On 14 July 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) adopted General Recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence (GBV) against women, updating General Recommendation No. 19. Prior to General Recommendation No.35 on GBV against women, General Recommendation No. 19 from 1992 had made history as it clearly outlined violence against women as a form and manifestation of gender-based discrimination, used to subordinate and oppress women. It unequivocally brought violence outside of the private sphere and into the realm of human rights.
25 years later, General Recommendation No. 35 elaborates on the gender-based nature of this form of violence, building on the work of the Committee and other international human rights mechanisms, as well as developments at national, regional and international levels.
As a defender for human rights, the Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) uplifts this recommendation as a very important mechanism that will help government realise the importance of holding those in violation of women rights accountable. As the FHR is actively involved in efforts to bring awareness about the severity of GBV in South Africa, and thereby reduce it, we accept such measures towards the protection of women and children. The FHR recognises and endorses these recommendations set by CEDAW.
General Recommendation No. 35 outlines :
- It recognizes that the prohibition of gender-based violence has become a norm of international customary law;
- It expands the understanding of violence to include violations of sexual and reproductive health rights;
- It stresses the need to change social norms and stereotypes that support violence, in the context of a resurgence of narratives threatening the concept of gender equality in the name of culture, tradition or religion;
- It clearly defines different levels of liability of the State for acts and omissions committed by its agents or those acting under its authority - in the territory of the State or abroad- and for failing to act with due diligence to prevent violence at the hands of private individuals and companies, protect women and girls from it, and ensure access to remedies for survivors;
- It unequivocally calls for the repeal of all laws and policies that directly and indirectly excuse, condone and facilitate violence; and
- It emphasizes the need for approaches that promote and respect women’s autonomy and decision-making in all spheres of life.