Cindy Dyer and Justice Prudence Galega in Cameroon.
Despite the increasing focus on gender-based violence (GBV) since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the situation for many women worldwide has not improved. For twenty years, the international community has adopted and ratified international frameworks to combat GBV, like CEDAW, Resolution 1325, and the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, and enacted national legislation compliant with these standards. We passed critically important laws. And then we stood back to admire our handiwork, rather than setting to work on the difficult task of implementation.
For many women, the reality is dire. Acid attacks are on the rise in Colombia. Syria’s humanitarian crisis has left more women vulnerable to sexual assault. Child pregnancies will double globally by 2030, and reported rape cases have doubled in Delhi, India, for 2013 alone. The United Nations Population Fund cites a persistent lack of an accountability mechanism as a problem in implementing Resolution 1325. The U.S. State Department Trafficking In Persons Report (“TIP Report”) indicates myriad challenges to implementation of Palermo at national levels, such as failure to identify and protect victims (Liberia), failure to prosecute forced labor cases (Peru), and the criminal prosecution of victims (Albania).
Vital Voices has prioritized implementation. We have developed a training program, the Institute, to mobilize and refine the criminal justice response to GBV and human trafficking. Participants include law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and service providers. We deliver training on a victim-centered approach to offender accountability by focusing on the needs and safety of victims. The Institute encourages collaboration across disciplines, particularly utilizing women leaders and NGO service providers to achieve effective implementation.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP), Vital Voices has conducted the Institute throughout Cameroon since 2010, with support of local partner Justice Prudence Galega and NGO Nku’mu Fed Fed. Since the start of our program, investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking cases have risen and agencies are more effectively collaborating to refer victims for care. Cameroon’s ranking in the TIP Report was upgraded from Tier 2 Watch list to Tier 2 in 2012, and the 2013 report recognized our training efforts. From 2013-2015 J/TIP is sponsoring the implementation of our program in Uganda in partnership with local NGO Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda.
Effective results have been achieved here in the United States since the initial passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. Change did not, however, come automatically with the passage of the law. It was only after proper implementation, coming in the form of advocacy, awareness-raising, and capacity-building training that the United States response improved. The White House estimates that from 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%, even as reporting increased. The United States case proves that implementation of the law reduces violence. A stand-alone goal within the post-2015 Millennium Development framework has been proposed to focus on GBV. Vital Voices applauds the attention paid to this issue. But we know that these efforts will not make a difference in women’s lives unless the international community works in concert with foreign national government and grassroots NGOs for implementation.