Today, I had the tremendous honor of speaking at the Generation Equality Forum on the invitation of the Government of France and UN Women. I appreciated the opportunity to share NO MORE’s perspective on the prevention of gender-based violence and the urgent need to find solutions using a global lens.
NO MORE recently launched an online Global Directory of support services in more than 205 countries and territories with the aim to give victims the information they need to leave behind an abusive relationship or report sexual assault if they desire.
A gender-responsive police force in every interaction demonstrates that domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes. They demonstrate that these crimes are taken seriously, that they are not caused by the victims but by perpetrators.
The issue is what happens when women do come forward. Many of them do not get a good response from their local police force. They lack faith that they will have the moral and physical support of an agency that should be protecting their basic rights.
And who can blame them? Even countries with large, credible police forces and justice systems have appallingly low rates of convictions. So as we hear constantly from our large network—what is the point of reporting?
We need to change this.
The key to ending gender-based violence is prevention. And prevention starts with the ability to identify and analyze the root causes of violence against women and girls in order to find solutions that create the impact that we desire. Lack of accountability and protection allows this form of violence to continue.
There are many ways to execute primary forms of prevention, such as campaigns and education, but there is one crucial area that we speak less of and that UN Women’s gender-responsive policing handbook has addressed brilliantly—this is prevention by example.
A gender-responsive police force in every interaction demonstrates that domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes. They demonstrate that these crimes are taken seriously, that they are not caused by the victims but by perpetrators. Police forces that can sustain that level of commitment will show the generations to come that violence against women and girls is not acceptable, is not permitted, and is not the norm.
This is not our current reality. In many countries, even where much investment has happened, we see a minimal quantity of cases charged and even less prosecuted. Governments and police forces that now come out to apologize for their failures have also apologized for the same issues a decade ago. That is not good enough!
Therefore, leadership is the bedrock for progress on the gender police responsive agenda. Leadership that is prepared to take the fundamental steps to fuel culture change in policing where it is needed. Leadership that insists that policing focuses on the actions of the perpetrator and not solely on the credibility of the victim. And leadership that updates or institutes laws that will enable charges to be filed and, more importantly, to stick.
Despite the enormous efforts of many police forces globally, there is still a long road ahead to walk.
Local efforts are the primary steps, but in an interconnected world, another way to set an example is to know what other countries are doing and to share lessons learned within our networks. Part of our strategy has to be to grow together globally.
Networks that focus on the exchange of ideas and experiences from gender-responsive policing are needed. Such networks need to be diverse and break the north-south divide to understand that innovation and good practice are happening in many places and not only in the better-resourced ones.
Today, we invited governments from all over the world to come together and share their progress on gender-responsive policing and say NO MORE to the low rates of referrals, charges, and convictions we see globally. This will be achieved worldwide when women believe they will get fair treatment if they report and that justice will prevail.