[From the web] Five reasons why gender-based violence against women should be considered torture | OMCT

Five reasons why gender-based violence against women should be considered torture

Gender-based violence against women (GBVAW) is the most systematic and widespread human rights violation worldwide. It includes sexual crimes such as rape or harassment but also forced marriage, intimidation, threats and physical violence. In this blog post, our expert presents five reasons why GBVAW is torture and should be legally considered as such.

Mylene comes from an impoverished area in the rural Philippines. As a young adult, she moved to Manila in the hope of a better future. Instead, she fell into the hands of traffickers and was forced into prostitution. Over the years, she experienced numerous forms of violence. For instance, the police arrested her for vagrancy and raped her in exchange for charges being dropped. Once a police officer detained her in an apartment for several days where he sexually abused her. One night she escaped naked from a car containing four police officers who, after forcing her to use illegal drugs, had taken turns raping her inside the moving vehicle. She also suffered frequent physical and sexual violence from those who sought her services.

It is clear that Mylene was tortured. Violence by government officials can constitute a form of torture or other ill-treatment, including when it is exercised outside law enforcement operations and the custodial setting. Moreover, it has long been accepted in international law that violence by private actors can be a form of torture or ill-treatment where State authorities have reasonable grounds to believe that such acts are being committed by private actors and fail to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish such private actors. In such instances, it is the State that bears responsibility and its officials should be considered as authors, complicit or otherwise responsible under the Convention for consenting to or acquiescing in acts like domestic violence, trafficking and other forms of GBVAW.

Unfortunately, the anti-torture framework has been overlooked by many relevant stakeholders as is usually the case when it comes to gender-based violence against women. Neither law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, nor the organisation that now supports Mylene has perceived such ordeals as torture, let alone thought of the anti-torture legal framework to apply to such situations. This is a shame since there are several benefits in applying the anti-torture framework as enshrined in the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment (CAT Convention) to cases like the one of Mylene and GBVAW in genera.

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