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Addressing rape as a human rights violation

The UN flag is depicted in the foreground with the flags of other countries behind it.

Globally one in three women are subjected to violence in her lifetime, and one in 10 girls have experienced “forced sexual acts”.

On 27 May 2020, Equality Now joined with the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women to co-host an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Rape as a grave and systematic human rights violation and gender-based violence against women.

We know that most women and girls do not report when they have been raped — whether due to stigma, victim-blaming, and sometimes the possibility of being killed for “honor” — or due to a lack of faith in the justice system. National justice systems around the world have largely failed survivors of sexual violence

International human rights law is the set of rules and minimum standards that governs relations between nations and sets standards for how a State treats its people. It guarantees equal rights, protections, and access to justice for women and girls. International human rights laws and standards are also critical when it comes to holding national governments to account when they fail. 

The purpose of the Expert Group Meeting (EGM) was to gather information on the evolution of the international human rights framework on rape, international standards with respect to its definition and prosecution, and the challenges and gaps in criminal legislation worldwide on rape and the implementation of that legislation. 

The meeting brought together eminent scholars, UN and regional mechanisms’ experts on women’s human rights, UN agencies, leading civil society organizations, practitioners, and other stakeholders, and was aimed at providing a comprehensive view of the topic and putting forward recommendations to UN member states and other actors.

The full report capturing the rich and nuanced discussion of the Expert Group Meeting, including recommendations to UN member states and other actors is coming soon. 

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The EGM will contribute to the Special Rapporteur’s report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2021, which will address States’ responsibility to criminalize and prosecute rape as a grave and systematic human rights violation and gender-based violence against women, in line with international human rights standards. 

The aim is to support and encourage a process of alignment of national criminal laws and systems and practice with international standards on rape and sexual violence in both peacetime and during conflict. The Special Rapporteur intends to provide recommendations to States and other stakeholders on key international human rights standards that should be integrated into national criminal justice responses in order to provide access to justice and support for victims of rape; to break the cycle of impunity; and to prosecute perpetrators, ensuring that they are not protected by hidden domestic norms that are still part of criminal law or criminal procedure.

Equality Now remains committed to working together to demand strong consent-based laws that will deter rapists and that recognize women’s and girls’ right to bodily integrity and sexual autonomy; and access to justice for survivors of sexual violence, at every level.

Read more about Equality Now’s work to end sexual violence around the world.

Read Equality Now’s other reports on rape laws:

The World’s Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic (2017)

Roadblocks To Justice: How The Law Is Failing Survivors Of Sexual Violence In Eurasia (2019)