Women Enabled International accountABILITY Toolkit: U.N. Standards on Gender Based Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities

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Women Enabled International accountABILITY Toolkit: U.N. Standards on Gender Based Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities

The accountABILITY Toolkit is dedicated to the millions of disabled women and girls around the world who routinely encounter multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. This Toolkit is a call to action, urging and empowering us to collectively raise our voices to demand that international human rights standards protect the rights of all women and girls, regardless of ability.

As discussed in accountABILITY: Using U.N. Human Rights Mechanisms to Advance the Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities, the U.N. treaty bodies are independent human rights experts whose job it is to (1) monitor whether governments are meeting their international legal obligations under the relevant treaty, and (2) interpret the meaning and content of the corresponding human rights treaty through the development of General Comments/Recommendations, Concluding Observations, and, in some instances, Individual Complaints. Together, these three types of documents make up the “jurisprudence” of the treaty body. By looking at this jurisprudence, we can better understand what types of actions violate international human rights standards and what governments must do to meet their international legal obligations.

This briefing paper provides an in-depth summary of what U.N. treaty bodies have said about gender-based violence generally, and in some instances, violence against women and girls with disabilities specifically. This paper identifies what the U.N. treaty bodies have said in their concluding observations and individual complaints through 2016 and what they have said in their general comments/general recommendations through 2017. The briefing paper uses the treaty bodies’ language as much as possible. Advocates can use this briefing paper to identify what one or more treaty bodies have said on an issue in the past to help explain why specific situations or actions violate protected rights and what governments must do to instead protect those rights. For each standard or recommendation outlined here, the briefing paper also footnotes the original source(s) for the issues discussed. Advocates can cite to these original sources to help support their interpretation of a particular human rights obligation. Although the majority of citations in this briefing paper include all identified instances where a treaty body addresses a specific issue, there are a few instances where the volume of similar concluding observations on a given topic is too large to cite to each instance; in these cases, the footnotes instead include a set of representative citations from different years and regions. When engaging in country-specific advocacy, we also recommend that advocates always review prior concluding observations for that particular country. Prior concluding observations can be found on the country’s homepage through the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).*

This briefing paper also identifies some gaps in the standards, particularly as related to women and girls with disabilities. Identification of such gaps provides opportunities for treaty bodies to strengthen their jurisprudence, ensure that their interpretations of the legal standards respond to the specific human rights issues that women and girls with disabilities face, and promote greater complementarity of international standards across all U.N. treaty bodies. We encourage advocates to consider this discussion of the gaps in the legal standards as an invitation to raise these issues in written submissions to U.N. human rights mechanisms and to give the treaty bodies more information on these specific issues to help build stronger and more responsive standards.

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