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Consideration of states’ reports

The issue of violence against women was addressed in states’ reports and Committee’s comments and observations from early on. However, the context and issues addressed varied from country to country. This diversity is linked to the broad nature of the notion of violence against women and simply reflects the fact that different contexts produce different forms of violence. It is also noteworthy that some states followed the language of the Committee in its general recommendations and produced very comprehensive accounts of the situation with regard to violence against women under their jurisdiction. Even more interesting is the approach and language used with regard to violence against women by some states before the adoption of relevant general recommendations. For example, according to the Committee’s concluding observations adopted in 1990 with regard to Germany’s initial report: ‘The federal parliament had been dealing with trafficking in women and efforts were being made to deal with the problems of violence against women, the most serious form of discrimination, through the enactment of laws and the provision of shelter and counselling centres.’[1] The view that violence against women is a form of discrimination appeared officially only in the Committee’s General Recommendation 19 adopted in 1992. Also, several states referred to domestic violence and their efforts to combat some forms of sexual violence against women, especially rape, in their reports produced even before the adoption of the Committee’s General Recommendation 12 that put the issue of violence against women clearly and expressly on its agenda.[2] [3] Thus, a dialectical relationship between states and the Committee can be observed within the context of states’ reporting obligations. The steps taken by the Committee to address the issue of violence against women can be regarded as carefully weighted against the readiness of states to accept the new soft law standards or at least not to openly object to them. Today, the issue of violence against women forms part of all states’ reports and is systematically addressed by the Committee in its list of issues and questions to states. In relation to states that provide insufficient information or where the Committee is able to identify particular areas of concern, the Committee requests more information and statistics on measures taken, including the impact of these measures.

The practice emerging in relation to reporting obligations appears at first sight as providing more support to the hard law status of the prohibition of violence against women than the jurisprudence of the Committee. In general, states seem to accept that they have to provide information on their efforts to combat violence against women and respond to related questions of the Committee. Given the general readiness of states to provide information on combating violence against women, can we infer any firm conclusion on the transition of the prohibition of violence against women into hard law? My answer is in the negative for the following reason. As with the pattern that emerged from the analysis of the jurisprudence of the CEDAW Committee, it seems that more attention is needed to precise areas and forms of violence against women that states are ready to discuss in these terms. We can certainly conclude that some forms of violence against women are generally accepted as being prohibited by some provisions of the CEDAW However, it would be too hasty to conclude that all forms of violence against women and that violence against women as such is subject to the same consensus.

  • [1] Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 9th session, GAOfficial Records, 45th session, Supplement No. 38, A/45/38, 1990, para. 59: 13.
  • [2] See e.g.: Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 18 of the Convention.Second Period Reports of States Parties. Sweden, 26 Mar. 1987, CEDAW/C/ 13/Add.6: 16, 35, 63—5,67—9 and CEDAW, Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 18 of theConvention. Initial Reports. Australia, 30 Oct. 1986, CEDAW/C/5/Add.40, pp. 39, 40, 46, 47,and 96.
  • [3] Section 2.1 of this chapter.
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