Violence against women and girls a human rights violation, says UCT academic

12 August 2014 | Story by Newsroom
Associate Professor Rashida Manjoo was recently presented with the International Human Rights Award in Boston by Don Bivens, the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation Chair 2013-2014.
Associate Professor Rashida Manjoo was recently presented with the International Human Rights Award in Boston by Don Bivens, the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation Chair 2013-2014.

UN Special Rapporteur recognised for her efforts in combating violence against women

"Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation that is rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities, and is strongly linked to the social and economic situation of women," says Associate Professor Rashida Manjoo from the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town. She is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

Described as "one of the world's top experts and combatants of violence against women", Associate Professor Manjoo was recently presented with the International Human Rights Award from the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation.

The award recognised Associate Professor Manjoo as an individual who made substantial and long-term contributions to the promotion of human rights outside the United States of America. She received the award on 8 August 2014 at the ABA's annual meeting in Boston, USA. The ABA praised Associate Professor Manjoo for devoting her career to "addressing the brutality and oppression rooted in inequality and gender-based discrimination". She was appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women in 2009.

Associate Professor Manjoo is an advocate for a holistic approach to understanding and addressing discrimination and violence against women. "The importance of accountability as the norm for acts of violence against women cannot be over-emphasised, more especially within a context of generalised impunity for violence in the public and private spheres.

"The lack of focus and effective measures to address women's empowerment needs is also a factor that contributes to continuing insecurity and fear, and precludes the possibility of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls," she says.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, Associate Professor Manjoo questioned the human rights discourse regarding violence, "which regards real violence as public violence perpetrated by or at the behest of the State".

She argues that this discourse has led to the marginalisation and invisibility of violence perpetrated against women, and that everyday violence that takes place within private spaces does not receive sufficient attention.

Associate Professor Manjoo's holistic approach requires, amongst others:

  • Treating rights as universal, interdependent and indivisible
  • Situating violence on a continuum that spans interpersonal and structural violence
  • Accounting for both individual and structural discrimination, including structural and institutional inequalities
  • Analysing social and/or economic hierarchies among women and between women and men.

Thus far, Associate Professor Manjoo has completed 17 country missions, where she assesses the state of violence against women. During these missions, she also recommends measures at local, national, regional and international levels to eliminate all forms of violence against women. In the next couple of months Associate Professor Manjoo will embark on missions to Afghanistan, Sudan and Palestine.

About Associate Professor Rashida Manjoo

Associate Professor Rashida Manjoo is the former Parliamentary Commissioner of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) in South Africa. Prior to her appointment to the CGE, she was involved in social context training for judges and lawyers. She designed both content and methodology during her time at the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit at UCT and at the then University of Natal, KwaZulu-Natal.

She has held numerous visiting professorships including one, most recently, at the University of Virginia, USA. Associate Professor Manjoo served as the Des Lee Distinguished Visiting Professor at Webster University, USA, where she taught courses in human rights, with a particular focus on women's human rights and transitional justice. She was the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow with the Human Rights Programme at Harvard Law School (2006 - 2007) and also a clinical instructor in this programme in 2005 and 2006.

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