Handbook on Effective Prosecution Responses to Violence against Women and Girls

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Prosecutors play a critical role in the criminal justice response to violence against women and girls. Prosecuting gender based violent crime can be challenging. Often there are a number of challenges, due to the private nature of the offence, and police investigation may be substandard. Victims may be uncooperative, withdraw or recant their complaints. Judges or juries may employ gender bias or common myths surrounding violence against women and girls when examining the credibility of the victim and the facts of the case. Drawing upon the updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (General Assembly resolution 65/228, annex), UNODC and UN Women have drafted the Handbook on Effective Prosecution Responses to Violence against Women and Girls. Recognizing that prosecutors work in different legal systems, it is meant to be a helpful resource for individual prosecutors and prosecution services.




Violence against women and girls is a widespread and serious violation of human rights that has severe physical, psychological, emotional and social consequences. The process of bringing a complaint into the criminal justice system can be a difficult and traumatizing experience for many victims for different reasons. Gender bias and discrimination fuel myths around such violence which shape the criminal justice response to these crimes. Many victims never report their victimization or they have been filtered out of the criminal justice system, resulting in low charge and conviction rates. A victim’s decision to report gender-based violence and continue within the criminal justice system is one of the most important factors affecting the prosecution of cases. The way in which the criminal justice professionals initially respond to victims is critical in determining whether a victim chooses to participate in further legal action, or abandons it because she has experienced secondary victimization or harsh treatment by the criminal justice system.


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