshop and ask them how far they feel these have been met. Reiterate that the workshop has been an introduction only but that you hope that they have gained enough grounding in the issues and the legal framework to be able to research them further and to begin applying what they learn to their journalism.
If there are any areas that they feel they would like to cover or look more closely at, tell them that you hope to maintain contact with them so that they can call upon AI for extra information and resources after the workshop.
Now ask participants to return to the personal evaluation form they began to fill in at the end of Day One and to spend a few minutes adding anything new from today. (10 minutes)
Step 2: Personal reminder
Ask participants to spend a few minutes reflecting on the workshop and to make a list of three things that they can realistically commit to doing in their professional lives in relation to stopping VAW.
They should write these promises on the blank postcards provided and address them to themselves.
Collect the postcards. These should be posted back to them one month after the workshop. They will act as a reminder of their time here, an initial follow-up, and a way of maintaining links between the participants and AI. Furthermore, they will act as a gentle reminder of their commitments for those that have not yet fulfilled them! (15 minutes)
To close the session, ask participants what extra support and resources they might need from AI. List their responses onto a flip chart for your own reference. Hand out the contact list including the relevant section/structure and IS contacts, i.e. the regional press officer and SVAW Campaign press officer from the Media and Audio-Visual (MAV) Programme at the International Secretariat (who can be contacted at: email@example.com). They should feel free to contact the press officers at any time. You could also encourage them to join or establish an AI journalists’ network on SVAW. This is an ideal way for them to support each other and for you to maintain a working relationship with them throughout the life of the campaign and beyond.
Hand out the evaluation forms and allow the participants 10 minutes to complete them. Remind them that this is their chance to give valuable feedback to AI so that we can make improvements to our workshops in the future. They can make their evaluations anonymous if they wish. (10 minutes)
It is very important to get the evaluations completed;
if people ask to send them after the workshop, it is very likely that they will never be completed and a lot of valuable learning will be lost and improvements to the workshop will be delayed.
Collect the evaluation forms. Thank everyone for their time and invite them to fulfil their important role in informing women of their rights, changing violent behaviour towards women and creating a culture where everybody’s human rights are respected and people live without fear of violence.
Make sure that you also thank everyone else who played a part in the planning and running of the workshop, including AI staff, volunteers, technical staff, guest speakers, observers from local women’s NGOs and the other facilitators. (5 minutes)
END OF WORKSHOP
Appendix 1: Energizers and group-forming activities3
Find someone wearing...
Ask participants to walk around loosely, shaking their limbs and generally relaxing. After a short while, the facilitator shouts out “Find someone...” and names an article of clothing. The participants have to rush to stand close to the person described. Repeat this exercise several times using different types of clothing.
Draw five circles with chalk on the floor, big enough to accommodate all of the participants. Give each island a name. Ask everyone to choose the island that they would like to live on. Then warn participants that one of the islands will sink into the sea very soon and participants on that island will be forced to move quickly to another island. Allow the suspense to build and then call out the name of the island that is sinking. Participants run to the other four islands. The game continues until everyone is squashed onto one island.
Paper and straws
Participants split into teams. Each team forms a line and places a piece of card at the beginning of their line. Each member of the team has a drinking straw or reed. When the game starts, the first person has to pick up the piece of card by sucking on the straw. The card then has to be passed to the next team member using the same method. If the card drops, it goes back to the first person and the whole sequence has to start again.
Pass the energy
Participants stand or sit in a circle, hold hands and silently concentrate. The facilitator sends a series of “pulses” both ways round the group by discreetly squeezing the hands of those next to her/him. Participants pass these pulses round the circle, as in an electric current, by squeezing the hand of the person next to them and literally “energizing” the group.
Participants stand in a circle and join hands. Keeping their hands joined, they move in any way that they want, twisting and turning and creating a “knot”. They must then unravel this knot, without letting go of one another’s hands.
Leading and guiding
Participants split into pairs. One participant puts on a blindfold. Their partner then leads them carefully around the area making sure they don’t trip or bump into anything. After some time, the facilitator asks the pairs to swap roles. At the end, participants discuss how they felt when they had to trust someone else to keep them safe.
Go round the group counting upwards. The group replaces any number divisible by three with “fizz”, any number divisible by five with “buzz”, and any number divisible by both three and five with “fizz buzz”. Count up and see how high you can go!
Ask participants to form two circles of people of equal numbers. The people in the inner circle should face outwards. The people in the outer circle should face inwards. Each person in the outer circle uses the person opposite them in the inner circle to create a “statue”. They have only 10 seconds to do this. The person in the inner circle allows the “sculptor” to bend and twist their body into any shape that they wish, provided they do not hurt (or humiliate!) them. The “statue” must remain in that position without speaking, until you call “time”. The outer circle then moves round one person to the left and they begin sculpting again. The people in the inner circle are bent and twisted into new positions throughout this process. Continue in this way and then ask people in the inner circle to change with people in the outer circle so that everyone has a chance to be “sculptor” and “statue”.
Participants split into two lines, so that each person faces a partner. Line one has to say “Yes” in as many different ways as possible, and line two has to try to change their partner’s minds by saying “No” as convincingly as possible. Give both lines a chance to say both “Yes” and “No”. Then discuss how people felt. How did it feel to say “Yes” or “No”? Was it easier to say one than another?
Writing on backs
At the end of a workshop, ask participants to stick a piece of paper on their backs. Each participant then writes something they like, admire or appreciate about that person on the paper on their backs. When they have all finished, participants can take their papers home with them as a reminder.
Reflecting on the day
To help people to reflect on the activities of the day, make a ball out of paper and ask the group to throw the ball to each other in turn. When they have the ball, participants can say one thing they thought about the day.
Appendix 2: Participants’ agenda
Session 1: Opening session
Time: 1 hour
Session 2: Exploring the role of the media in human rights
Time: 1 hour
Create a shared understanding of participants’ views re: human rights, their
perceived responsibilities as journalists and the challenges they face
Session 3: Portrayal of women through language and image in the media
Time: 1 hour
Participants explore the responsibility of the portrayal of women in the media
The impact of the media’s portrayal of women on VAW
Session 4: Forms, causes and consequences of VAW
Time: 1 hour
Participants explore different forms of VAW and analyze their root causes and
consequences at the individual and societal level
Session 5: Dealing with culture
Time: 1 ½ hours
Explore strategies for dealing with cultural obstacles to ending VAW
Session 6: Wrap-up
Time: 30 minutes
Participants reflect on Day One and highlight key learning points
Session 1: Using the human rights framework as a tool
Time: 2 hours
Participants will have a better understanding of legal instruments: international and national/regional and how to apply them to their reporting on VAW issues
Session 2: Looking at the
concept of due diligence
Time: 1 hour
Participants will understand the concept of due diligence and how to apply it to their reporting
Session 3: Additional skills to strengthen reporting on human rights
Time: 1 hour
Applying legal instruments to reporting
Session 4: Interviewing skills
Time: 1 hour
Session 5: Final plenary
Time: 45 minutes
Final remarks and summing-up
Appendix 3: Logical flow chart
Human Rights and the role of the media
Issues and challenges
Analyzing gender sensitivity in the media
Forms and causes of VAW
Issues around the cultural debate and strategies for tackling it
Wrap up Day One
Outline Day Two
Recap of Day One
Legal mechanisms that deal with VAW
Introducing the concept of due diligence and applying it
Practical exercise 1 – applying the tools we have learned
Practical exercise 2 – interviewing skills using gender sensitivity
Appendix 4: Recommendations for gender-sensitive reporting4
Questions to ask:
Who are the sources of the reports? Do they include women?
From whose point of view is the news reported?
Are stereotypes used in the news report?
Is the language objective?
Do the graphics used match the content? Are women being exploited/presented as images of sexual fantasy?
Use neutral terms that can include both sexes, e.g. “colleagues”, “delegates”, “chairperson”.
Avoid using feminine suffixes and phrases that make assumptions, i.e. spokeswoman, saleswoman, etc. (see alternatives below).
Describe a woman as her own person and not in terms of her relationship with someone else.
Commonly used phrases and suffixes
Alternative phrases and suffixes
People, humanity, human kind
Staff, labour, workforce, employees, human resources
Human kinship, solidarity
Firefighter, fire crew (plural)
Appendix 5: PowerPoint presentation – Portayal of women in the media
This presentation is available electronically from the HRE database. Please contact the HRE team (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the International Secretariat for advice on access. Although it can be used in its current format, we recommend that facilitators adapt it or devise their own to meet local needs and to suit personal styles of presentation.
Appendix 6: Powerpoint presentation – Forms and contexts of VAW
This presentation is available electronically from the HRE database. Please contact the HRE team (email@example.com) at the International Secretariat for advice on access. Although it can be used in its current format, we recommend that facilitators adapt it or devise their own to meet local needs and to suit personal styles of presentation.
Appendix 7: Case studies
María Teresa Macias / USA
“If I die, I want you to tell the world what happened to me. I don’t want other women to suffer as I have suffered. I want them to be listened to.”
María Teresa Macias (Teresa) had good reason to fear that her husband would kill her.
In the 18 months before her death, Teresa appealed to the police more than 20 times.
Her husband beat and sexually assaulted her and their three children. After Teresa fled the family home, he stalked her constantly, terrorizing her and making repeated death threats. On 15 April 1996 he shot and killed her, then shot her mother twice before turning the gun on himself.
Not once in the preceding months was Teresa’s husband arrested for flouting court orders that prohibited him from going near her or contacting her. Appeals to the police for assistance were ignored, rarely even documented, and no follow-up action was taken. Women’s rights groups investigated the case, organized legal assistance and support for Teresa’s family, and launched a national campaign.
Only after six years of legal proceedings was the Sheriff’s Department in Sonoma County, California, held to account for its failure to protect María Teresa Macias.
Teresa’s family initiated a federal civil rights lawsuit, contending that she had been denied her constitutional rights by being denied equal protection under the law because she was a woman, a victim of violence in the family and a member of an ethnic minority. In July 2000 the US Court of Appeals found that Teresa’s constitutional rights to benefit from police protection in a non-discriminatory manner had been denied, reversing an earlier ruling dismissing the case. In June 2002 the Sheriff’s Department paid Teresa’s family one million US dollars in compensation.
The precedent-setting court ruling and award were powerful reminders to law enforcement agencies throughout the USA of their legal obligation to protect women from violence. The ruling underlined the authorities’ obligations to take effective steps to prevent and punish violence against women, whoever the perpetrator.
Yet such court rulings are not enough. According to the latest government figures, there were almost 700,000 incidents of domestic violence in the USA in 2001. Around a third of women murdered each year are killed by a current or former partner. In spite of increases in national budgets and initiatives to combat violence against women – such as “family justice” centres that will integrate support services for victims of violence in the family – women like Teresa continue to suffer because they are not given the protection they need.
Source: Stop violence against women: USA –‘If I die, I want you to tell the world what happened to me’(AI Index: AMR 51/001/2004)
Murdered for speaking out – persecution of women human rights defenders Esperanza Amaris Miranda / Colombia
Miranda was reportedly abducted from her home by three armed men on
16 October 2003. The men – apparently members of army-backed
paramilitary forces – forced her into a taxi and began
to drive away. When her 21-year-old daughter clung on to the door of the moving car, the men got out and kicked her to the ground. A few minutes later, Esperanza’s body was abandoned in the road. She had been shot dead.
Esperanza was 40 years old and supported her two children by selling lottery tickets in the city of Barrancabermeja, Colombia. She was also a member of the Popular Women’s Organization (OFP), which has campaigned for women’s rights for more than 30 years.
In Colombia women who speak out for their rights face intimidation, violence and even death from armed groups on both sides of the country’s long-running internal conflict. Government security forces and their paramilitary allies have labelled women community leaders, activists and human rights defenders as guerrilla collaborators and legitimate targets in the counter-insurgency war. Armed opposition groups have killed women they accuse of siding with their enemies. Rape, mutilation and abuse of women and girls have been used as weapons of war to generate fear and to silence campaigns for social, economic and political rights.
Esperanza’s abductors reportedly said they were from the Central Bolivar Bloc, a paramilitary group that had previously threatened her. She had reported the threats to the Regional Prosecutor. Yet the police took no effective action to safeguard her and, after her abduction, did not answer OFP’s phone calls. More than 90 murders and over 50 “disappearances” in Barrancabermeja in 2003 testify to the impunity enjoyed by the paramilitaries and guerrilla groups.
Esperanza’s case is only one of many. Leonora Castaño, president of a group promoting women’s land and human rights, the National Association of Peasant Farmer, Black and Indigenous Women of Colombia (ANMUCIC), has been the target of numerous death threats. Blanca Nubia Díaz, an ANMUCIC supporter, was forced to flee her home after her 16-year-old daughter was killed by paramilitaries in May 2001. In September 2003 an anonymous letter to ANMUCICsaid that her son had been taken captive.
The Colombian government has failed not only to guarantee the safety of human rights defenders, many of them women, but also to combat or dismantle paramilitary groups. Ignoring repeated recommendations by the international community, the government is now proposing legislation that may allow human rights abusers to elude justice.
Source: Stop violence against women: Murdered for speaking out – persecution of women human rights defenders in Colombia (AI Index: AMR 23/001/2004)
Sexual violence by the security forces
“Mutia” / Indonesia
Mutia (not her real name) wept as she told Amnesty International how she was stripped and raped by six soldiers in military detention in 2003. She described being punched and beaten with a wooden plank. On one occasion, she was forced to stand in a tank of cold water up to her neck for nine hours, she said. Her pleas to see her three young children were met with threats that they would be killed. Relatives were not told that she had been detained or where she was being held, and were only able to find out where she was a month later. Mutia was subsequently released and fled to Malaysia.
Her family is alleged to have close links with an armed opposition group, a charge she denies. In the last 10 years, her husband and four brothers have been shot dead by the military. Mutia believes that they were targeted because of her father’s wealth and his refusal to pay bribes to the armed forces.
Women have been among the thousands who have been unlawfully killed, tortured or arbitrarily detained by the security forces during their 28-year conflict with the armed pro-independence group, the Free Aceh Movement, in the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.
Many women have been made destitute by the years of armed conflict in the province. Thousands of men have been unlawfully killed, have “disappeared” or have fled the region, leaving wives and other women relatives to face severe economic hardship as family breadwinners and heads of households.
There is also a long-established pattern of rape and other crimes of sexual violence against women by the security forces in the villages of the region. During the current military operations, which began in May 2003, such abuses have continued to be reported. In August 2003 soldiers allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl in a village in North Aceh. Local military and civilian authorities reportedly refused to consider a report of the assault made by villagers. Women have been detained, effectively as hostages, in place of male relatives from the Free Aceh Movement who have avoided arrest. According to reports, women have been forced to strip naked for members of the security forces to check their breasts for tattoos said to indicate membership of the group.
During the current military operations, a few allegations of crimes of sexual violence by the military have been investigated. Following prosecutions before military tribunals, the longest sentence handed down so far has been three and a half years for rape. However, a growing body of opinion opposes the use of military courts to try members of the armed forces for offences under international law, because they lack or appear to lack independence and impartiality in such cases. Despite repeated allegations of crimes of violence against women by the security forces during previous military operations, only one case is known to have been investigated, and no one is known to have been brought to justice.
Source: Stop violence against women: Indonesia – sexual violence by the security forces(AI Index: ASA 21/047/2004)
Rape during conflict – one woman’s struggle for justice
Kavira Muraulo / Democratic Republic of the Congo
A soldier broke into Kavira Muraulu’s home late one night and raped her. The next day she went to lodge a complaint about him – he and his friends came back and beat her. Undaunted, she went on complaining. So they bayoneted her in the stomach.
Kavira is a farmer in her fifties who lives near a military camp in Mangangu, near the town of Beni, North-Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this area, conflict between different armed forces has been raging for more than five years and many woman and girls have been raped, mutilated and killed with complete impunity.
The man who raped Kavira on 16 May 2003 was a soldier from the military camp. When she complained to his military commander, he ordered the soldier to pay her three US dollars in compensation, but took no action when the order was ignored. She took her complaint to the local district governor, who issued reassurances and told her to go home, but made no arrangements to ensure her safety.
The rapist and other soldiers then seized her in her fields, tied her up and beat her, knocking out a tooth and injuring her jaw. They only stopped when another woman threatened them with a gun. Kavira was later taken back to the governor’s office where he tried, but failed, to persuade her to retract her accusation. The soldiers then attacked her again, this time bayoneting her in the stomach.
Despite continued official pressure and the risk to her life, Kavira is determined to obtain justice and compensation.
All the forces involved in the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have used mass rape and other forms of sexual violence to terrorize and subdue civilian communities. In South-Kivu province the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that some 5,000 women had been raped between October 2002 and February 2003, an average of 40 a day.
In many cases, rape victims have also been deliberately injured or killed. Thousands of women and girls have been abducted or forced by desperate poverty to become sexual slaves or frontline fighters. The victims’ trauma is compounded by the high risk of HIV infection. The medical and psychological treatment they need is almost completely absent throughout the country.
The rapes and other crimes of sexual violence and killings that are being committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, yet virtually none of those responsible have been brought to justice.
Source: Stop violence against women: Democratic Republic of the Congo – one woman’s struggle for justice (AI Index: AFR 62/001/2004)
‘I don’t want to die’ – Domestic violence in Iraq
“Fatima” / Iraq
“He was very angry and he took his Kalashnikov… The neighbours said: ‘Leave her alone’… But then he didn’t stop, he shot my legs, I could not feel them, they were numb, the sun was setting, I was looking at the sky, I said to the men: ‘I don’t want to die.’ They took me to the hospital.”
Nineteen-year-old Fatima (not her real name) was shot in the legs by her husband in front of his family and their neighbours on 21 May 2003. Married at the age of 12, she was treated as a servant and regularly beaten in her husband’s family home. She tried to run away to her own family, but her husband came and said she should go back. When she refused he became very angry and took a piece of wood to beat her. It broke, so he grew even angrier and took his gun and shot her.
Despite the number of eyewitnesses and the seriousness of the crime, neither the family nor the hospital reported the case to the police and her husband was not arrested. The family said it was a matter to be solved within the tribe. Fatima returned to her father’s house after she left hospital. Her husband expressed regret and offered her compensation, seeking reconciliation with her through the mediation of elders of her tribe. However, she is refusing to return to him, despite the pressures.
Iraqi women have endured severe hardship for decades: loss of male relatives in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war; mass expulsions to Iran of entire families declared by the authorities to be of “Iranian descent”; government repression, including the chemical weapons attack on Kurds in Halabja in 1988; the 1991 Gulf war and the subsequent suppression of the Shi’a uprising; 13 years of UN sanctions from 1990 to 2003; and the US-led military action in 2003. Under the government of Saddam Hussein, women were arbitrarily arrested, tortured, “disappeared” and executed by the authorities on political grounds. In 2000, scores of women accused of prostitution were said to have been beheaded in public by a paramilitary group.
The political and security vacuum following the US-led invasion and occupation in 2003 has led to widespread looting and gun crime. Daily newspaper reports of kidnappings and rape have led many women to give up work or study and they are effectively confined in their homes. An Iraqi women’s rights organization, the League of Iraqi Women, reported that more than 400 women had been “kidnapped, raped and occasionally sold” between the end of the war in April and August 2003.
Even in their homes, Iraqi women may not be safe. The breakdown in law and order after the fall of Baghdad, combined with the disbanding of the police force by the occupying powers and the proliferation of firearms, has contributed to a rise in “honour killings” and domestic violence. These crimes are often ignored by the police, as in Fatima’s case. Some Islamist leaders have exploited the current instability in Iraq to press for their own agendas, which would entail imposing restrictions on women’s freedom of expression and on women’s freedom of movement.
Source: Stop violence against women: ‘I don’t want to die’ – Domestic violence in Iraq(AI Index: MDE 14/001/2004)
Beyond the protection of the law – women murdered after appeals for protection are ignored
Alicia Arístregui / Spain
Alicia Arístregui was beaten and abused by her husband throughout the 14 years of their marriage. He attacked her psychologically as well as physically. After she left him, he continued to threaten her and repeatedly defied a court order banning him from coming near her. She and her family appealed to the police and courts, asking for protection, but their appeals were ignored.
Her husband caught up with her one day four months after she had left him. She had just taken her children to the school bus stop. He stabbed her to death.
Alicia left her husband in January 2002 and found shelter in a government refuge. When applying for a court order banning him from contacting her, she revealed that she had needed counselling because of his abuse. She stated that he repeatedly threatened her and her family to make her give him custody of the children and the family house, and she believed he would carry out his threats.
Alicia and her brothers frequently told a court judge that her husband had breached the court’s restraining order. These reports were not passed on to the municipal police in the town where Alicia lived. The family’s repeated requests for protection were ignored by the authorities. In July 2003 Spain’s senior judicial body (the General Council of the Judiciary) supported the judge’s conduct, stating that the judiciary was not responsible for ensuring coordination between different police bodies.
Since her death, one of Alicia’s brothers has founded an organization to fight for police protection for victims of gender-based violence. In many instances, the courts have failed to take seriously women’s complaints of death threats and assaults by their partners, or to enforce restraint orders against the perpetrators, sometimes with fatal results. In addition, there is little state funding for emergency centres, refuges and sheltered apartments, which are unevenly distributed across the country, based primarily on the ability of non-governmental organizations to open and operate them.
The Supreme Court in a ruling in May 2003 refused to accept the state’s responsibility for protecting women from domestic violence. The Court overturned a compensation award by a lower court to the family of Mar Herrero, a woman murdered by her former partner after months of threats and harassment which she had reported to the authorities. The Court ruled that state responsibility applied only if the crime was committed by agents of the state or with their knowledge or acquiescence.
Mar Herrero was killed in October 1999 by a man convicted of the attempted murder of a previous partner. He had been conditionally released seven months earlier, against the advice of the prison psychologist. Seven days before he killed her, a request by the Attorney General’s office for his conditional release to be reversed was turned down.
Source: Stop violence against women: Spain – beyond the protection of the law (AI Index: EUR 41/001/2004)
Breaking the cycle of violence
“Juliette” / Belgium
Juliette (not her real name) did not dare tell her friends and family that her partner was hitting her. “You feel dirty…you defend him, you feel sorry for him… I feared being rejected and felt ashamed, so I became isolated from everyone around me. I told my doctor that I’d been attacked in the street.
“We met in October 2000. He was very jealous and hassled me endlessly on the telephone and when we were together to know where I was, who I was with, etc… In March 2001 the physical violence started. At the end of November, it was terrible, he had hit me again, I was very bad… I left my place and drove towards the police station, with him following me.”
Juliette was referred to a shelter in Brussels, where she made a formal complaint against her partner. About two months later, he came to her home asking for a reconciliation and she called the police again. Despite the seriousness of her complaints, Juliette is not aware of any action by the authorities, other than one letter of inquiry from the prosecuting authorities. “To begin with, I was reluctant to bring a complaint, because I was frightened of retaliation,” Juliette says. “But now I wonder what’s going on. I’ve complained twice; the police have a file, is there going to be a trial or judgment, and when?”
Despite a number of legislative initiatives undertaken since 1997 to address violence against women in Belgium, it appears that the majority of women’s formal complaints of domestic violence do not result in prosecutions. As yet the police can provide no precise statistics on formal complaints, having only recently begun recording domestic violence separately from other assaults. However, a 1998 study found that more than 50 per cent of women had experienced violence within the family, nearly 30 per cent of them at the hands of their partner.
Juliette eventually found sympathy and support from her doctor and at work. “But in general, when people see a woman with a bruise on her face, straight away they say, ‘You’ve been hit by your bloke’, for a laugh. I think that’s unacceptable. There should be ‘zero tolerance’ of such so-called jokes.”
The cruelty experienced by Juliette was part of a cycle of violence. “My partner and attacker suffered severe violence when he was small. It makes him very anxious… His mother too was beaten by her father and his sister’s husband hits her.”
Women’s rights organizations in Belgium are pressing for specialist professional support services for all victims of domestic violence; suitable treatment and therapy for abusers to prevent reoffending; and support and monitoring of children in families where violence against women occurs, who are often damaged by their experience and may copy what they have seen in later life.
Source: Stop violence against women: Belgium – breaking the cycle of violence(AI Index: EUR 14/001/2004)
Time to end abuse in the home
Marita / Philippines
Marita’s husband hit her when she tried to refuse sex. He once demanded sex while holding a knife to her throat. After 15 years of marriage and nine children, 34-year-old Marita feared further pregnancies.
Her husband was jealous when she came home late, after long hours of selling food to earn a meagre living as the family’s sole provider. When he could not find regular work, he beat her even more. He burned her arms with cigarettes. She has lost almost all her teeth from constant assaults.
When he started to beat the children too, Marita left her husband, taking them with her. She was fearful that her eldest son might begin to fight back. So far, she has resisted all her husband’s efforts, through threats and promises, to persuade her to return.
Strict moral standards are applied to women in the Philippines. They are expected to be docile and subservient within the family and intimate relationships. The widely held beliefs in the sanctity of marriage make it very difficult for women to leave abusive relationships. Studies show that women in abusive situations endure repeated and escalating violence for an average of 10 years before seeking assistance.
Support from a women’s organization helped Marita find the courage to leave her husband. Hers is just one example of how a dynamic and committed network of human rights and women’s rights organizations is making a difference in the Philippines, by helping survivors of violence in the family, lobbying for reform of legislation and government support agencies, and organizing awareness-raising, education and training aimed at women’s empowerment.
Women from several women’s groups in Manila, the Philippines, join forces in November 2002 to demand justice for victims of domestic violence ahead of a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Maria Teresa Carlson. A former actress who had sought help after suffering years of domestic violence, she apparently committed suicide by jumping from the 23rd floor of her apartment block.
Lobbying by women’s groups helped to bring about new legislation on sexual violence in 1997. Previously, rape was described as a “crime against chastity” rather than a violent crime against the person. A woman who was raped had to prove that she did not willingly surrender her virginity. In a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2000, a woman sentenced to death for killing her husband had the sentence commuted and her case reopened. However, there is currently no law against domestic violence, although one is pending, funds for gender-based projects are inadequate, and existing laws designed to protect women are not properly implemented.
Despite the hard work of women’s organizations and a Constitution that asserts the equality of men and women, domestic violence is endemic in the Philippines and women like Marita continue to suffer.
Source: Stop violence against women: Philippines – time to end abuse in the home(AI Index: ASA 35/001/2004)
Appendix 8: Notes on women’s human rights
“Women’s rights are human rights”, this phrase is a proclamation of justice and human dignity for women, because whenever a woman is treated as inferior to a man she is also being treated as somehow less human than a man. Human rights violations against women are so systematic and so pervasive that they are regarded by many people as natural. In countries around the world, women are systematically discriminated against in many areas of social, political, legal and cultural life: they enjoy fewer employment rights; they have fewer legal rights; they are denied the right to own property; they earn less money than men for doing the same job; they receive less attention in schools; they are subject to violence by the state and by non-state actors, in their communities and in their homes.
What do we mean by women’s human rights?
Acts of violence or discrimination against women are human rights violations. Examples range from the assault of women by their husbands or partners, the rape of women prisoners by police, unequal pay for women compared to male counterparts, to denying girls the same education, health care, or even food as their brothers. But these violations are too often viewed as women’s rights issues and therefore less important or as private matters and of no concern to the authorities.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) gives the same rights to all women and men, all girls and boys by virtue of their humanity and regardless of any role or relationship they may have, whether as mothers, daughters, fathers, employers or whatever. So when violations against women or girls are not recognized as human rights abuses, women are collectively diminished as human beings and denied part of their humanity.
Human rights are not a gift granted at the pleasure of governments, nor can they be withheld by governments, or applied to some people and not to others. When governments act like this and deny human rights to a group of people in society they must be held accountable. But governments are not the only ones responsible for human rights abuses against women: corporations and private individuals should also be held accountable. Too often cultural relativism in the form of social and cultural tradition is used as an excuse to deny the human rights of women. An example is the right to freedom of religion or the right to protection of the family, which can be used as an attempt to justify the oppression of women. However the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is very clear in stating that:
State parties shall take appropriate measures:
(a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women. (Article 5)
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, proclaimed by the UN, states in Article 4 that:
States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination.
According to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, “…in the next century the problems posed by cultural relativism, and the implications for women’s rights, will be one of the most important issues in the field of international human rights.” (UN Doc. E/CN.4/2002 /83, Para 1)
The concept of due diligence by governments is the legal principle by which governments are held accountable for crimes committed by non-state actors. (See Appendix 10.)
The history of women’s rights as human rights
The UDHR is the principal document for people to understand their human rights, but additional international and regional documents that relate to specific concerns have been established over the last 50 years.
There have been broadly speaking three phases in the development of women’s human rights. The first phase was based on ensuring that women had equal political rights such as the right to vote and the right to hold public office. This first generation of rights are civil and political rights, enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which can be claimed by the individual against governments. These rights protect individuals from arbitrary interference by the state and are sometimes described as negative in that they require the state to abstain from certain acts such as torture or deprivation of life or freedom. These rights demand restraint from the state and that the state respects the autonomy of the individual but they are also very paternalistic and tended not to question and, at times, to reinforce stereotypes of women. An International Labour Organization (ILO) treaty during this period stated that women shouldn’t work at night, presumably because this would be seen as clashing with their family duties. The main effect of this was to limit women’s earning opportunities.
The second phase in the development of women’s human rights occurred between 1960 and 1980, and focused on equality and discrimination. This phase culminated in the setting up of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1979, which deals with the state’s obligation to eliminate policies that discriminate against women and then sets out different areas of discrimination such as political and public life, employment, health care, financial credit, the law etc. This is a binding treaty, which means that states that have signed up to it must abide by it. They must also make sure that people in their territories respect these obligations too (due diligence). However, for a long time women’s rights were marginalized from the UN system and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women operated in isolation from other UN treaty bodies, which did not integrate the rights of women, so for example the Committee against Torture made no mention of acts of torture that were gender-specific. Things began to change during the late 1980s; there was an increasing move towards interpreting gender-specific abuses and violations within the remit of existing international conventions.
The third phase in the development of women’s rights as human rights began in the early 1990s. Here we see the attempt to integrate in a much more systematic manner the issue of women’s human rights with UN human rights treaties. (See opposite.)
Women's rights and international law
Sustained campaigning by women’s rights activists and others over the past decades has brought significant advances in international law and the commitment of the international community to scrutinize and combat violations of women’s rights.
For more information read It’s in our hands: Stop violence against women(AI Index: ACT 77/001/2004), Chapter 6, and Making rights a reality: The duty of states to address violence against women (AI Index: ACT 77/049/2004), Chapter 3.
Definitions of violence against women
UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993)
For the purposes of this Declaration, the term “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995)
Violence against Women Diagnosis
113. The term “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Accordingly, violence against women encompasses but is not limited to the following:
a. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non- spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;
b. Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
c. Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.
114. Other acts of violence against women include violation of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict, in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy.
115. Acts of violence against women also include forced sterilization and forced abortion, coercive /forced use of contraceptives, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection.
Outcomes (International law)
Political and civil status
Equality and discrimination
Women’s human rights and focus on violence against women
UN Economic and Social Council recognized violence in the family as “a grave violation of the rights of women” (1986)
Nairobi World Conference, and especially the parallel non-governmental forum, raised violence against women as a serious international concern. The conference adopted forward-looking strategies linking the promotion and maintenance of peace to the eradication of violence against women in both the public and private spheres
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 19 (1992)
“Women’s rights are human rights” – Vienna 1993
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993)
Special Rapporteur on violence against women appointed (1994)
Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing (1994)
Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court
Optional Protocol to CEDAW (2000)
Appendix 9: PowerPoint presentation – Due diligence
This presentation is available electronically from the HRE database. Please contact the HRE team (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the International Secretariat for advice on access. Although it can be used in its current format, we recommend that facilitators adapt it or devise their own to meet local needs and to suit personal styles of presentation.
Appendix 10: What is due diligence?
“States may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence, and for providing compensation.”General Recommendation 19, Committe on the Elimination of Discrimantion against Women.
Governments have a responsibility to:
Respect:to refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the right in question.
Protect:prevent harm to individuals known to be at specific and immediate risk; and prevent harm in a more general way at an earlier stage for all potential victims.
Fulfil and promote rights so they are respected by all:
Adopt appropriate legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial, promotional and other measures towards the full realization of the right in question.
Take measures to educate all citizens about rights through a variety of means, including through education at school, public information broadcasting, and information to service users.
Due diligence is the threshold of action and effort which a state must demonstrate to fulfil its responsibility to protect individuals from abuses of their rights:
In cases where the perpetrator as well as the victim is not an agent of the state. This includes domestic violence.
When they know, or ought to know, about abuses of human rights, and fail to take appropriate steps to prevent them.
(The obligation of states to bring to justice state agents who commit violations of human rights is not negotiable and is not included within the standard of due diligence.)
Under international law governments must exercise due diligence to secure women’s rights to: equality; life; liberty and security; and freedom from discrimination or torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. They must have policies and plans to fulfil these rights and to provide redress and reparations to those whose rights have been violated.
National governments are responsible for taking action to prevent the abuse of women’s human rights in the first place, as well as for bringing perpetrators to justice after the event. This means that governments are responsible for educational, legal and practical measures to reduce the incidence of violence: for example, by improving street lighting in an area where women have been raped.
Some countries wrongly interpret international human rights law as meaning that their responsibility is limited to making sure that people acting on their behalf (state actors) comply with human rights law. In fact, they are required to prevent, investigate and punish abuses by both state and non-state actors.
Non-state actors – Private individuals acting independently from any government organization or position of authority. (This includes economic actors such as businesses).
State actors – Individuals acting on behalf of the state. (This includes government officials, police, judges, prison guards, security forces, and staff at public hospitals or in educational institutions.)
State accountability – The state’s responsibility for acts of VAW, whether committed by a state or non-state actor. This includes a wide range of actors, including parallel legal authorities, local, regional and municipal authorities, and armed groups.
The family – The term “family” has often been understood as meaning the “nuclear family”, but there are many different forms of family, such as extended families, single parent families and families with parents of the same sex. An inclusive approach would treat the family as the site of intimate personal relationships, rather than as an institution defined by the state.
Violence against women – Amnesty International bases its work on the definition in the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women: “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Gender-based violence against women was defined in General Recommendation 19 of the Committe on the Elimination of Discrimantion against Women as violence “directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”. In other words, not all acts which harm a woman are gender-based and not all victims of gender-based violence are female. Some men are victims of gender-based violence, for example, gay men who are harassed, beaten and killed because they do not conform to socially approved views of masculinity.
Progressive interpretations of the definition found in the UN Declaration affirm that acts of omission – such as neglect or deprivation – can constitute violence against women. More recent international legal instruments broaden the definition, in particular to include structural violence – that is, harm resulting from the impact of the organization of the economy on women’s lives.
Violence against women includes, but is not limited, to:
Violence in the family. This includes battering by intimate partners, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape and female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women. Abuse of domestic workers – including involuntary confinement, physical brutality, slavery-like conditions and sexual assault – can also be considered in this category.
Violence against women in the community. This includes rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and assault at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere. Trafficking, forced prostitution and forced labour fall into this category, which also covers rape and other abuses by armed groups.
Gender-based violence perpetrated or condoned by the state,or by “state actors” – police, prison guards, soldiers, border guards, immigration officials and so on. This includes, for example, rape by government forces during armed conflict, forced sterilization, torture in custody and violence by officials against refugee women.
In any of these categories, violence may be physical, psychological, or sexual. It may be manifested through deprivation or neglect as opposed to overt acts of violence or harassment. Physical violence by an intimate partner is often accompanied by sexual violence, deprivation, isolation and neglect, as well as by psychological abuse.
For more information, read Making Rights a Reality: The duty of states to address violence against women(AI Index: ACT 77/049/2004), Chapter 4.
Appendix 11: No excuses left – Confront sexual violence
Original press release from the Executive Committee of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), 4 October 2004
Circumstances surrounding the appalling murder of 16-year-old schoolgirl Abigail Gittens starkly reveal how impervious the society is with respect to violence against girls and women. We have heard excuses to justify and condone failure to eradicate violence against women relating to resources and lack of expertise; excuses related to religion and culture; excuses related to poverty. Surely there are no excuses left. A major campaign is required involving government, religious and civic organisations to ensure every Guyanese knows that violence against girls and women is unacceptable and perpetrators will be held accountable.
The basic facts of this case speak volumes about the state of child protection in Guyana. A sixteen-year-old girl engaged in a stormy “relationship” with a 28-year-old man for the better part of two years. During that time the man seduced her away for three months. Due to the strenuous efforts of her mother, Abigail was forced to return home and placed on probation. The efforts of the mother eventually succeeded in that Abigail no longer wanted to relate to the man. He then began to stalk her. Two weeks ago he broke into her home at night, physically assaulted her while she slept, then stabbed both her and her mother the next day while they were returning from lodging a complaint at the police station about the incident. As a result of the stabbing the teenager spent three days in hospital. Finally last week as she returned home in the evening, he ran her over with a motor-cycle and stabbed her continuously. As a result of this vicious assault she died.
Newspaper accounts claim the police at Ruimveldt failed to take a statement from the girl while in hospital and made little effort to find the man despite evidence of stalking, breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon and causing grievous bodily harm. While we demand a full explanation from the police over their failure to treat the matter seriously, it has to be recognized that the police reflect attitudes and values permeating the society. It is absurd that a 26-year-old man can become sexually involved with a 14-year old girl, without breaking the law. This is sexual exploitation, not a “relationship”, and is only possible because of unacceptable levels of complacency fuelled from two major sources: our major religious communities and the commodifying of young women and girls in the widespread commercialization of sex.
Islam and Christianity, along with Judaism, all believe in the equality of persons. However, this belief is limited with respect to four categories of persons: children, slaves, unbelievers and women. Children grow out of childhood, manumission is available to slaves, unbelievers can convert to the “true” faith, but the status of women is irredeemable. While all three major religions have grappled to improve the status of women, they remain dominated by males and male traditions. For different reasons the description is equally accurate with regard to Hinduism. Whether for this or other reasons, the fact remains that male leadership of religious communities is not as publicly disturbed by violence against women as it needs to be.
On the broader secular front, adult male society has to confront its widespread ambivalence to sexual commodification of women. This is reflected in explicit films on television, suggestive advertising for fetes, targeting young women in sexually-charged liquor advertising and salacious reporting of incidents involving sex in some sections of the media. Adult males are in denial over the connections between unfettered sexual license and sex-related violence.
One needs look no farther than the courts to verify disdain for sexual violence by male society. Victims of sexual violence who have the courage to take their assaults to court have to contend with sniggering lawyers lounging at the Bar Table, a legal culture which gives every benefit of doubt and delay to the accused, and a general indifference to what victims are experiencing. They have to shout and repeat intimate details because of noise levels in the court, while being ordered to face this way and that to suit the whim of prosecutors and defence lawyers. It is systematically and intentionally humiliating, rarely achieving more than to revive the trauma and shock of the original assault. A good place to start acknowledging problems of victims would be to improve Court conditions during the unprecedented number of sexual assault cases coming up in the High Court session beginning today (41 rapes, 20 carnal knowledge and indecent assaults, 6 incest and 9 buggery cases).
Since June ’04 a wide range of civic organizations have met at the Guyana Human Rights Centre and reviewed the laws regarding the “age of consent”. A strong recommendation emerged that the age be raised to 18 years, a position which has generated widespread support from across the country. The principle behind the age of consent is to protect children from exploitation by adults until they are at an age to negotiate sexual connections freely and maturely. The majority of girl children want the protection offered by a high age of consent, providing that this is not confused with criminalizing consenting sexual activity between young people of the same age.
In conformity with Domestic Violence legislation and the draft law on Trafficking, and in the spirit of Guyana’s international human rights commitments, the GHRA is calling for the age of consent in the Criminal (Offences) Act Ch.8:01 to be raised to the age of 18 years. Accompanying amendments should ensure persons below 18 years and within three years of age of each other would not be subject to criminal liability. In particular, the GHRA is calling on religious bodies to review traditional thinking on age of consent centred as it was on biological development, in order to recognize the need to protect the rights and opportunities young females should enjoy in the full and integral development of their personalities, equal with that of males.
Appendix 12: Interviewing survivors and witnesses of human rights violations
I. Psychological, social and political constraints
In preparing and later assessing the survivor’s testimony, you should keep in mind the following:
1. Survivors may appear unreliable:Survivors may hold back elements of their violations to avoid painful recall, embarrassment, shame. They may experience extraordinary difficulties in recalling episodes of their experiences, confuse the location or timing of various events or add details as they come to mind and they feel more trusting of the interviewer. This may, unfairly, give the impression of unreliability, if not dishonesty.
2. Survivors and witnesses may exaggerate:They may put themselves under considerable pressure to ensure that their story makes an impression and is believed. This does not mean that the story is untrue but it may mean that there are elements of exaggeration which need to be filtered out.
3. There may be a political agenda:Opponents of the government may have a vested interest in maximizing the number and severity of allegations of human rights violations, since this could help demonstrate the moral bankruptcy of the government.
4. Sexual torture is one of the most difficult allegations which can be made because of the social, cultural, moral, and political environment. In almost all societies, a woman, man or child coming forward with allegations of rape, sexual violence or sexual humiliation, has a great deal to “lose” and is likely to face extraordinary pressures and ostracism from the closest members of her/his family and the society at large.
II. Preparing for the interview(s)
5. Keep in mind that violations may have a cultural and historical meaning: Along with the internationally accepted definitions of human rights violations, there is another meaning articulated through the history and culture of the communities surveyed. (For instance, torture may be seen as part of someone’s destiny; ill-treatment in custody as something so common that it is not looked upon as a violation.) From the interviewer’s perspective, this means addressing survivors and witnesses in ways that are meaningful to them, especially keeping in mind that a linguistic equivalent is not necessarily a conceptual equivalent. Hence the importance of showing questions or questionnaires beforehand to local activists for instance.
6. Be aware and knowledgeable about the social and cultural attitudes attached to rape and sex in the country, region or community the survivors belong to, as well as in your own:they impact upon the survivors’ reluctance to talk about it, their sense of guilt, verbalization of what happened, mental health and recovery. They also impact upon your approach to the interview, such as: nervous and uncomfortable feelings and body language, inability to maintain eye contact, sense of guilt and shame, etc, all of which may be communicated to the survivors.
Are there any areas that you feel are too frightening, embarrassing and painful to discuss? Try to be in touch with your own fears and discuss them with your colleagues.
7. Be aware that it may be difficult for you to accept the truth of allegations of extraordinary cruelty or bizarre behaviour and the story or parts of it may be disbelieved because of an “incredibility” factor.
8. Find out about local structures (NGOs, hospitals, lawyers, etc.) which may provide assistance to survivors of torture, including rape and other types of violations. At the end of the interview, you may want to refer the survivors to these organizations.
9. Write down a checklist of the data and facts necessary to assess the allegations:
A purposeful inquiry is necessary to ensure that all required data have been collected or all necessary questions asked.
Beware,however: a rigid list of questions and a cross-examination approach to the interview will not establish the relationship of trust and cooperation of the interviewee necessary to obtain the information.
Show the checklist to local contacts who have worked on the issue or have dealt with similar cases to get their input: they will often be able to add questions, delete others that are not culturally appropriate, etc.
10. Pens and tape recorder:
Ensure that your pen is working, that you have enough papers to write down the testimonies. If using a tape recorder, ensure it is working and that you have sufficient number of blank tapes.
Always check that the interviewee has no objections to the use of a tape recorder.
III. Mitigating the interview
11. Be aware of the therapeutic value of the interview session and of your own therapeutic value:
Remember: You are not the perpetrator or the rapist. Do not feel like the abuser.
In the medium and long term, for survivors to tell their stories is not negative.
It is therapeutic for the survivors to be able to tell their stories in order to understand what has happened and to cope with it.
12. Short-term effects and debriefing:
In the short term, however, the interview reawakens
post-traumatic stress. After disclosure, the survivor
or witness frequently experiences traumatic reactions, including flashbacks, nightmares, etc.
Ideally, all interview sessions should be followed by a debriefing, the same or next day, where you ask the survivor or witness, alone or with other interviewees, what it felt like to be interviewed.
13. When debriefing is not possible...
Acknowledge the limits of your work to the interviewee (and to yourself).
In the course of the interview: demonstrate your caring and attentiveness by expressing your concerns: “I hear how sad, upset... you’re feeling.”
Support their strength; use any opportunity to reinforce their strengths. “It took real courage on your part to come here.” “It seems to me that you showed a lot of strength in that situation.”
Be aware of your own fears. Are you picking up the survivor’s fear of the topic and avoiding it too? This may reinforce her/his belief that it is too scary, embarrassing or painful to discuss.
At the end of the interview:
- If appropriate, you may refer them to local organizations that provide assistance to survivors of torture, including rape.
- Spend a couple of minutes finding out how near the surface the feelings and stress are: “Did the interview upset you?” “It seems I have upset you again...”
- If necessary, spell it out: “It feels as if you are going through it again. But you’re not.”
- Ask whether she/he has friends and family to go to. If there is somebody or several persons she/he feels close to, suggest she/he see them. (Beware, however, that family’s or friends’ knowledge of sexual torture may, sometimes, cause serious damage to the survivor.)
- Shake hands, hold the shoulders, etc (whatever is culturally appropriate).
Do not feel guilty or stressed: most survivors do have a support network, including friends, family members, fellow prisoners, etc. They will talk about the interview with them. (You may want to encourage them to do so, anyway.)
14. Take care of your own mental health as well:
Interviewing victims of human rights violations is a very stressful exercise. The above points may apply to you as well. Talk about the interviews with your colleagues on mission or at the International Secretariat; avail yourself of the services offered by AI, including the Occupational Health Nurse.
IV. At the beginning of the interview
15. Hold one-on-one interview in privacy:
Interview sessions should never resemble the violations situation.
Interviews should be conducted on a one-on-one basis unless: i) the survivor requires the presence of another person (friend, family member, NGO representative, etc.); ii) cultural attitudes mandate the presence of other persons; iii) you judge that it would be appropriate to suggest that others be present.
Avoid “collective” interviews whereby several women and/or men are interviewed at the same time.
Interviews should be conducted as privately as possible:
- Whenever possible, conduct the interview in a room or location separate or away from the presence of other persons;
- If you only have access to one room, office, or location, “create” a space with chairs, tables, etc. that will confer some type of privacy.
16. Establish trust:
Survivors and witnesses must be convinced that you want to hear their story; that you are prepared to spend some time listening and recording the details; that you are prepared to respond to their concern about confidentiality or other worries.
Begin the interview with greeting amenities appropriate to the culture of the interviewee.
Explain what AI is, what it can do and set out what its limitations are.
17. Respect confidentiality:
Explain clearly the purpose of the interview and inform her/him of the use that will be made of the information: the interviewee must understand the goals and the consequences, if any, of providing information; and the basis upon which she/he shares information.
Seek permission if you intend to use the name of the interviewee in the report.
18. Don’t give the victims and witnesses false assurances:
Acknowledge the limits of your work to the survivor (and yourself).
They may ask you repeatedly for assurance that everything is going to work out. You would be lying if you were to tell them something you have no way of knowing is true.
V. Advice while conducting the interview
19. Listening: Begin by asking an open-ended question and allow the survivor to tell you her/his account in her/his own way and time.
“Tell me what happened on...” or “Can you describe to me your experiences at the hands of...”
Do not interrupt her/him right away, even if some points appear unclear. Allow for the sequence of events to be told as she/he understood it.
You should ask her/him to speak more slowly if you are experiencing problems taking the notes.
20. Clarification: Go back over the survivor’s account through questions requesting shorter answers.
Go back over her/his account to get clarification on certain points, such as: time, date; places, identities; numbers, positions, ages: “You told me that soldiers came to your home. Do you remember how many there were?”Or “Do you remember the ranks of the soldiers? Their names? Nicknames?”Or “You mentioned that three persons were killed. Do you know their names?”Or “How do you know that your attackers belonged to the special branch of the police force?”Or “Did you see any weapons?... Which types?”
21. Door openers:
The survivor or witness may have difficulty in communicating. You can ask them how they feel, then encourage them to talk further: “Would you like to say more about it?” “Do you want to talk about it?”
Open-ended responses give encouragement and assistance in communicating. They may be either complete or incomplete statements or questions that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. For example: “You seem to have a number of concerns about ...” “Could you explain a little more about...”
Ask questions about health, possible physical pains: “How is your health?” “Do you have a headache?” You may then follow up with: “Why do you think you have these pains?”If she/he cannot make the connections, you may refer to other cases of persons suffering from similar pains.
You may ask a more general question such as: “What is it you disliked the most during your imprisonment?”
22. Probing (without intimidating):
Where the individual’s story appears unclear, contradictory or inconsistent with what is already known about the pattern, it is important to find out why. Doing this in a spirit of elucidation rather than criticism will help consolidate the relationship between the interviewer and the survivor.
Ask about unclear points in different ways and at different points in the interview.
Establish a clear chronology of the events using reference points or events, both personal and external. For instance, establish the time, day, or week of the incident by reference to the domestic schedule (e.g. going to work, court, or the market, fetching wood or water ); recurrent or unusual activities or events (going to church; elections; village ceremony; military victory, etc.): “Were you arrested long after going to the mosque?” Or “Did the attack on the village happen before Christmas?” Or “Were you kidnapped before the election of the President?”
If something still does not add up, say so: “This does not add up and I am a bit confused.”Ask more direct questions.
23. Be aware of the survivor’s or witness’ political position:
It may influence his/her testimonies; what is said and hidden. For instance, a witness or survivor may not be willing to volunteer information on violations committed by the community or political parties she/he is affiliated with. However, if the question is asked, the interviewee may provide the information. For instance, you may ask: “Before the imprisonment took place, do you know whether there had been problems between X and Y?”Or “Do you know what prompted the rebels’ attack on the villagers?”
24. Be sensitive to the survivor’s or witness’ social and cultural attitudes:
In some cases, these attitudes need to be exposed before she/he can speak about the violations: what has happened and how it was done. Explain that, according to international principles, certain actions constitute human rights violations. Do not invalidate the survivor’s feelings right away by saying: “It is wrong to see rape as...” Or “You are wrong to think this was not torture.”
25. How to listen and respond:
You need to stay calm and be able to communicate that calmness to the victim.
Listen with an open mind, empathy and without judgement or preconceived assumptions. Remember that you are talking to a person, not a stereotype.
Be aware of pitch, tone, pacing, voice inflections, (yours and hers).
Be wary of sentences containing the value-laden words of shouldand ought.
Try to maintain eye contact with the interviewee throughout the interview.
Nod the head while listening.
26. What to do if the interviewee talks non-stop:
If survivors are very upset, they sometimes will talk almost non-stop for quite a long time. Try not to interrupt too soon.
If they continue to say more than seems reasonable, you could ask them to take some deep breaths and sit quietly without talking for a while.
It may be appropriate to express your concerns: tell her/him how terribly upset she/he must be; how sad she/he must be feeling; etc.
V. Concluding the interview
27. Ask him/her whether she/he would like to add anything and whether she/he has any questions.
28. Check how you can use the information obtained.
29. If necessary or possible, refer the interviewee to other organizations in the country that deal with his/her problems.
30. Demonstrate support:
Highlight that there are people who care about what she/he has gone through and her/his security.
Emphasize the value of her/his actions.
Provide emotional support: take a little longer if the person is crying, hold the shoulders if appropriate, etc.
Appendix 13: Evaluation of the SVAW Workshop for journalists
1. What did you find most useful about the workshop?
2. What did you find least useful about the workshop?
3. Which aspect of the workshop could be improved and how?
4 What do you think about the methodologies used in the workshop?
5. What do you think about the facilitation of the workshop?
6, What do you think of the overall organization of this workshop?
7. What follow-up would you like to see from the workshop?
8. Any additional comments?
Appendix 14: Useful web links/contacts
For Session 1 of
Day Two, participants will need copies of various international
legal documents. Some
facilitators may find it useful to have copies of other documents on hand should questions arise.
Most of the major human rights agreements can be accessed from the website www.ohchr.org/english/law/ which includes links to:
Charter of the United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention against Torture
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW)
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Web links: English
Media studies – University of Genevawww.unige.ch/iued/wsis/DEVDOT/00613.HTM
World Association for Christian Communication (WAAC) Global Media Monitoring Reportwww.wacc.org.uk/
Research, resources and ideas for journalists - caters for all forms of media: www.journalism.org
Journalism directory: www.journalism.co.uk
Link for UK-based press agencies:www.journalismuk.co.uk and www.womenaction.org
Good information on CEDAW: www.pdhre.org
Group energizers www.aidsalliance.org/graphics/secretariat/publications/ene0502_energiser_guide_eng.pdf
Web links: French
Main French/African media website ww.panos-ao.org
Agence de presse sénégalaise (APS) www.aps.sn
Web links: Spanish
The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights www.cladem.org
Centre for Justice and International Law www.cejil.org
2 Article 4, UN DEVAW www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/A.RES.48.104.En?Opendocument
3 These energizers are selected (with minor adaptation) from an online publication by Aids Alliance. You can access it on their website in English, French and Spanish at: www.aidsalliance.org/graphics/secretariat/publications/ene0502_energiser_guide_eng.pdf
4 Adapted from Media Awareness Network www.media-awareness.ca
5 A methodology for Gender-Sensitive Research, Agnès Callamard, 1999, Amnesty International Publications and the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development