Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent globally. It is a weapon used in all wars and in times of unrest and conflict. It is perpetrated, often behind closed doors, in all countries around the world in times of peace. For a long time, however, it has gone unacknowledged and was considered a marginal issue. Because it has not received the attention it so desperately needs, putting an end to it has been a challenge. Crimes and violations of a sexual and gender-based character continue to be under-documented, under-investigated and under-prosecuted. The vast majority of perpetrators benefit from impunity, while victims do not receive redress.
Sexual and gender-based violence is complex as it is directly linked to social and political power dynamics and norms such as inequality of the sexes, patriarchy, engrained biases, misconceptions, myths and stereotypes that continue to exist and proliferate from North to South. This often results in sexual and gender-based violence being considered “merely as a women’s issue” and dismissed as a “lesser” crime or a crime that is difficult to “identify and prosecute”. Thus crimes and violations of a sexual and gender-based character largely go unpunished. Moreover, despite the existence of international and regional legal frameworks, these are often not, or insufficiently, implemented at the domestic level. There continues to be a misunderstanding, misuse or lack of knowledge of key legal definitions or essential standards and practices by practitioners. This in turn has significantly increased obstacles to accountability and justice, and contributed to harmful, unethical practices towards victims and witnesses.
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