Right to be Free from Sexual Violence

United Nations World Conference Documents

Vienna Declaration para. 18 – Gender-based violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including those resulting from cultural prejudice and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated; para. 38 – [T]he World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance of working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life. . . . The World Conference on Human Rights. . . urges States to combat violence against women. . . . Violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law. All violations of this kind, including in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy, require a particularly effective response.

ICPD Principle 4 – Advancing gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women, and the elimination of all kinds of violence against women, and ensuring women’s ability to control their own fertility, are cornerstones of population and development-related programmes; para 4.4 (e) – Eliminating violence against women; para. 6.20 – Governments, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and the private sector, should strengthen formal and informal support systems and safety nets for elderly people and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against elderly people in all countries, paying special attention to the needs of elderly women. para. 10.11 – Governments of receiving countries are further urged to take appropriate steps to avoid all forms of discrimination against migrants, … Women and children who migrate as family members should be protected from abuse or denial of their human rights by their sponsors; para 10.18 - Governments of both receiving countries and countries of origin should adopt effective sanctions against those who organize undocumented migration, exploit undocumented migrants or engage in trafficking in undocumented migrants, especially those who engage in any form of international traffic in women, youth and children.

ICPD+5 para 24 (b) – Governments are urged to prevent trafficking in migrants, in particular women and children subjected to forced labour or sexual or commercial exploitation . . .; para. 48 – Governments should give priority to developing programmes and policies that foster norms and attitudes of zero tolerance for harmful and discriminatory attitudes, including son preference, which can result in harmful and unethical practices such as prenatal sex selection, discrimination and violence against the girls child and all forms of violence against women, including female genital mutilation, rape, incest, trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation…..The girl child’s access to health, nutrition, education and life opportunities should be protected and promoted…

Beijing para. 165 (C) – Eliminate discriminatory practices by employers and take appropriate measures in consideration of women's reproductive role and functions, such as the denial of employment and dismissal due to pregnancy or breast-feeding, or requiring proof of contraceptive use, and take effective measures to ensure that pregnant women, women on maternity leave or women re-entering the labour market after childbearing are not discriminated against; para 233 (i) – Take appropriate measures to ensure that refugee and displaced women, migrant women and women migrant workers are made aware of their human rights and of the recourse mechanisms available to them.


CEDAW(1) article 5 (a) – [State Parties shall take all appropriate measures] [t]o modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women[.]; article 6 – States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.

CCPR(2) articles 2 (1), 3 – equal right of men and women in the enjoyment of civil and political rights; article 7 – right to be free from torture or cruel and inhumane treatment or punishment; 26, 27 – Non-discrimination, equality between the sexes, rights of persons belonging to minorities.

CRC(3) article 19.1 – States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. article 34 – States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent: (a) The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity; (b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; (c) The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

The Rome Statute of the ICC Article 7.1 – For the purpose of this Statute, “crime against humanity” means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: . . . (g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity[.]

CESCR(4) article 2(2) – States parties to the present Covenant undertake that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, color, sex , language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status; article 10 (3) – Special measures of protection should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions.

CAT(5) article 2 (1) – Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.


1. CEDAW: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

2. CCPR: Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

3. CRC: Convention on the Rights of the Child

4.CESCR: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

5. CAT: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment