Safeguarding the rights of girls in the criminal justice system


1. Introduction

Gender-based violence is a pervasive and devastating manifestation of discrimination against women and girls. International human rights standards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, provide a solid framework for preventing and responding to violence against girls in both public and private spheres. Unfortunately,
non-compliance with international human rights obligations to protect girls from all forms of violence
remains a serious challenge.

The criminal justice system should aim to prevent incidents of violence, bring perpetrators to justice, and ensure recovery and social reintegration for victims. Like any other group in society, women
and girls are entitled to nothing less. As the story of Kainat illustrates, however, the social, economic
and cultural position of girls, together with deeplyrooted discriminatory attitudes toward them in society as a whole, influence the attitudes and responses of the criminal justice system to heinous crimes of violence committed against them. Rather than benefitting from rehabilitation, protection and redress, girls who fall victim to violence often find themselves criminalized, which can lead, in turn, to further violence against them, inhuman punishment and unlawful deprivation of liberty.

At the same time, perpetrators of violence against girls are rarely held accountable for their actions
or deterred from committing further criminal acts.

In 1995, when the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was agreed upon at the Fourth World Conference on Women, the girl child was one of 12 critical areas of concern. At the time, indicators in many countries showed that girls experienced discrimination from the earliest stages of life, through childhood and into adult life.

Twenty years on—marked by the global review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 20+
at the 59th session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015—progress to prevent and address violence against girls is evident in a number of ways, including strengthened legislation, enhanced policies and new national plans of action in countries around the world. At the same time, however—as highlighted by the 2013 Global Survey conducted by the O!ce of the Secretary-General’s Special
Representative on Violence against Children(SRSG) and other important studies and reviews developed at national, regional and international levels—violence against girls and women remains a global pandemic in which impunity is the established norm. In short, girls continue to experience high levels of violence in all settings, and the criminal justice system is no exception(...)