Increasing protections for women against sexual offences
National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from Eswatini, Northern Ireland, Pakistan and Uganda are working to increase legal protection for women against sexual offences. Using their unique powers, the NHRIs have issued advice to government, undertaken research, supported legal cases and provided capacity-building workshops to strengthen the law that protects women.
The term ‘sexual offences’ in this context covers many forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG), including sexual abuse, trafficking and harassment.
Eswatini’s Commission on Human Rights and Pubic Administration / Integrity (CHRPA) has published its report assessing the implementation of recently enacted law. The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act, passed in 2018, consolidated laws aimed at increasing prosecutions of perpetrators of sexual offences. The CHRPA identified that public opinion towards this new law was unfavourable, despite it being welcomed by VAWG prevention workers.
The research reveals that social attitudes towards domestic and sexual violence are lenient in many areas of society, leading to low levels of reporting and in the worst cases, injustices in the legal system. Read the full report and the CHRPA’s recommendations to government on their website.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) responded to a government consultation on a proposed law aimed at supporting victims of sexual offences. In it’s submission, the NIHRC makes a series of recommendations to government, including to recognise gender-based violence using the UN CEDAW framework. The NIHRC welcomes the creation of the offence of voyeurism and calls for image-based sexual abuse to be recognised as a form of VAWG.
Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has publicly supported the victims of a harassment case. The NCHR’s Chairperson, Rabiya Javeri Agha, said:
In Pakistan rape case convictions stand at only 3%. According to research by Legal Aid Authority, nearly 60% of rape victims change their statements after registration of FIR (a first information report).
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) provided training to officials from the Kampala City Authority on using a human rights based approach to eliminate gender-based violence. The UHRC’s Acting Chairperson, Meddie B. Mulumba, said that instances of VAWG have increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic including domestic violence, forced marriage, child labour, child pregnancy and neglect.