Sarah Jamal Ahmed, a 24-year-old sociologist who was one of the activists during the 2011 uprising in Sanaa, stands by posters of dead protesters posted in the streets.

© 2012 Panos/Abbie Trayler-Smith

The revolution made us proud to be there on the front line and men were forced to accept us. But now there are some who think it is time for women to go home.

—Salwa Bughaighis, lawyer and human rights activist, Benghazi, Libya, July 2012[i]

In 2011, women were at the forefront as the Arab Spring erupted in Libya, organizing and demanding their rights to have a voice in their country’s future. The ensuing civil war resulted in the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi being toppled.  In the transitional period following that armed conflict women organized as voters and candidates in preparation for elections, documented human rights abuses, and worked to ensure any new constitution would enshrine women’s rights.

The revolution made us proud to be there on the front line and men were forced to accept us. But now there are some who think it is time for women to go home.

Salwa Bughaighis

Lawyer and human rights activist, Benghazi, Libya, July 2012

Iman and Salwa Bughaighis—sisters and human rights activists—were among the key organizers of the first demonstrations against Gaddafi in Benghazi in February 2011. “The revolution was an earthquake to the cultural status of women in Libya,” Iman told Human Rights Watch.

But the space for women’s political participation soon began to shrink. As the wrangling intensified over power and the future of Libya, women found themselves facing significant obstacles to their full participation in the country’s transitional processes, and even targeted for violence. On June 25, 2014, following threats, unidentified gunmen murdered Salwa Bughaighis in her home in Benghazi. One month later, on July 17, unidentified assailants shot dead Fariha al-Barkawi, a former lawmaker, in the eastern city of Derna.[ii] Both crimes are among hundreds of apparently politically motivated killings in post-Gaddafi Libya that remain uninvestigated and unprosecuted.

On the eve of Libya’s first democratic national election, Haja Nowara held a vigil in the square outside the courthouse in Benghazi, where she had spent many evenings supporting the revolution since early 2011. “I have waited my whole life for tomorrow, which will be a new day for Libya,” said Nowara, who would be voting for the first time in her life. “We sacrificed a lot to get here.”

© 2012 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

In its treatment of women and girls in wartime and in the post-war transition, Libya is sadly unexceptional.  Throughout history, women and girls have often been targeted in wartime for violence, especially sexual violence.  And they have also been denied the ability to participate in conflict prevention and post-conflict resolution efforts. Governments and non-state armed groups did not pay attention to the use of rape as a weapon of war, nor to the exclusion of women from crucial decision-making on conflict resolution and prevention, until women themselves mobilized for recognition and action.

This document sets out the commitments that the international community has since made to women and girls affected by armed conflict and outlines the major disappointments and gaps in implementation in three distinct but interconnected areas: participation; protection and assistance; and accountability. It also makes recommendations to governments, to all parties to armed conflicts, and to the UN on how to turn the promises made to women and girls in these three areas into reality.

Security Council Resolution 1325

After sustained advocacy efforts from women’s civil society organizations, the United Nations Security Council, in 2000, adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.[iii] It was the Security Council’s first dedicated resolution that recognized the specific risks to and experiences of women in armed conflict and women’s central role in maintaining international peace and security. Resolution 1325 elucidated states’ obligations to women and girls in situations of armed conflict, including ensuring that women are involved in all aspects of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict rebuilding. As broadly understood, the women, peace and security agenda acknowledges the linkages between participation, protection and assistance, and accountability, and the centrality of these issues to broader human rights concerns.

Angelina, 20, from Koch county, was spared in May when members of government aligned militia abducted three women and a teenage girl who she was hiding with. “When I fled [my village], I felt very tired and I sometimes would fall and have to use my arms to pull myself forward on the ground,” said the 20-year-old who has a physical disability. “I arrived [at the UNMI SS camp] three weeks after the attack. My whole body was swollen.” 

© 2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

This groundbreaking resolution and the subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security elaborate the responsibilities of all parties to ensure the meaningful “participation of women in all levels of decision-making” in institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of armed conflict, calling on all actors in peace talks to increase women’s participation in negotiations, and to ensure women’s rights are addressed in peace agreements.[iv] The resolutions remind all parties to armed conflicts of their obligations under international law, particularly civilian protection in armed conflicts, and call for states to end impunity for crimes of gender-based violence in armed conflicts. They urge the UN and governments to take steps to increase the number of women throughout the justice sector, and in armed forces. In these resolutions, the Security Council also states its intention to ensure it incorporates women, peace and security in its own work, including through consulting with civil society.

The resolution has given women around the world increased attention and legitimacy in their work in areas of armed conflict. Since the resolution’s adoption in 2000, many governments have begun to recognize that women’s roles in peace processes are not negotiable add-ons, but fundamental to sustainable and implementable peace accords. Security Council resolutions and commitments by UN member states have recognized conflict-related sexual violence as a tactic often ruthlessly deployed in war, and have expanded international prevention and response efforts. Governments and international bodies have introduced new policy frameworks, including additional Security Council resolutions, on women, peace and security at the national, regional, and multilateral levels. The UN is starting to collect data on a range of protection and participation aspects—from sexual violence in armed conflicts to women in peace talks—allowing policymakers and program implementers to begin to track where there has been success and where problems persist.

Much Work Remains

The remaining challenges are many. There is a lack of concerted, high-level leadership willing to spend political capital at key policy moments, such as in Security Council negotiations and in peace talks. There is insufficient and irregular funding, particularly for grassroots organizations working on women’s local-level peacebuilding and service provision.[v] Despite the improvement in data collection, there remains a lack of timely and disaggregated information for policymakers on women and girls in crisis situations, accompanied by a lack of analysis and recommendations for policymakers on appropriate action to take.[vi] Despite the heightened risk of violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and women with disabilities in situations of armed conflict, specific measures for them are rarely incorporated into policy and programming, often leaving these populations out of decision-making processes and unable to access services.

Sexual violence during Nepal’s 10 year conflict between Maoists and government forces has remained largely undisclosed. 

©2014 Arantxa Cedillo for Human Rights Watch

The UN Security Council, despite six subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security, often fails to bring these issues into its work on crisis situations. Despite the Security Council members’ meeting with women civil society representatives on its 2013 visit to the Great Lakes region, the subsequent report on the mission contained no substantive analysis or recommendations on women’s rights and concerns.[vii] Briefings from senior UN officials often lack specific information on women’s rights violations, on the inclusion of women in peacemaking efforts, and on the levels of women’s participation in security reform. Use of sanctions and other tools at the Security Council’s disposal are similarly haphazardly applied with respect to women, peace and security.[viii]  The Security Council rarely takes advantage of information on perpetrators to hold them to account and prevent future violations. For example, despite evidence of widespread crimes of sexual violence committed by Sudanese forces in Tabit in Darfur in 2014, the Security Council has not adopted a strong response.[ix] 

With women’s rights high on their rhetorical agenda, practical support among donor countries lags. It is rare, for example, that donors make women’s rights and women’s participation in decision-making a priority in political engagement with conflict-affected countries. Too often, including in countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia, officials assert it is not the right time to push for women’s rights, that security is somehow a prerequisite for women’s rights rather than inextricably linked with them, or that they do not have the leverage to act.[x]

For women and girls living in situations of armed conflict, participation, protection and assistance, and accountability for gender-based crimes remain a distant promise. As detailed in the following sections, it will take strong action backed by persistent political will for the potential of the women, peace and security agenda to be realized.

Nigerian girls in a refugee camp near Lake Chad in Chad. 

© 2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Participation

When Afghan women were asked their definition of security, we used the word “amnyat wa masuniat,” by which we mean a comprehensive feeling of safety when engaged in daily public and social life. The success of peace agreements must be gauged by real, measurable security improvements for women and for all members of the community, not just that a peace agreement has been signed. Excellencies, peace is a process, not an event. We look to you as Member States, including members of the Security Council, to ensure that women are consistently appointed as mediators and negotiators, and that our rights are fundamental to peace processes and outcomes.

—Statement by Orzala Ashraf Nemat, Afghan civil society representative and women’s rights advocate, delivered in the UN Security Council on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, New York, October 28, 2011[xi]

Despite years of rhetoric on the importance of women’s participation in Afghanistan peace processes, no women have been included in over 20 known rounds of informal talks between the international community and the Taliban. In talks between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, women were present on two occasions.[xii] In most situations of armed conflict and post-conflict, women have few channels and face formidable obstacles to participating in conflict prevention, conflict-resolution, and political processes such as elections and constitutional reform.

The success of peace agreements must be gauged by real, measurable security improvements for women and for all members of the community, not just that a peace agreement has been signed. Excellencies, peace is a process, not an event. We look to you as Member States, including members of the Security Council, to ensure that women are consistently appointed as mediators and negotiators, and that our rights are fundamental to peace processes and outcomes.

Statement by Orzala Ashraf Nemat

Afghan civil society representative and women’s rights advocate, delivered in the UN Security Council on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, New York, October 28, 2011

Women have little representation in formal peace talks. Available UN and academic data show that women are rarely present in these negotiations, and specific rights and concerns of women and girls are rarely reflected in peace agreements. One study of peace processes from 1992-2011 shows that only 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements have been women, and only 18 out of 300 peace agreements signed between 1998 and 2008 addressed any aspect of women’s rights and concerns.[xiii] Women struggle to have their voices heard, but examples of greater women’s involvement are gradually increasing. In Colombia, for example, women are present as permanent members of the negotiation delegation, and a sub-committee on gender in the negotiations was established in 2014, and women’s rights are discussed in the substantive talks. This happened after concerted pressure from civil society organizations, supported by UN Women.[xiv] Despite these gains, however, women’s civil society organizations have not been afforded a formal role in the Colombia negotiations.

Those facilitating formal peace talks often fail to recognize women’s work in community-level peace efforts.  When the opportunity to engage in formal peace talks arose in the 2014 Geneva II talks, Syrian women mobilized. With support from international nongovernmental organizations, UN member states, and the UN, women met behind closed doors with the Security Council, held consultative meetings to draft consolidated demands, and worked with women peacemakers from Ireland, Guatemala, and Bosnia-Herzegovina on strategies for engaging in the peace process.[xv] But when they met with the UN special envoy to Syria, Lakdhar Brahimi, he did not stay to hear their concerns and recommendations. “Mr. Brahimi, we are already building peace in Syria,” the women said, although Brahimi, effectively the chief mediator of Syria’s peace process, had already left the meeting. “We can help you if you let us.”[xvi]  Brahimi’s successor, Staffan de Mistura, has consulted with Syrian women’s groups, despite the stalling of the formal peace process.

Two activists working with the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-operation (WADI), a German-Iraqi human rights group supporting Yezidi women and girls who escaped ISIS. WADI has three mobile units that visit women and girls in camps and settlements. It is seeking funds to build a center for training courses and social activities.

©2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Women should have seats at all decision-making tables, and women’s rights and concerns should be included in the outcomes of conflict negotiations. For example, women's rights should be reflected in humanitarian access agreements, human rights agreements, ceasefires, ceasefire monitoring, and in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) efforts agreed to by parties to a conflict. They should also be integrated throughout security sector reforms, including the vetting of armed and security forces, justice, reparations, and in relief and recovery programs.[xvii] Women’s participation is also the key to ensuring their protection and minimizing risks in displacement settings. This includes in the design of refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) camps so that women and girls are not placed at further risk in those settings.[xviii] Targeted efforts need to be made to ensure that the diversity of women’s perspectives is reflected in all aspects of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. For example, women with disabilities face unique challenges and can share their problem-solving approaches in conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.

Women human rights defenders often face risks, particularly in times of armed conflict. Even when women can legally conduct their work, they may face physical assault, sexual violence, and threats far greater than their male counterparts. Human Rights Watch has documented physical attacks, death threats, threatening phone calls, sexual harassment and assault, rape, and threats against children of activists in armed conflicts, all of which can create a chilling environment in an effort to silence these women.[xix] In the 2015 Sudan elections, for example, National Intelligence and Security Service officers arrested Dr. Sandra Kadouda, a prominent political and human rights activist, on April 12 as she drove to an anti-elections event at the National Umma Party headquarters in Omdurman. The authorities held her for three days at an unknown location, and then freed her on April 15, visibly bruised and with injuries to her shoulder, credible sources reported.[xx]

Women should also have the opportunity to participate in security forces without facing discrimination or harassment.  Women often are subject to hostile work environments that dissuade them from staying in or even joining police and military services. In Afghanistan, for example, despite efforts to increase their numbers, women have remained about 1 percent of the Afghan police over the last several years.[xxi] In addition to a lack of the most basic toilet and changing room facilities, women in the Afghan police face abuse and sometimes assault, including sexual assault, by male colleagues. Despite multiple reports of such incidents, these crimes often go unpunished, and government officials, including the minister of interior, have denied that abuses against women officers are a problem.[xxii]

Recommendations to Governments, Parties to Armed Conflict, UN agencies, and the UN Secretariat

  1. Implement national-level policies, including National Action Plans, on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to ensure the full and meaningful participation of women in all peace and security discussions, including in all peace processes and transitional justice mechanisms. All parties involved in peace negotiations, including mediators and facilitators, should act to ensure women’s rights and concerns are a priority in negotiations and are integrated throughout any agreement. All discussions should benefit from the full engagement of civil society organizations, including women’s rights groups, women from marginalized populations, such as ethnic and religious minorities, and women with disabilities.
     
  2. Safeguard women’s security and support women’s participation in post-conflict elections, referendums and constitutional drafting, and reform processes. This includes promotion and protection of women candidates, voters, election workers, and women’s human rights defenders.
     
  3. Protect women’s human rights defenders. Governments should monitor threats and attacks against women's human rights defenders and provide protection as requested in a manner that allows them to continue their work.
     
  4. Strengthen recruitment and retention strategies for women in the security sector, including by addressing cultural and practical barriers that women face, by providing specific training and facilities, and ensuring women have equal opportunities for responsibility and advancement.
  5. Ensure women’s leadership and protection in displacement settings. Encourage and facilitate women’s representation in the leadership of camps and centers for the internally displaced and refugees. UN agencies should consult with women and girls, including those with disabilities, to ensure camp designs are accessible, safe, disability-inclusive, and provide equal access to food distributions, sanitation facilities, health—as well as reproductive health—services, education, and vocational training for women and girls.

A female election worker helps an elderly voter at a polling station in Benghazi. The electoral law rightly allowed people with “special needs” to bring assistants. However, barriers remain to ensure the right to political participation for women and men with disabilities.

© 2012 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Protection and Assistance

The government should give us proper shelter with a fence and an entrance. Police should secure the camp and manage who comes and goes. The worst thing is that the rapes push us into poverty because afterward we cannot do the same work or carry heavy loads. We need money for our kids to live. The government should do something or kids will die of hunger.

—Farxiyo, who was raped in an IDP camp, Mogadishu, Somalia, August 2013[xxiii]

No one has offered me one-on-one counselling of any kind. I’d be interested in receiving professional counseling to help me process my experiences if it was available.… I have trouble sleeping at night, and only sleep a few hours at a time. When I sleep, I often see my parents and siblings in front of my eyes, especially the image of my brothers being forced to kneel on the road, and my mother’s face.

—Narin (pseudonym), 20-year-old woman from Sinjar who escaped captivity and sexual abuse by ISIS fighters, Dohuk, Iraq, January 2015[xxiv]

In armed conflicts around the globe, combatants frequently target women and girls for abuse. National armies and non-state armed groups use sexual violence as a tactic in war in violation of international law.  Conflict-related sexual violence can include rape, abduction, forced prostitution, forced marriage, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy. 

Women and girls face multiple abuses in war, in addition to conflict-related sexual violence, including: forced displacement; the targeting and punishment of women because of their own activism or activism by male relatives; the drive towards early, forced, and child marriages because of instability and a lack of security for girls and younger women; an increase in domestic violence and sexual violence committed by civilians; lack of access to food, shelter, and health care; the interruption of education; and sexual exploitation and trafficking, to name but a few.

The government should give us proper shelter with a fence and an entrance. Police should secure the camp and manage who comes and goes. The worst thing is that the rapes push us into poverty because afterward we cannot do the same work or carry heavy loads. We need money for our kids to live. The government should do something or kids will die of hunger.

Farxiyo, who was raped in an IDP camp, Mogadishu, Somalia, August 2013

For example, Human Rights Watch has documented the abuse faced by Syrian women activists and other civilians.[xxv] Some of these women have long histories of activism while others began participating politically only after the beginning of uprisings against the Syrian government. Some were targeted or arbitrarily detained for their work, such as Jelnar, who used her pharmaceutical credentials to smuggle medications between neighborhoods. Several of them experienced torture, sexual assault, physical abuse, or harassment as a direct result of their activism, like Layal, who was detained by government forces for assisting the internally displaced. Others became household heads following their husbands’ detention or death, such as Zeinab, who lost her husband and son in separate incidents at the hands of government forces.

In Sudan’s ongoing armed conflicts, Sudanese government forces and allied militias have committed rape and other sexual violence against women and girls on numerous instances. For example, Sudanese military forces engaged in the mass rape of more than 200 women and girls in the town of Tabit, Darfur, in late 2014, restricted access to the town for UN and international investigators, peacekeepers, and humanitarian agencies, and threatened residents with reprisals if they spoke about their ordeals. Government authorities fostered a climate of fear in Tabit that deterred many women and girls from seeking medical care at clinics and hospitals.[xxvi]  

Adequate protection measures are vital to ensuring the safety of women and girls, but when attacks do happen, service provision is vital for survivors. In Nigeria, numerous victims and witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the lack of security force presence in areas particularly vulnerable to attack by Boko Haram, notably in towns and villages in Borno State. Victims, witnesses, community leaders, and analysts told Human Rights Watch that government security services could have done more to prevent attacks by ensuring the adequate presence and arming of military personnel, and by responding more quickly and effectively to reports of attacks once in progress. Survivors of Boko Haram attacks received virtually no necessary psychosocial and medical services, and none of the rape survivors interviewed by Human Rights Watch had any information about how and where to access post-rape care.[xxvii]

Manal Ameer, 33, pictured here with her two daughters, was among the first to vote in Benghazi. She said she had learned about the election process through television advertising and had researched candidates via the Internet.

© 2012 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

In northern Iraq, the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has carried out systematic rape and other sexual violence against Yezidi women and girls since August 2014. Human Rights Watch documented a system of mass abduction, organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage by ISIS forces.[xxviii] Many of the women and girls remain missing, but survivors who escaped to the Kurdish Region of Iraq need psychosocial support and basic humanitarian assistance. These survivors require specialized and expert psychosocial services in their present locations to aid their recovery and their reintegration into their communities. Few have received these.

Women and girls in displaced populations are at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence, and of becoming victims of sex and labor trafficking.[xxix] Humanitarian crises often mean that women and girls are placed at greater risk of violence, with specific measures such as camp design and humanitarian relief necessary. Human Rights Watch research has found that women and girls with disabilities were frequently abandoned or left behind in crises, condemning them to face isolation, neglect, and abuse in post-conflict settings.[xxx] Despite commitments from governments and the UN, prevention efforts, access to services, and holding perpetrators accountable all remain extremely weak, and in some cases, non-existent.

Women displaced by armed conflict often find it difficult to access necessary long-term protection and humanitarian assistance. In Colombia, in an example that highlights the complexity of long-term access to assistance, Lucia fled her community in Antioquia with her husband and six children when an armed group threatened her son for refusing to join their ranks in 2010. Lucia’s husband had physically abused her and this became worse after the family fled to Medellín. Despite trying to access humanitarian assistance for herself and her children directly, the government agency never responded to her case. [xxxi]

No one has offered me one-on-one counselling of any kind. I’d be interested in receiving professional counseling to help me process my experiences if it was available.… I have trouble sleeping at night, and only sleep a few hours at a time. When I sleep, I often see my parents and siblings in front of my eyes, especially the image of my brothers being forced to kneel on the road, and my mother’s face.

Narin (pseudonym)

20-year-old woman from Sinjar who escaped captivity and sexual abuse by ISIS fighters, Dohuk, Iraq, January 2015

Women with disabilities in displacement settings also face discrimination on the basis of gender, disability, and poverty, and thus need particular measures to address protection concerns.[xxxii] Lack of mobility and communication barriers, for example, mean women with disabilities are at particular risk of sexual violence. This discrimination, as well as more general social stigma, prevents them from realizing their rights to accessible information, and accessing health care and other government services. In a displacement camp in Northern Uganda, Charity, a woman with a physical disability, recounted her experience: “People told me I should just die so others can eat the food: ‘You are useless. You are a waste of food.’”[xxxiii]

In line with their obligations under international humanitarian law—the laws of war—parties to armed conflicts should take all feasible measures to protect civilians under their control from attack, including protecting women and girls from sexual and other gender-based violence.[xxxiv]  International human rights law also applies during armed conflict, and provides protections to women and girls against sexual violence and other abuses, including domestic violence.[xxxv] States have obligations to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and other serious human rights abuses and prosecute those responsible.

International humanitarian and human rights law prohibit acts of sexual violence. International humanitarian law sets out protections for civilians and other non-combatants during both international and non-international armed conflicts.[xxxvi] It implicitly and explicitly prohibits both state armed forces and non-state armed groups from committing rape and other forms of sexual violence.[xxxvii]

International human rights law also contains protections from rape and other forms of sexual abuse through its prohibitions on torture and other ill-treatment, slavery, forced prostitution, and discrimination based on sex.[xxxviii]  The Convention on the Rights of the Child contains additional protections for children.[xxxix]

Recommendations to Governments, Parties to Armed Conflicts, UN agencies, and the UN Secretariat

  1. Comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law prohibitions of rape and other forms of sexual violence, sexual slavery, cruel treatment, and other abuses. All parties to armed conflicts should issue clear, public orders to all forces under their control to end and appropriately punish all abuses, including crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.
     
  2. Governments providing military and other security assistance should ensure that such support does not encourage or facilitate abuses against women, and that it provides a basis for promoting greater respect for women’s rights.  Compliance with international human rights standards should be a factor in evaluating the continuation of such support. Governments should vet recipients of this assistance to exclude units or individuals when there is credible information they have been involved in serious violations of human rights.
     
  3. Ensure that survivors of sexual violence and other gender-based violence have access to essential medical and psychological care, as well as available economic and social support. Humanitarian aid should include access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services that respect the confidentiality and rights of survivors, including for pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, and injuries resulting from sexual violence, with specific measures taken to ensure these services are accessible for women with disabilities.
     
  4. Make women’s and girls’ protection and access to assistance a priority in displacement settings, including through consultation, promoting women’s leadership, camp and shelter design, registration and distribution systems, security measures, and recruitment and training of female security staff.
     
  5. Ensure all parties to armed conflicts grant UN agencies and independent humanitarian organizations unfettered access to civilians and communities in need of assistance. The media and human rights groups should also be provided access to conflict areas.
     
  6. Governments and the UN should highlight women’s participation, protection, and assistance concerns at the highest levels, including by conducting high-level visits to areas where serious abuses have been reported and raising the issues with senior government officials, donor governments, and regional and international bodies. Security Council members should press all parties to armed conflicts to meet all international law obligations.
     
  7. The UN Security Council and concerned governments should impose arms embargoes on state armed forces and non-state armed groups implicated in widespread or systematic serious human rights abuses, including those targeting women and girls. The Security Council should require states to suspend all military sales and assistance, including technical training and services, to these abusive actors until meaningful steps are taken to end such violations and appropriately punish those responsible. Travel bans and asset freezes should also be imposed on individuals responsible for serious abuses, with appropriate due process protections.

“For three months, I had a feeling that one of us was going to die,” said Maha, 28 (left), of the young activists group in which she participated. In November, 2012, she and fellow members of the group had just finished a peaceful protest outside a mosque in Aleppo, when government shelling struck the site, killing her husband of only a few weeks. Her sister Nuha, 23 (right), also an activist, was kidnapped by pro-government militia while on her way to work in Damascus in August 2012 and held for 23 days. 

©2014 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Accountability

We want these people punished. We just don’t have the reach or the power. If I did, we would have dealt with it a long time ago. We need support.

—Husband of Nandita (pseudonym), who was raped in 2001 because her husband was a Maoist combatant, Nepal, April 2014[xl]

Perpetrators of abuses in armed conflicts rarely face justice and, by all accounts, are even less likely to when responsible for sexual violence against women and girls. In November 2012, in Minova, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congolese army soldiers raped at least 76 women and girls when nearby Goma fell to the M23 rebel group.[xli] The crimes created an outcry at the national and international level. Strong international pressure was brought on the Congolese authorities to pursue justice. The UN threatened to suspend support by the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO to the Congolese army unless those responsible were brought to justice. The UN Security Council and donor governments raised the need for accountability for the crimes in Minova in multiple statements and in meetings with Congolese authorities. High-profile visits to the area by the Congolese minister of justice, the wife of President Joseph Kabila, UK Foreign Minister William Hague, and UN refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie, raised attention to the issue.

Three years after the attacks, accountability, services, and security are still insufficient. Despite considerable efforts by Congolese authorities and international partners to ensure judicial proceedings in the case, including by providing for the participation of numerous victims and effective protection of victims and witnesses, the verdict did little to achieve justice. Out of 39 soldiers and officers brought to trial, only 2 rank-and-file soldiers were convicted of rape.  All mid-ranking officers present in Minova at the time of the crimes and brought to trial were completely acquitted. No high-level officers were even charged.[xlii] 

The Minova case illustrates the difficulties of ensuring accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. Congolese authorities and international partners have made considerable efforts to increase accountability for sexual violence in Congo over the past several years, resulting in a few trials involving charges of rape as a war crime or a crime against humanity, and dozens of proceedings and convictions for rape as an ordinary crime. Investigating and proving sexual violence in judicial proceedings remains a complex matter and further efforts are needed.

We want these people punished. We just don’t have the reach or the power. If I did, we would have dealt with it a long time ago. We need support.

Husband of Nandita (pseudonym), who was raped in 2001 because her husband was a Maoist combatant, Nepal, April 2014

Women and girls who suffer rights abuses in armed conflicts, including sexual violence, face tremendous barriers in obtaining redress. Regular police and court functions may be in disarray. They may not wish to seek avenues for justice out of fear of retaliation or marginalization in their communities and homes. They may lack the financial or logistical means to access courts and legal assistance. National judicial systems often lack expertise in handling vulnerable victims of sexual violence during investigations and prosecutions. Physical protection and psychological assistance may be lacking. There may be strong resistance to or lack of resources for reforming the security apparatus in the immediate and long-term aftermath of an armed conflict. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs often neglect to address female combatants and women euphemistically called “bush wives,” or women who are associated with armed groups, often forcibly. Women with disabilities have particular difficulty accessing redress or justice mechanisms, including physical barriers in entering police stations and courtrooms, communication barriers, or questioning of the credibility of their testimony if they have a psychosocial or intellectual disability.

Even when international peacekeeping forces are in place to bring stability to conflict-riven regions, they are sometimes perpetrators themselves. Although the UN has a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, accountability for these crimes remains a concern.[xliii] For example, in the past decade, there have been allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic, Haiti, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The persistent lack of transparency on these cases makes it very difficult to help victims seek justice. With the UN historically providing few specifics on allegations of abuse, and few countries that contribute troops and police to UN operations providing information on investigations and prosecutions, the scope of the problem is unclear. In one of the few cases in which public information is available on accountability for UN peacekeepers, a Pakistani peacekeeper charged with sexually assaulting a Haitian boy was convicted, and faced a one-year sentence upon conviction.[xliv]

A woman prisoner looks out a window in Parwan prison north of Kabul, Afghanistan, in February 2011.The woman was convicted of moral crimes after a man from her neighborhood raped her. She later gave birth in prison.

© 2011 Farzana Wahidy

When crimes of sexual violence are committed as part of armed conflict, they can be prosecuted as war crimes. States have an obligation to investigate alleged war crimes committed by members of the armed forces and other nationals, and prosecute those responsible.[xlv] Non-state armed groups also have an obligation to prevent war crimes and should investigate and appropriately punish perpetrators.[xlvi] Those acts of sexual violence committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) specifies that acts of rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity can constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.[xlvii]

Aside from their direct criminal responsibility for crimes committed, for instance, by issuing orders that subordinates carry out, commanders and other superiors may be criminally liable for failing to prevent or punish crimes committed by their subordinates.[xlviii]

International human rights law also enshrines the right to an effective remedy, which obligates the state to prevent, investigate, and punish serious human rights violations.[xlix] State should also provide reparations to victims of human rights violations, such as compensation for damages.[l] The UN has reaffirmed these principles specifically in relation to eliminating violence against women.[li]

Recommendations to Governments, UN agencies, and the UN Secretariat

  1. Ensure comprehensive, credible, and impartial investigations into sexual and gender-based violence and appropriately and fairly prosecute those responsible. This should include independent investigations into all allegations against members of armed forces, including peacekeepers, that respect the confidentiality and rights of survivors.
     
  2. Ensure accessible judicial processes that adhere to international fair trial standards for grave international crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence. This should include providing specialized training to investigators, prosecutors, and judges on the proper handling of such cases.  Adequate protection measures and psychological support should be available, before, during, and after trials, including, but not limited to, relocation measures for victims and their households. Judicial mechanisms should also be accessible for women with disabilities, including by facilitating access to police stations and courts, ensuring access to documentation, and relevant training for law enforcement and the judiciary.
     
  3. Strengthen independent institutions capable of responding to sexual and gender-based violence and supporting survivors. Governments should create accessible and safe channels to report rape, assault, and other abuses and issue clear, public orders to all security forces to end any harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of those who speak out or seek to enforce their rights. Reporting mechanisms should be fully inclusive and provide specific accommodations for women and girls with disabilities. Governments should ensure proper and timely investigations and prosecutions that respect the rights of the survivor.
     
  4. Enact security sector reform to provide vetting of police and other security personnel, ensure recruitment, hiring, and training of female security personnel, and provide training for prosecutors, as well as judges and defense lawyers, on respecting women’s rights in the justice system, including handling crimes of sexual violence. Identify and exclude individuals from the security forces who are under investigation, have charges pending against them, or have been subjected to disciplinary measures or criminal convictions for sexual violence or other serious abuses.
     
  5. Press for accountability and justice, including through the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council. When national level efforts fail or are inadequate, pursue alternative paths to justice, such as independent commissions of inquiry, the use of universal jurisdiction, and when applicable, referrals to the ICC. In accordance with the ICC prosecutor’s newly adopted Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, the ICC should continue to ensure that these crimes are the focus of special attention in ICC proceedings.[lii]
     
  6. Ensure reparations programs meet international standards and include specific consideration for women and girls. Consult with local women’s rights groups and women from communities affected by armed conflict in determining and distributing reparation packages.
     
  7. Protect women’s rights in national laws and ensure they meet international standards. This includes ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) with no reservations, or removing any existing reservations to CEDAW. National laws should guarantee equality before the law, protection from violence, and freedom from discrimination, including on the basis of sex, gender, pregnancy, disability, and marital status. Consistent with international standards, sexual violence and other gender-based violence crimes should be included in the criminal code. Ensure accountability when these laws are violated.
     
  8. Institute measures to ensure accountability, including by raising public concern and urging relevant actors, including troop-contributing countries, to carry out immediate investigations when there are substantial grounds to believe that peacekeepers have committed serious human rights abuses or war crimes, including sexual exploitation and abuse.
 

[i] Human Rights Watch, A Revolution for All: Women’s Rights in the New Libya, May 2013,  https://www.hrw.org/report/2013/05/27/revolution-all/womens-rights-new-libya, p. 11.

[ii] “Libya: Extremists Terrorizing Derna Residents,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 27, 2014,  https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/11/27/libya-extremists-terrorizing-derna-residents.

[iii] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1325 (2000), S/RES/1325 (2000) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1325(2000) (accessed July 21, 2015).

[iv] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1820 (2008), S/RES/1820 (2008) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1820(2008) (accessed  July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1888 (2009), S/RES/1888 (2009) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1888(2009) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1889 (2009), S/RES/1889 (2009) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1889(2009) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1960 (2010), S/RES/1960 (2010) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1960(2010) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2106 (2013), S/RES/2106 (2013) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2106(2013) (accessed July 21, 2015); United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2122 (2013), S/RES/2122 (2013) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2122(2013) (accessed July 21, 2015).

[v] According to the 2014 Secretary-General’s report on women, peace and security, data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that “only 0.35 per cent of aid allocated to conflict, peace and security activities [was] marked as having a gender focus.” United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security,  S/2014/693, September 2014, http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2014_693.pdf (accessed July 17, 2015).

[vi] Based on data from: NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, “Mapping Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: 2012-2013,” December 2013, http://womenpeacesecurity.org/media/pdf-2012-13_MAP_Report.pdf  (accessed July 8, 2015); and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, PeaceWomen, “Report Watch,” undated, http://www.peacewomen.org/security-council/report-watch (accessed July 8, 2015).

[vii] United Nations Security Council, Sixty-eighth year, 7045th meeting, October 21, 2013, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/PV.7045 (accessed July 8, 2015).

 [viii] Based on data from: NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, “Mapping Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: 2012-2013”; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, PeaceWomen, “Report Watch”; and Security Council Report, “Cross Cutting Report: Women, Peace and Security,” April 2014,   http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/cross_cutting_report_2_women_peace_security_2014.pdf  (accessed July 8, 2015).

[ix] Human Rights Watch, Mass Rape in North Darfur: Sudanese Army Attacks against Civilians in Tabit, February 2015, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/02/11/mass-rape-north-darfur/sudanese-army-attacks-against-civilians-tabit.

[x] Heather Barr, “A seat at the table in Afghanistan,” Washington Post, May 1, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-seat-at-the-table-in-afghanistan/2015/05/01/fd930e26-ef41-11e4-8abc-d6aa3bad79dd_story.html (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xi] Statement by Orzala Ashraf Nemat at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, October 28, 2011, http://womenpeacesecurity.org/media/pdf-Statement_OpenDebate_Oct2011.pdf (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xii] Oxfam “Behind Closed Doors: The risk of denying women a voice in determining Afghanistan’s future,” November 24, 2014, https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp200-behind-doors-afghan-women-rights-241114-en.pdf (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xiii] See UN Women, “Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence,”  October 2012, http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2012/10/wpssourcebook-03a-womenpeacenegotiations-en.pdf (accessed July 20, 2015); and United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on Women and Peace and Security, S/2011/598, September 29, 2011, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2011/598 (accessed July 27, 2015); S/2012/732, October 2, 2012, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2012/732 (accessed July 27, 2015); S/2013/525, September 4, 2013, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2013/525 (accessed July 27, 2015); and S/2014/693, September 23, 2014, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2014/693 (accessed July 27, 2015). See also, Christine Bell and Catherine O’Rourke, Women and Peace Agreements 1325 Dataset, Distributed by University of Ulster, Transitional Justice Institute, 2010 http://www.transitionaljustice.ulster.ac.uk/tji_database.html (accessed July 20, 2015).

[xiv] “Women take the reins to build peace in Colombia”, UN Women press release, May 28, 2015, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2015/5/women-build-peace-in-colombia (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xv] Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, “Innovative WILPF Conference Gathers Syrian And Bosnian Women’s Rights Activists,” February 21, 2014,  http://www.wilpfinternational.org/innovative-wilpf-conference-gathers-syrian-and-bosnian-womens-rights-activists-2/ (accessed July 16, 205); Cynthia Enloe, “Day I of the Syrian Women’s Peace Talks in Geneva: Prelude to the Official Syrian Peace Talks,” Women’s Action for New Directions,  January 20, 2014, http://www.wandactioncenter.org/2014/01/30/guest-author-cynthia-enloes-report-from-the-syrian-peace-talks/ (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xvi] “He Left Before Syria’s Women Could Speak,” Human Rights Watch Dispatch, December 19, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/19/dispatches-he-left-syria-s-women-could-speak (accessed July 16, 2015).

[xvii] UNSCR 1888, Operative Paragraph 17; UNSCR 1820, Operative Paragraph 10; United Nations Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Resource Centre (UNDDR), Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standard, “5:10, Women, Gender and DDR,” August 2006, http://unddr.org/uploads/documents/IDDRS%205.10%20Women,%20Gender%20and%20DDR.pdf (accessed 21 July 2015).

[xviii] United Nations Security Council, Resolution 1325, Operative Paragraph 12.

[xix] “UN Human Rights Council: Call to Recognize the Status of Women's Human Rights Defenders,” Human Rights Watch Oral Statement during the Annual Day of Discussion on Women's Human Rights, June 26, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/26/un-human-rights-council-call-recognize-status-womens-human-rights-defenders.

[xx] “Sudan: Surge in Detention, Beatings, Around Elections,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 28, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/28/sudan-surge-detention-beatings-around-elections.

[xxi] “Afghanistan: Urgent Need for Safe Facilities for Female Police,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 25, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/25/afghanistan-urgent-need-safe-facilities-female-police.

[xxii] “Afghanistan: Surge in Women Jailed for ‘Moral Crimes,’” Human Rights Watch news release, May 21, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/21/afghanistan-surge-women-jailed-moral-crimes.

[xxiii] Human Rights Watch, “Here, Rape is Normal”: A Five-Point Plan to Curtail Sexual Violence in Somalia, February 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/02/13/here-rape-normal/five-point-plan-curtail-sexual-violence-somalia.

[xxiv] “Iraq: ISIS Escapees Describe Systematic Rape,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 14, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/14/iraq-isis-escapees-describe-systematic-rape.

[xxv] Human Rights Watch, “We are Still Here”: Women on the Front Lines of Syria's Conflict, July 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/07/02/we-are-still-here/women-front-lines-syrias-conflict.

[xxvi] “Sudan: Soldiers, Militias Killing, Raping Civilians,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 14, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/14/sudan-soldiers-militias-killing-raping-civilians; “Sudan: Mass Rape by Army in Darfur,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 11, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/02/11/sudan-mass-rape-army-darfur.

[xxvii] Human Rights Watch, “Those Terrible Weeks in their Camp”: Boko Haram Violence against Women and Girls in Northeast Nigeria, October 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/10/27/those-terrible-weeks-their-camp/boko-haram-violence-against-women-and-girls.

[xxviii] “Iraq: ISIS Escapees Describe Systematic Rape,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 14, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/14/iraq-isis-escapees-describe-systematic-rape.

29 United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security,  S/2014/693, p. 19.

[xxx] Human Rights Watch, “As if We Weren’t Human”: Discrimination and Violence against Women with Disabilities in Northern Uganda, August 2010, https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/08/26/if-we-werent-human/discrimination-and-violence-against-women-disabilities-northern.

[xxxi] Human Rights Watch, Rights Out of Reach: Obstacles to Health, Justice, and Protection for Displaced Victims of Gender-Based Violence in Colombia, November 2012, https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/11/14/rights-out-reach/obstacles-health-justice-and-protection-displaced-victims-gender, p. 5.

[xxxii] World Bank and World Health Organization, “World Report on Disability,” 2011, http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2011/9789240685215_eng.pdf (accessed July 21, 2015), p. 8.

[xxxiii] Human Rights Watch, “As if We Weren’t Human.”

[xxxiv] See International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Customary International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), rule 22, citing Protocol I, art. 58(c) and rule 93 (prohibiting rape and other forms of sexual violence).

[xxxv] The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment (art. 7) and protects women’s right to be free from discrimination based on sex (arts. 2(1) and 26). ICCPR, adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted December 10, 1984, G.A. res. 39/46, annex, 39 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 51) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (1984), entered into force June 26, 1987, arts. 2 and 16; Rome Statute, arts. 7 and 8. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that governments violate their treaty obligations not only when state actors are responsible for the action, but also when the state fails to take necessary steps to prevent violations caused by private actors. The committee’s General Recommendation No. 31 to the ICCPR notes that governments must “take appropriate measures or … exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate or redress the harm caused by such acts by private persons or entities.” The Committee against Torture requires governments to prevent and protect victims from gender-based violence and rape by exercising due diligence in investigating, prosecuting, and punishing perpetrators—even private actors—of rape and sexual assault.

[xxxvi] See four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Protocols Additional of 1977. Other sources of international humanitarian law are the 1907 Hague Convention and Regulations, decisions of international tribunals, and customary law.

[xxxvii] Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949.

[xxxviii] The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted December 18, 1979, G.A. res. 34/180, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc. A/34/46, entered into force September 3, 1981.

[xxxix] Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989), entered into force Sept. 2, 1990, arts. 2, 34, 37, 43.

[xl] Human Rights Watch, Silenced and Forgotten: Survivors of Nepal’s Conflict-Era Sexual Violence, September 2014, https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/09/23/silenced-and-forgotten/survivors-nepals-conflict-era-sexual-violence.

[xli] The United Nations has documented at least 135 victims in this case. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “Report of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office on Human Rights Violations Perpetrated by Soldiers of the Congolese Armed Forces and Combatants of the M23 in Goma and Sake, North Kivu Province, and In and Around Minova, South Kivu Province, From 15 November to 2 December 2012,” May 2013, p. 4,  http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/CD/UNJHROMay2013_en.pdf (accessed July 8, 2015).

[xlii] “DR Congo: War Crimes by M23, Congolese Army,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 5, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/05/dr-congo-war-crimes-m23-congolese-army; “Revealed: how the world turned its back on rape victims of Congo,” The Guardian, undated, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/13/rape-victims-congo-world-turned-away (accessed July 8, 2015).

[xliii] United Nations General Assembly, “Fifty-ninth session, Agenda item 77, Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects,” March 24, 2005 http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/59/710 (accessed July 8, 2015); United Nations Secretariat, Secretary-General’s Bulletin, “Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse,” October 9, 2003, https://cdu.unlb.org/Portals/0/PdfFiles/PolicyDocC.pdf (accessed July 8, 2015); Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), “Evaluation Report: Evaluation of the Enforcement and Remedial Assistance Efforts for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by the United Nations and Related Personnel in Peacekeeping Operations,” May 2015, https://oios.un.org/page?slug=evaluation-report (accessed July 23, 2015).

[xliv] Somini Sengupta, “Allegations Against French Peacekeepers Highlight Obstacles in Addressing Abuse,” New York Times, May 25, 2015, (accessed July 8, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/26/world/europe/allegations-against-french-peacekeepers-highlight-obstacles-in-addressing-abuse.html.

[xlv] The obligation of states to prosecute grave breaches of international humanitarian law is outlined in each of the Geneva Conventions.

[xlvi] ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, pp. 591-93, 607-10.

[xlvii] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9, July 17, 1998, entered into force July 1, 2002. The Rome Statute is the treaty creating the ICC. Command responsibility is an established principle of customary international humanitarian law and has been incorporated into the Rome Statute.

[xlviii] Rome Statute, art. 28.

[xlix] See UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 31, Nature of the General Legal Obligation on States Parties to the Covenant, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13 (2004) , para. 15. See also, Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity (“Impunity Principles”), U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1, February 8, 2005, adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in Resolution E/CN.4/2005/81, April 15, 2005, principle I; Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, adopted December 16, 2005, G.A. res. 60/147, U.N. Doc. A/RES/60/147 (2005), principle 11.

[l] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 31, para. 16.

[li] UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, December 20, 1993, G.A. res. 48/104, 48 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 217, U.N. Doc. A/48/49 (1993).

[lii] International Criminal Court, Office of the Prosecutor, Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, June 2014, http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/OTP-Policy-Paper-on-Sexual-and-Gender-Based-Crimes--June-2014.pdf (accessed July 8, 2015).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Liesl Gerntholtz is the executive director of the women's rights division. She is an expert on women's rights in Africa and has worked and written extensively on violence against women and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. Her work at Human Rights Watch has included documenting access to safe and legal abortion in Ireland and sexual and gender-based violence in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Before joining Human Rights Watch, Liesl worked for some of the key constitutional institutions promoting human rights and democracy in a post-apartheid South Africa, including the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality.  A lawyer by training, she was involved in high-profile, strategic human rights litigation to promote women and children's rights, including a case that changed the definition of rape in South Africa.

NPR Interview - Women's Rights In The Age Of The Arab Spring

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Indonesia said it will stop administering “virginity tests” to female aspiring civil servants as part of its admission process. The country’s Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo announced this change—which will affect women working in government offices—on the heels of Human Rights Watch research that documented this degrading practice in the admission process for another branch of the Indonesian government, the National Police force.

Human Rights Watch found that the testing included the invasive “two-finger test” to determine whether female applicants’ hymens are intact. Minister Kumolo said that it was “illogical” to recruit a student based on her virginity and noted that a woman’s hymen could be torn due to sports, exercise, or other accidents. 

Rumors about these tests have circulated for decades, but Human Rights Watch brought the issue into the national spotlight by gathering concrete testimony from eight  current and former police women and applicants as well as police doctors, a police recruitment evaluator, a National Police Commission member, and several prominent women’s rights activists. The women we interviewed described the examination as frightening, humiliating, and extremely painful.  

Virginity tests are a form of gender-based violence, cannot be administered to men, and are inherently degrading and discriminatory. Moreover, these tests have been widely discredited by the scientific community and the World Health Organization. For years, Human Rights Watch has been pushing for an end to this practice and documenting cases of abusive testing in Indonesia and several other countries including Egypt, India, and Afghanistan

Ending virginity tests for Institute of Public Administration applicants is an important step forward, but much remains to be done.  Recently, the municipal government of Indonesia’s city of Jember in east Java proposed forcing female high school students to pass a virginity test before they could receive their diploma. This time, however, officials quickly back-pedaled from the proposal.

Indonesia’s National Police and the Indonesian Armed Forces have yet to follow the Institute of Public Administration’s lead. Despite Human Rights Watch’s findings, police officials continue to deny administering virginity tests, claiming that the female recruits are simply undergoing a required “medical examination.” Human Rights Watch’s research has also revealed that the military—the air force, the army, and the navy—has for decades also extended the “virginity test” requirement to female recruits as well as the fiancées of military officers prior to marriage.

Indonesia's police and military need to abolish virginity testing and make sure their recruiting stations across the country stop using it as well.

 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

“Sometimes I just can’t sleep without pills. I keep remembering how many people died that day.”

Shabana, her name changed to protect her privacy, survived three days buried in the rubble of Rana Plaza, an eight-story building with five garment factories that collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013.

Relatives cry for loved ones trapped in the collapsed Rana Plaza building outside Dhaka on April 24, 2013.

(c) 2013 Reuters

Four years later, Shabana is still struggling to piece her life back together. She has nightmares. Depression hampers her life and ability to work. Setting foot inside a garment factory is unthinkable. She is now a domestic worker.

There was barely any publicly available information about the apparel brands that were using the Rana Plaza factories. Activists searched through the rubble for labels and interviewed survivors.

For decades, such secrecy has been the norm in the garment industry. While a handful of companies, like Adidas, Nike, Levi’s, Puma, and Patagonia, began publishing details more than a decade ago, others have recently joined. By the end of 2016, at least 29 apparel companies were disclosing some information about their source factories. Yet, company commitments to transparency about supplier information are inconsistent, with widely varying standards for what they choose to disclose. Many brands have held out completely.

Last year, a coalition of labor and human rights organizations endorsed the Transparency Pledge, which sets a minimum standard for publishing supply chain information. The coalition contacted 72 apparel and footwear companies, urging them to carry out the pledge. The pledge reflects existing corporate practices on disclosure, and aims to foster a level playing field in the industry.

Seventeen companies will fully align their disclosure practices with the pledge by the end of 2017. Many others are moving in the right direction. But the industry still has a long way to go. Well-known brands and retailers like Forever21, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, Primark, and Armani are among those yet to embrace transparency.

Supply chain transparency complements other measures for worker safety and rights like the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Numerous brands are part of the accord and publish their supplier information.

Companies that are reluctant to adopt the Transparency Pledge sometimes claim it is a competitive disadvantage. But increasingly, their competitors are dispelling this myth.

Shabana sewed clothes in a Rana Plaza factory. But she and most other workers didn’t know the brands. “Workers should know about brands so they can tell their true stories,” she says.

Garment workers in Bangladesh face poor working conditions and anti-union tactics by employers including assaults on union organizers. In the two years since more than 1,100 workers died in the catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory on April 24, 2013, efforts are underway to make Bangladesh factories safer, but the government and Western retailers can and should do more to enforce international labor standards to protect workers’ rights, including their right to form unions and advocate for better conditions.

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

“Salwa” is a 39-year-old woman from Annaba with two children and a long history of abuse by her husband. She told Human Rights Watch that he started beating her from the early days of their marriage in 2006. She said she endured this treatment for years and never went to the police because she was too afraid of him. In September 2011, he hung her by the arms to a bar in the ceiling of their house with an iron wire and stripped her naked. He took a broom and beat her with it. He then lacerated her breasts with scissors, she said.

Bleeding and screaming, Salwa fainted. When she woke up, she discovered that her sister-in-law had come in. She freed Salwa from the wire, gave her something to wear, opened the door of the house, and told her to flee. She ran until she came to a hospital. The police guarding the hospital escorted her inside. At the emergency unit, they gave her first aid care but told her she could not stay. The police at the hospital took her to a police station. She had visible bruises, blood on her clothes, and her face was swollen from his beatings. She filed a complaint and accepted the police’s offer to take her to a shelter. They first took her to a state shelter for homeless people. Finding the shelter “overcrowded, not clean,” Salwa went to another in Annaba, one run by a nongovernmental organization.

Police inaction, insufficient shelter space, and ineffective investigation and prosecution often leave domestic violence survivors in Algeria at risk of further mistreatment despite a new law criminalizing spousal abuse.

When she felt physically able to leave the shelter, she went to the police to inquire about her complaint. They told her, “we called your husband, he said you fell and that is why you are bruised.” The police did not conduct any further investigation, such as summoning her husband for interrogation at the police station or arresting him, Salwa said.

With the help of the association running the shelter, she hired a lawyer and filed another complaint against her husband for assault. She said that a court eventually sentenced him to a fine and six months’ suspended imprisonment.

She filed for divorce twice, each time on the grounds of physical harm. The first time, in 2012, the court rejected her request for divorce and ordered her to return to the conjugal home. A year later, the court granted her request for divorce and ordered her husband to pay alimony.  When he did not comply, she filed a complaint against him. She said the court sentenced him to six months in prison and a fine, but he went into hiding and the police said they could not find him.

As of April 2016, Salwa was still living in the shelter with no other place to go, bitter about the state’s response to her ordeal.

Salwa’s experience illustrates some of the ways that Algerian authorities fail to provide adequate support, protection, and remedies to survivors of domestic violence.

Lack of due diligence from the police in conducting initial investigations of the abuse, lack of enforcement of sentences, and economic dependence on the abusers combine to present domestic violence survivors in Algeria with an uphill struggle.

Human Rights Watch documented cases of both physical and psychological violence. Women told Human Rights Watch about instances in which perpetrators: shoved them; broke their teeth or limbs; caused concussions and skull fractures; beat them with belts and other objects; beat them while pregnant; threatened to kill them; and verbally humiliated them.

Police figures show that more than 8,000 cases of violence against women were recorded in 2016, 50 percent of which are domestic violence cases. The last survey by the State Ministry for the Family and the Status of Women, dating to 2006, revealed that 9.4 percent of Algerian women between the ages of 19 and 64 reported being victims of physical violence often or daily within the family.

Domestic violence survivors can find themselves trapped not only because of economic dependence on their abusers but also because of social barriers which include pressure to preserve the family at all costs, stigma, and shame for the family if women leave or report abuse.

Such barriers are compounded by the failures of the Algerian government to adequately prevent domestic violence, protect survivors, and create a comprehensive system for the prosecution of perpetrators. The shortcomings of the Algerian government’s response to the problem include a lack of services for survivors of domestic violence, particularly shelters; a lack of measures for prevention of violence such as use of educational curricula to modify discriminatory social and cultural patterns of behavior as well as derogatory gender stereotypes; insufficient protection from abusers; and an inadequate response from law enforcement.

Service provision for survivors of domestic violence, including shelter, psychosocial care, and facilitation of access to justice, lies almost entirely in the hands of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), most of which receive no state support.

There are also important gaps in Algeria’s legal framework for responding to domestic violence. Until December 2015, domestic violence was not a specific criminal offense. Instead, physical violence could only be prosecuted under the general criminal provisions related to assault, categorized on the basis of the severity of the injuries. When the wounds healed within 15 days, as was often the case, the prosecutor’s office treated the assaults as minor offenses.  

In December 2015, parliament amended the penal code to address gaps on criminalization of violence against women by criminalizing some forms of domestic violence. Law no. 15-19 makes assault against a spouse or ex-spouse punishable by up to 20 years in prison, depending on the victim’s injuries, and by a life sentence if the attack results in death. It also expanded the scope of sexual harassment, strengthened penalties for it, and criminalized harassment in public spaces.

While these amendments are an important step forward, the law contains several shortcomings, and comprehensive legislation is still needed for an effective and coordinated response to violence against women. The parliament should seek to address this through further legislation.

First, the 2015 law offers the possibility for the offender to escape punishment or benefit from a reduced sentence if the victim pardons the perpetrator. This increases the victim’s vulnerability to social pressure to pardon her abuser and might dissuade her from seeking court remedies for domestic violence.

Second, the definition of domestic violence does not explicitly mention marital rape, a form of abuse that woman across the world commonly face. In addition, the scope of the definition of domestic violence does not include all individuals. It considers spouses and ex-spouses as the only potential perpetrators, to the exclusion of other relatives and persons. For example, the provisions on assault, psychological, and economic violence do not apply to individuals in intimate non-marital relationships, individuals with familial ties to one another, or members of the same household.

Third, the law relies excessively on assessments of physical incapacitation to determine the level of sentencing, without offering guidelines for forensic doctors on how to determine incapacitation in domestic violence cases. In Algeria, as in many other countries, a doctor’s report following examination of an injured patient includes a recommended number of days of partial or full rest, based on an assessment of the person’s incapacitation and the time needed for recovery. The law also ignores that harm resulting from domestic violence may be the result of several incidents of beatings that cannot be assessed in a single forensic examination.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 victims who reported various injuries, ranging from concussions to permanent disabilities. Even in the most severe cases, where the victim had permanent injuries from the beatings, the forensic doctors gave a medical certificate of less than 15 days’ convalescence, which ruled out the imposition of heavier sentences on the perpetrators.

“Hassiba” who suffers from paralysis of her left arm and leg, as a Human Rights Watch researcher observed, said her disability was due to a brain injury after her husband threw a chair at her head. However, the courts ruled only for a two-month prison sentence and a fine of 8,000 Algerian Dinars (US$73) because they relied on the report by the forensic doctor who examined her injuries following the abuse and recorded only 13 days of incapacitation, rather than a sentence of 10-20 years for causing a permanent disability.  

Fourth, the law lacks any provision for protective orders (also known as restraining orders), considered by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN Women, to be among the most effective legal remedies for domestic violence survivors. Protective orders are measures aiming at protecting survivors of domestic violence from further abuse, for example by prohibiting the alleged abuser from calling the victim, ordering him to stay a certain distance from the victim, or requiring the alleged abuser to move out of a home shared with the victim.

Finally, the law lacks guidelines on how law enforcement should handle domestic violence cases. One of the major obstacles women encounter to filing complaints is the dismissive attitude police have towards victims of domestic violence. Of the 20 cases documented by Human Rights Watch, 15 women said that the police discouraged them, in various ways, from filing a complaint.

Some survivors said that even in cases where police registered their complaints, they felt there was inadequate or even no follow-up investigation by police or prosecutorial authorities, such as making an onsite visit and identifying and questioning witnesses.

There is a growing trend to combat domestic violence through legislation in the Middle East and North Africa. Several countries or autonomous regions in the Middle East and North Africa region have introduced some form of domestic violence legislation or regulation, including Bahrain, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. These laws vary in the degree to which they comply with international standards.

Algeria’s neighboring countries, Morocco and Tunisia, are also considering draft legislation on domestic violence that go further than Algeria’s law on criminalizing forms of domestic violence such as by providing protection mechanisms and other services for survivors.

Algeria should ensure that its legislation on domestic violence is comprehensive and in line with international standards. Without such measures, Algeria will continue to put women and girls’ safety, and their lives, at risk.

Key Recommendations

To the Algerian Parliament

  • Amend Law 15-19 by removing explicit references that provide for termination of prosecution, cancellation, or reduction of any court-imposed punishment if the victim pardons the offender.
  • Adopt comprehensive legislation fully criminalizing domestic violence, establishing services and other assistance for survivors, providing for prevention and protection measures, such as emergency and long-term protection orders, and setting out duties for law enforcement.
  • Include rape and sexual violence between current and former intimate partners as a form of domestic violence.

To the Algerian Government

  • Establish a national database on violence against women which includes information on domestic violence showing the number of complaints received, investigations undertaken, prosecutions mounted, convictions obtained, and sentences imposed on perpetrators.

To the Ministry of Interior

  • Establish a police response protocol to domestic violence whereby police should be directed to accept and register domestic violence complaints and inform domestic violence survivors of their rights with regards to protection, prosecution, and redress.
  • Ensure that specialized training on domestic violence is included in the curriculum of the police academy.

To the Ministry of National Solidarity, Family and Women’s Conditions

  • Conduct public awareness campaigns on the criminalization of domestic violence and combat social attitudes that involve normalizing domestic violence, blaming victims, and stigmatizing survivors.

To Algeria’s International Partners, including the European Union and its Member States

  • Raise violence against women and domestic violence in Algeria as a key area of concern in bilateral and multilateral dialogues with Algerian authorities and urge the government of Algeria to address such violence through reforms in the social service, law enforcement, and judicial sectors.
  • Provide funding to support shelters for survivors of domestic violence, as well as for other key services, including psychosocial counseling and legal assistance.

Methodology

This report documents the government of Algeria’s response to domestic violence and the lack of adequate services, protection, and legal remedies for victims. It is based on Human Rights Watch’s research conducted in June 2015 and April 2016. Efforts were made to interview survivors of domestic violence from different parts of the country and from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 survivors of domestic violence. In addition, we interviewed 20 other people, including representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on domestic violence cases or service providers for survivors, lawyers, psychologists, and European Union representatives. 

Human Rights Watch identified survivors with the assistance of local service providers, NGOs, and women’s rights activists.

Human Rights Watch informed all interviewees of the purpose of the interviews, as well as how information collected would be used, and received oral consent before conducting the interview. Survivors were also informed of their right to stop or pause the interview at any time.

We gathered additional information from published sources, including government data, United Nations documents, academic research, and news media.

Human Rights Watch wrote a letter, annexed to this report, to the head of government on May 25, 2016, requesting information for incorporation into this report and meetings with officials who could discuss relevant policies. No responses had been received at time of writing.

All survivors’ names are pseudonyms and some identifying details have been withheld for their security and privacy.

I. Background

“The laws and policies [of Algeria] have not been able to remove all obstacles to de jure and/or de facto discrimination and to fully transform entrenched attitudes and stereotypes that relegate women to a subordinate role. Patriarchal mentalities, challenges in the areas of the interpretation and implementation of the law, the use of mediation to solve incidents of violence, the absence of verifiable statistics on the prevalence of violence, and the absence of effective cooperative and collaborative partnerships between civil society and the state heighten women’s vulnerability to violence.”

- 2011 report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women.[1]

Data on Domestic Violence Prevalence

To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, there are no recent national surveys about the prevalence of domestic violence in Algeria. The last survey by the State Ministry for the Family and the Status of Women,[2] dating to 2006, revealed that 9.4 percent of Algerian women aged between 19 and 64 years reported being victims of physical violence often or daily within the family.[3] The study also found that marital rape existed, and that 10.9 percent of women admitted having been subjected to forced sexual relationships by their intimate partners.

A 2013 study conducted by Balsam, a network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on domestic violence across Algeria, found that, among the 1,000 women who sought support from the various associations forming part of the Balsam network between 2011 and 2013, higher levels of violence were found among married women than among unmarried women, especially if they do not work outside of their homes. The report found that physical and psychological violence were the most widely reported forms of abuse. Twenty-seven percent of the 1,000 women said they were victims of sexual violence.[4] The same study showed that the perpetrators of domestic violence came from various social backgrounds.

In her 2011 report following a mission to Algeria, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, referred to a General Directorate for National Security report, which recorded 6,748 cases of violence against women from January to September 2011. The Special Rapporteur called this a “very low figure compared to the prevalence rates found in the 2006 national survey and also recent studies by support centers operated by civil society organizations.”[5] The General Directorate for National Security reported 8,000 cases of violence against women in in the first six months of 2016, 50 percent of which were domestic violence.[6]

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat’s “Guidelines for Producing Statistics on Violence against Women” says: “Without a full understanding of the scope, dimensions and correlates of violence against women, it is not possible to design appropriate responses aimed at properly addressing or preventing such violence at any level of government or civil society.”[7]

National Strategy

In 2003, authorities launched a three year-long consultation with civil society, governmental agencies, and UN bodies to develop a “National Strategy on Combatting Violence against Women.”[8] The strategy, adopted on 2007, brought together several stakeholders that deal with domestic violence survivors, including the Ministries of Justice, Health, National Solidarity, Family, and Women’s Conditions, as well as the police, the gendarmerie, and women’s rights groups.

The national strategy recommended, among other things, the establishment of centers for listening to and taking care of the victims of violence. It also called for the creation of new mechanisms for the registration of complaints by women. The document pressed the government to establish, within the police force and the Gendarmerie Nationale (the police force that operates mainly outside of urban areas), special units that can refer victims to longer-term shelters. It also stressed the need to develop, in a participatory process, a standard protocol outlining the manner in which various state institutions should receive, listen to, support, and orient victims of gender-based violence and the manner in which female officers should be trained to handle such violence. The strategy also recommended that authorities adopt a protocol for forensic doctors on documenting domestic violence. While welcoming these recommendations, Human Rights Watch is unable to confirm that the authorities implemented any such steps.[9]

The letter that Human Rights Watch sent on May 25, 2016 to Algeria’s head of government requested information about the existence of specialized domestic violence units, domestic violence personnel in the police force, and protocols on handling domestic violence cases. The head of government had not replied to Human Rights Watch’s letter at time of writing.

According to the Balsam 2013 report and to service providers who spoke to Human Rights Watch, the General Division of National Security (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Nationale, or DGSN) created a special bureau for the protection of children and women victims of domestic violence.[10] Human Rights Watch was not able to verify this information, and the government did not respond to our questions about it.[11]

Positive Legal Reforms

Algeria has undertaken a number of legal reforms that promote women’s rights. In 2005, following campaigning by women’s rights groups, the parliament passed two laws favorable to women’s rights. The first is the amended nationality code to allow Algerian women with foreign spouses to pass on their nationality to their children and to their foreign husbands. [12] The second is the amended family code by increasing women’s access to divorce and custody of children. While many of the family code’s provisions remain discriminatory, the authorities removed the provision that stated: “The duty of the wife is to obey her husband.”[13] (See chapter VI on Algeria’s Legal Framework Compared to International Legal Obligations).  

Algeria’s constitution enshrines the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sex and requires the state to take positive action to ensure equality of rights and duties of all citizens, men and women, “by removing the obstacles that hinder the progress of human beings and impede the effective participation of all in political, economic, social and cultural life.”[14] In March 2016, the parliament amended the constitution by adding an article stating “the state works to attain parity between women and men in the job market” and “encourages the promotion of women in positions of responsibility in public institutions and in businesses.”[15]

Algerian laws contained no specific provisions on domestic violence until December 10, 2015, when the parliament adopted several amendments to the penal code that criminalized some forms of domestic violence and stipulated heavy sentences for it. The law also criminalized harassment in public spaces and strengthened penalties for sexual harassment. The amendments, known as Law no.15-19, came into force on December 30, 2015.[16] While the law was a welcomed step in recognizing and criminalizing domestic violence in some forms, it failed to fully criminalize domestic violence, including by not specifically criminalizing marital rape. Additionally, Algeria’s legal framework continues to lack the comprehensive legal measures needed to prevent domestic violence, assist survivors, and prosecute offenders (see chapter VI).

The following chapters show how women face barriers in accessing services and in ensuring that their abusers are held accountable. Various measures, including further legal reform, is needed to lift these barriers.

II. Social Barriers to Accessing Help

Social and economic barriers that prevent survivors of domestic violence from seeking assistance, protection, and justice include pressure to maintain the family at all costs, economic dependence on husbands, and stigma and shame if a woman leaves her abusive spouse.

Yasmina Boumerdassi, an Algiers lawyer specializing in family affairs, told Human Rights Watch that she has handled about a hundred cases involving domestic violence. She said in 90 percent of these cases, women victims drop their complaints and the prosecutors usually don’t pursue prosecutions after the women abandon their complaints.

She said: “They are afraid to be rejected by the family. They might ask for divorce, after long years of physical abuse, but they rarely go to court to file complaints against their husbands.”[17]

Another Oran-based lawyer, Tata Benhamed, said that between the time when a woman files a complaint and the moment she receives a summons from the prosecutor for the first interview, a wait that can last several months, many women become discouraged and abandon their complaint. Family members might pressure them by saying the complaint risks breaking apart their families, sending the father of her children to prison, destabilizing them, and bringing shame on the extended families.

Benhamed said that in 90 percent of the cases she followed, women dropped their complaint after they filed one with the police, when the complaint reached the prosecutor.[18]

Social Stigma and Family Rejection

Survivors, service providers, lawyers, and psychologists interviewed by Human Rights Watch spoke overwhelmingly of a social atmosphere that contributes to tolerance of domestic violence and silences victims. Authorities conducted a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) with the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2012-2013 to gauge attitudes towards domestic violence.[19] The survey, conducted in 2012-2013, of 38,547 women across the country aged 15 to 49 years, found that 59% of them believe that a husband has “the right to beat his wife” for one or more of various reasons, including: if she goes out without his permission; neglects the children; argues with him; burns the food; shows disrespect for his parents; or refuses to give him her salary or to quit her job.

Lamia, 18, fled her family house in Tizi Ouzou in January 2016 because her father was beating her. She said that he did the same to her mother for years, before her mother decided to leave him. Lamia blamed her mother for leaving the family house:

In the Kabylie region, it is a shame to leave the house. Whatever the man does, it is the woman who is to be blamed. It is the man’s right to beat his wife.[20]

A director of an NGO shelter in Algiers said, “it is typical that their families tell women, ‘Be patient with your husband, accept the violence and stay quiet.’” The majority of the women that her shelter hosts felt guilty because their families had rejected them, she said.[21]

Several women who attempted to leave abusive relationships told Human Rights Watch that their families and the family of their spouse had encouraged them to return and reconcile, even when they had suffered serious injury.

Hasna, now 31 years old and the mother of four children, married at the age of 21 and lived with her husband and his parents in Oran. She stopped working, and after a year of marriage, she gave birth to their first daughter. She said that her husband repeatedly grabbed and pulled her by her hair, shoved her to the ground and beat her on her arms and stomach, even when she was pregnant.[22]

I felt alone. My father, each time I complained to him, said “Ma’alesh (it doesn’t matter), everything is maktoub (destiny), this is your husband, the father of your kids. Your destiny is to stay with him.”

She said she left him after ten years of abuse.

Hassiba, 55, with one daughter, comes from a poor family in Mascara, a town 100 km southeast of Oran. She dropped out of school at 12 and worked in a bakery in Oran. She married at the age of 40 to a man who forced her to quit her job. She said he started beating her two months after they married. He threw objects at her and slapped her on the face. When she told her father, he said, “Be patient with him, maybe he will change.”[23]  After eight years of abuse, Hassiba left and divorced him.

Economic Dependence on Abusers

Many victims told Human Rights Watch that they remained in violent relationships in part because of their reliance on their husbands or their families for food and shelter. At least five out of the 20 women we interviewed had jobs before marriage but quit them, either under pressure from the husband or because they had to take care of the children.

Isolation can reinforce dependence on abusers. Some women reported that their spouses or in-laws controlled their movement and refused to let them work outside the home or contact their own families.

Hanan, now 55, married when she was 22 years old. Her parents initially opposed the marriage but relented when she insisted. She used to work in a pharmacy in Oran. When she got married, she obeyed the demand of her husband, who she said was very religious, to quit her job and wear the hijab. She said he also started to slowly isolate her, at first not allowing her to see her extended family, then to attend weddings or even funerals of friends and family. Hanan said that her husband started beating her several months after they married, even when she was pregnant. He slapped her on the face several times. She said she didn’t tell her parents because she was too ashamed and wanted to hide her ordeal.[24]

Several of the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch described a long history of family violence. They said they had experienced abuse at the hands of their parents or stepparents and/or came from broken homes. This left them even more vulnerable and with fewer relatives to whom they could turn to.

Jamila, a 44-year-old mother of five, came from a working-class family. Her parents died when she was young. She stopped her studies and at 16 married a man she loved. She gave birth to a disabled boy and her husband developed tuberculosis. After recovering, he started drinking heavily. She said he then met another woman and started beating her to force her to allow him to marry a second wife. When she refused, he shoved her and kicked her. She did not go to the police. “I had nowhere to go,” she said. “My parents were dead, I don’t have a family. I didn’t want to lose my kids and break the family ties.”[25]

On January 4, 2015, the Algerian parliament adopted Law no.15-01 creating a maintenance fund for divorced women supporting children.[26] The law stipulates that authorities will pay maintenance for children when there is a total or partial incapacity or failure by the husband to pay it. The law puts the onus on the person having guardianship of the children to first to file a complaint with the family court judge, providing documentation to prove the nonpayment of maintenance. The judge shall rule within five days on the nonpayment and then notify both parties, who have two days to appeal. The judge makes the final decision in three days. The relevant authorities are then to implement the decision and send the maintenance payment through bank or postal transfer to the beneficiary within 25 days. The fund will be financed by the state budget. The 2015 budget law created a new account number (302-142) in the national treasury of the state dedicated to the maintenance fund. The Minister of National Solidarity, Family and Women’s Conditions is the chief authorizing officer for the fund; the director of social affairs and solidarity at the wilayas (governorates) is the secondary authorizing officer.[27]

Human Rights Watch interviewed nine women victims of domestic violence who faced financial hardships after they finally decided to leave their husbands and the court gave them guardianship of their children. They said that they did not know about the maintenance fund. Others knew about it but had not yet attempted to file for assistance under its provisions.[28]

III. Lack of Shelter and Services for Domestic Violence Survivors

While women are left isolated and financially dependent on their abusers, many also said they did not know where to go for help, including shelters available to them.

Situation of State-Run Shelters

Human Rights Watch was not able to access state-run shelters in Algeria. The organization sent a letter on October 30, 2014 to the Algerian government, asking to meet to discuss domestic violence legislation and policies (see Annex I). Human Rights Watch sent another letter to the government on May 25, 2016, asking about the number of shelters available for domestic violence survivors and the level of funding they receive from the government (see Annex II). At time of writing, Human Rights Watch has received no answer to either letter.

The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, who visited Algeria in November 2010, noted that that there are only two state-run shelters specialized for women victims of violence, in Bou Ismaïl in the governorate of Tipasa and Tlemcen, and that both had limited capacity.[29] She further reported that in the absence of sufficient shelters, police and social services officials direct women fleeing violence to Dar al-Rahma [charitable houses] institutions, which accommodate a wide range of persons in need of state support, including the homeless and mentally and physically disabled persons.[30] The Ministry of National Solidarity, Family and Women’s Conditions published on its website a list of nine Dar al-Rahma [charitable house] institutions across the country.[31]

The state-run shelters for women victims of violence are regulated by a decree, dating back to 2004, which specifies their mandate, organization, and regulation.[32] The decree states that the shelters should provide for the temporary accommodation and medical-socio-psychological care of girls and women victims of violence and in distress. Admission to these centers depends on a decision from the governor or referral by security services.

According to the state’s report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which monitors compliance with the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the National Shelter for Women Victims of Violence and Women in Distress in Bou Ismaïl has a capacity of 40 beds, and “has been undergoing extensions to increase its capacity to 100. The project is nearing completion, and the establishment is currently being equipped.”[33] The report states that in 2011, 15,280 women and girls went through the center and received psychological, legal, and social assistance. The report states that the total budget for the center in 2011 is 49,268.000 Algerian Dinars (US$449,166).

Human Rights Watch did not interview women who stayed in the shelters dedicated to hosting women victims of violence. However, we did interview one woman, Manal, who stayed for weeks in one of the state-run Dar al-Rahma institutions in Algiers, which, as noted, are not tailored specifically for the needs of survivors of domestic violence. While there is no evidence that Manal’s account necessarily represents conditions at such shelters nationwide, this interview provides a glimpse of the treatment that some women victims of violence face in such institutions.

Manal is 31 years old and lives in an NGO-run shelter in Algiers. She left her companion after he beat her on her abdomen when she was pregnant but went back to live with him because she had nowhere else to go, she said.[34] In June 2013, she left the house with her baby at night. She said she was walking along the street and did not know where to go, when a police car approached her. Police officials asked her what she was doing at night on the street, and she told them she had nowhere to go. They took her to a Dar al-Rahma facility for women, in a commune in Algiers. She described the conditions in the center as “horrible”:

As soon as I entered the place, the shelter staff asked me to take off all my clothes, even my underwear, and they kept me naked in a room for one hour. I felt humiliated. Then they gave me a uniform. They took my cell phone. I didn’t have the right to leave the shelter, even during the day. I felt as if I was in a prison.

She said there were around 50 women staying in the shelter for various reasons. There was no separate section for victims of domestic violence. She said that she saw, several times, the shelter personnel beat residents, especially those who had mental health problems or physical disabilities. One time she saw a staff member slapping a woman with physical disabilities because she had urinated in her pants. The shelter staff were rude and would often scream at the residents, she said. She also said that she asked several times for a diaper for her baby but they gave it to her hours later, while her baby cried the entire time. She also said that the shelter provided its residents with no training, instruction, or other recreational activities. Instead they made the women spend their days cleaning the rooms.

Situation of Private Shelters and Service Providers

Several service providers and women’s rights activists told Human Rights Watch that the government provides little in the way of services for survivors of domestic violence, relying on NGOs to fill the gap. They said that almost none of these services provided by NGOs receive government funding or material support and several said that these NGOs struggle to provide services.[35] While the UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women advises that where possible, services should be “run by independent and experienced women’s non-governmental organizations providing gender-specific, empowering and comprehensive support to women survivors of violence, based on feminist principles,” it also notes the important role that the government can play in establishing and funding such services.[36]

Balsam, a network of NGOs working on domestic violence, listed in its 2013 report nine associations that have a counseling center, where women can obtain preliminary legal and psychological advice.[37] They listed three associations running private shelters, two in Algiers and one in Annaba.

Human Rights Watch visited shelters run by women’s rights associations that accept victims of domestic violence in Algiers and in Annaba. Human Rights Watch also visited two centers providing legal and psychological support for women. Largely dependent on donor support, these centers are scarce, underfunded, and concentrated in urban areas. In all these centers, women are usually allowed to stay for several months, together with their children. The multi-service shelters provide legal advice, psychological counseling, and training and educational opportunities.[38] The NGOs running the shelters told Human Rights Watch that women reach the shelter by various means; some come on their own, while the police bring others when they find them wandering the streets or when women file a complaint of domestic violence and say they have nowhere to go. Some learned about the shelters from public awareness campaigns run by the NGOs on state television and radio.

Human Rights Watch spoke with several survivors of domestic violence in these centers. Everyone praised the refuge, help, and support they received. Several told Human Rights Watch that their stay helped them to feel secure and confident enough to file a criminal complaint or apply for a divorce.
 

Several UN bodies including UN Women, the UN General Assembly, CEDAW, and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), have called on states parties to assist and protect domestic violence survivors, including by ensuring that they have timely access to shelter, health services, legal advice, hotlines, and other forms of support.[39]

The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women recommends that states introduce legal reform that mandates such support and services, and that states ensure funding for them. There are also minimum standards recommended by the UN on the level of some services, such as at least one shelter/refuge place for survivors of domestic violence for every 10,000 inhabitants, “providing safe emergency accommodation, qualified counselling and assistance in finding long-term accommodation.”[40] Algeria’s Law no. 15-19 does not detail any measures relating to shelter or other assistance for survivors of domestic violence.

Following her visit to Algeria in 2006, the then-UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women recommended that Algeria “strengthen institutional infrastructure for the effective protection of women from violence,” including by “ensuring adequate resources to improve existing infrastructure supporting a wide range of vulnerable persons, and creating new centers that provide similar specialized integrated services to victims of gender-based violence.”[41]

The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women recommends that survivors have access to financial assistance, such as through trust funds or social assistance programs.[42] Finally, the UN emphasizes the importance of coordination and referrals between agencies responding to domestic violence, and recommends that legislation set out a coordination framework.

IV. Police Response to Domestic Violence

The police are usually the first contact that the victims of domestic violence have with state institutions. Under the Algerian Code of Criminal Procedures, the judicial police, under the supervision of the public prosecutor, is in charge of establishing violations of the penal code, gathering evidence and identifying the culprits, until the decision to open an investigation into the case is made by the prosecutor or the investigative judge.[43] Once such an investigation has been opened, the police are required to act as the agent of the investigating jurisdictions and to comply with their instructions.[44]

In 15 of the 20 cases Human Rights Watch examined, the dismissive attitude of the police constituted an obstacle to filing complaints. In these cases, the women said that the police discouraged them, in various ways, from filing a complaint, or that they seemed to conduct little follow-up, if any, after registering their complaints. Neither the police nor prosecutors made onsite visits to identify and interview witnesses, including neighbors who in several cases intervened and helped the women. Such accounts suggest a need for legislation or policies that spell out the way such complaints should be handled.

Salwa, whose story appears at the start of this report, had endured years of mistreatment by her husband. She said following the last bout of violence in 2011, in which he lacerated her breasts, she ran to a hospital, where members of the police guarding the hospital took her inside. At the emergency unit, they gave her first aid but told her she could not stay at the hospital. They referred her to the hospital’s forensic doctor, who wrote a medical certificate prescribing 14 days of rest for her injuries but did not advise her to go to the police, she said.

Not knowing where to go, Salwa returned to the police at the hospital, who took her to the police station downtown. She said she had visible bruises and her face was swollen from the beatings. The police downtown recorded her complaint and then took her to an NGO-run Dar al-Rahma.[45] She described the conditions there as “very bad” and said she left the shelter and returned to the police. They took her to another NGO-run shelter, Dar al-Insania [humanity house]. When she was well enough to go out again, she went to the police to ask about her complaint. They told her, “we called your husband, he said you fell and that is why you are bruised.” She said the police did not do anything more.[46]

Ramla is a 50-year-old mother of four from Blida. She used to work as a cleaner in a bank. Married in 1991, she got divorced in 2014. She said that her husband started beating her two weeks after they got married. He pulled her by her hair, and beat her on her arms and back with his belt. This often occurred when he came home drunk. She said he forced her to give him all of her salary.[47]

Ramla said she finally decided to divorce him after a particularly severe beating in February 2013. Her husband had asked her to go to the bank to withdraw money for him. When she returned, he insulted her for not withdrawing enough. She said he took an iron rod and beat her on her back, including near her kidneys. She said the neighbors intervened when they heard her cries and walked her to the police station of the third district in Blida. She said she was bleeding and could barely walk. When the policeman there saw her, he asked her who did this to her. She said it was her husband. She said the officer walked out of the commissariat, stopped a passing car, and asked the driver to take her to the hospital. She said the policeman did not do anything more. When she went to complain to the police station the following day, the same policeman took her statement. However, she never heard from the police again. She said the police did not go back to her house to investigate, interrogate her husband, or interview her neighbors. She said she filed a request for divorce in May 2013 based on a unilateral request procedure and got divorced almost a year later.

Mariem, from Blida, is 36 years old. She said she grew up in a poor family and got married at 26 years old, in 2005, to a man she loved. She said the problems started in June 2013 when she was pregnant for the third time. He wanted to throw her out of the house. When she resisted, he punched her in the face and pushed her out. She said she had no money or documents with her. A neighbor accompanied Mariem to the hospital. The forensic doctor gave her a medical certificate prescribing ten days of rest. She then went to the police station to file a complaint. She gave the policemen the certificate, and told them that her husband threw her out of the house. “One of the policeman there told me, ‘This is none of my business. It’s a private family matter. You should go to court,’” she recalled.[48]

She said she went to stay with her brother, who helped her find a lawyer. On May 31, 2015, she asked for a unilateral divorce for “damage,” as permitted in the family code. She obtained it on October 28, 2015 from the first instance court in Blida.

Hasna, is a 31-year-old mother of four from a middle-class family in Oran. She said she married ten years ago and stopped working shortly after getting married. When she became pregnant for the first time, her husband did not want the child. She said that on several occasions he grabbed her by her arms and shoved her. A year following their marriage she gave birth to their first daughter. The violence continued year after year.

In September 2014, he asked her to leave the house and go live with her parents. When she refused, he grabbed her and threw her against the wall, slapped her, and punched her in the face. She said she escaped the house and ran outside in her pajamas. She approached the first policeman she saw on the street, in tears. The policeman told her he could not do anything and that she had to go to the police station. He gave her money for a taxi, and she went to the police station.

At the Miramar police station, the policeman told me “This is a family affair. This is not our business. This is your husband. Maybe he was angry. He will come back to his senses. Go and find some elders who can calm things down. Otherwise, if you file a complaint, he will divorce you.” I thought: if a police officer says this, he must be right, I should go back. And I went back.

She said husband’s mistreatment and the beatings of her continued. In March 2015, they argued in the car parked in the parking lot in front of their house, in front of two of their older children. She said she was wearing sunglasses, he slapped her on the face and the sunglasses injured her in her temples. She was bleeding. When she told him that she will complain to the police, he told her, “Go to the police, in fact I will take you to the police.” They went to the Miramar police station with the children. The policemen told her that if she wants, she can file a complaint, but the children begged her not to. She didn’t. She said after that she went back to live with him for several months. Then he pressed her to accept the divorce, and on September 13, 2015, they got divorced. He provided her the child maintenance and she was able to keep their apartment.

Hanan, who endured years of beating and humiliation from her husband said that one of the most severe episodes occurred during a visit to his parents’ house on October 11, 2009.[49] That day, her husband slapped their eldest daughter on the face and ear during an argument. When Hanan screamed at him to stop, he turned to her and punched her in the face, breaking her nose. She went to the forensic doctor with her daughter. Human Rights Watch reviewed the forensic doctor’s certificate, dated October 11, 2009. It stated that Hanan had suffered a broken nose and psychological shock, and prescribed 16 days of rest. Human Rights Watch also reviewed her daughter’s medical certificate, prepared by the same doctor on the same day, which stated that she had a “tympanic membrane perforation” (ruptured eardrum).[50]

She said she tried with her two daughters to go back to his parents’ house to retrieve their bags and personal documents, such as identity cards and passports, but he did not let them in or give them their belongings. They went to the sixth district police station to file a complaint against him.

The policeman there told me, “This is not our mandate, it’s the prosecutor’s mandate. We cannot interfere between a man and his wife.” I had my nose broken, I had bruises on my face, and this is what he says.

Hanan said she went with her children to stay with her parents. She filed a request for recovery of their personal documents, with the prosecutor’s office at the First Instance Court in Oran. Human Rights Watch reviewed three documents, dated November 3, 8, and 10, 2009, in which the prosecutor ordered the police station of the fifteenth district of Oran to intervene immediately in order to help her recover her documents.[51]

She said for each of these orders she had to go to the prosecutor’s office, then to the police to deliver the requisition orders and then back again to the prosecutor to report about the lack of action from the police. On her follow-up visits, when she asked the police what they had done to recover her documents, they would say that they went to the house but did not find him. She said that they did not attempt to do anything else to help her.

V. Judicial Response to Domestic Violence

There are no comprehensive statistics listing the number of prosecutions brought for violence against women and the number of convictions obtained. Consequently, it remains difficult to assess the extent to which the Algerian authorities comply with their obligations to investigate and punish crimes involving domestic violence. This lack of official data led the CEDAW Committee to recommend in 2012 that Algerian authorities establish a database of information on domestic and sexual violence showing the number of complaints received, investigations undertaken, prosecutions mounted, convictions obtained, and sentences imposed on perpetrators as a basis for the government’s reporting to the Committee.[52]

On May 25, 2016, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Algerian government requesting data on domestic violence complaints and criminal cases but received no reply.

The Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women recommends the creation of specialized prosecutor units on violence against women and to provide adequate funding for their work and specialized training of their staff.[53]

Law no. 15-19 does not envisage the creation of such specialized prosecutorial units, which means that the current Algerian Code of Criminal Procedure will apply to new cases of domestic violence.

Under this code, the public prosecutor’s office instigates criminal proceedings and enforces the law.[54] He is in charge of directing the activities of the judicial police, receiving complaints and denunciations, and deciding whether to initiate a prosecution or to close the case without further action.[55] Under the code, once an investigation is opened by a decision of the prosecutor, the investigative judge takes the lead and is in charge of judicial investigations.[56] The preliminary investigation led by the investigative judge is compulsory if the offense constitutes a crime and therefore punishable by over five years imprisonment. It is optional for minor offenses. It may also be initiated for petty offenses if requested by the prosecutor.[57]

Evidentiary Requirements for Domestic Violence

Human Rights Watch received contrasting information about the judicial system’s handling of evidence in domestic violence cases. Some lawyers said they have seen judges unreasonably insist on certain kinds of evidence, such as eyewitnesses, in domestic violence cases, often an impossibility since most abuse takes place behind closed doors. Lawyers have also said that the medical certificate or the victims’ accounts are considered insufficient for conviction.[58]

The Code of Criminal Procedures allows the judge to establish an offense using “any kind of evidence” that is produced in court and examined by all parties in the trial.[59] Likewise, the 2015 amendment to the penal code, introducing article 266(bis) relating to domestic violence, provides that: “The State of domestic violence can be proved by any means.”[60]

Human Rights Watch spoke with several victims who had differing experiences with the way the judiciary handled their cases. In some instances, the victim said the judge accepted the medical certificate and her own account of the violence as evidence sufficient to convict the husband.

This was the case of Rabiaa, 46, a former nurse. She married in 2008 and moved with her husband to London, where she gave birth to two children. Her husband started beating her shortly after their relocation to London. They returned to Algiers in August 2014. She said that on October 27, 2014, her husband banged her head against a wall in their house in Algiers and beat her, injuring her right eye. Her brother took her to a hospital in Algiers. The forensic doctor gave her a medical certificate specifying the period of physical incapacity for 15 days. The following day she filed a complaint against her husband at the Rouiba police station in Algiers. On March 26, 2014, section for minor offenses at the court of first instance of Rouiba sentenced her husband to two months in prison and a fine of 16,000 Dinars (US$145). She said the sitting judge based his decision on the forensic doctor’s evaluation of her physical incapacitation and on her own accounts of the violence.[61] On appeal, the court suspended the two-month sentence.

Amira, 36, from Oran with two children, told Human Rights Watch that her husband, whom she married in 2004, beat her from the beginning of their marriage. In June 2013, while he was beating their daughter, she tried to stop him. She said he went to the kitchen, took a knife, and came back to the living room and grabbed her hair. When she raised her hand in self-defense, she sustained a slash wound between her thumb and index finger. She went to a nearby hospital, where she received first aid and a forensic doctor gave her period of physical incapacity for 15 days. Amira said that with help from a lawyer, she filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office at the first instance court of Oran. That court sentenced her husband to one year in prison. On appeal, her husband denied injuring her, saying her wound had resulted from her own negligence with kitchen appliances. Amira said the appeals judge asked her if she could prove the violence through witness testimonies other than her daughter. She could not. The appeals court ended up overturning the prison sentence against her husband.[62]

Human Rights Watch has long documented in several countries around the world how the absence of guidelines on evidentiary rules can affect women’s ability to prove that domestic violence occurred. As such attacks tend to happen in homes behind closed doors, often there are no direct witnesses other than children, in some cases.

Lack of Standards on Forensic Expertise and Evaluation of Incapacitation

The penal code links the severity of the punishment to the severity of the injury suffered by the victim, as determined by the physician who completes the medical certificate.

Before the 2015 amendments to the penal code relating to domestic violence, most cases of domestic violence were prosecuted under the penal code provisions on the crime of assault, which relate the severity of the sentence to the extent of incapacitation occasioned by the physical injuries.

Article 264 provides for a prison term between two months and five years and a fine from 100,000 to 500,000 dinars (approximately $911 to $4,500) to anyone who intentionally inflicts injuries, beats, or commits other acts of violence against others, if the assault results in a physical incapacity of more than 15 days. The penalties increase to 10 years in prison in cases resulting in loss of limbs, bodily function, blindness, or permanent disability. It could reach up to 20 years if the assault results in unintentional death.[63]

If incapacity is judged to be 15 days or fewer, the offense is classified as a minor offense (“contravention”) under article 442 of the penal code and is punished by a prison term from 10 days to 2 months, in addition to a fine of between 8,000 to 16,000 dinars ($72 to $144).

Law no.15-19, the amendment that introduced heavier sentences where the victim of the assault is a current or ex-spouse to the penal code, continues the practice of tying the sentence to the extent of incapacitation caused by physical injuries. If an assault causes injuries that incapacitate the victim for up to and including 15 days, the offender can be sentenced from 1 to 3 years in prison. When incapacitation lasts more than 15 days, the penalty increases to between 2 and 5 years in prison. The penalties further increase to between 10 and 20 years in prison in cases resulting in loss of limb, bodily function, blindness, or permanent disability. It could reach life in prison if the assault results in death.

In her 2011 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women stated:

A further obstacle to reporting cases of physical violence is found in the requirement of injury as part of the necessary forensic evidence, failing which a complaint will not be pursued by law enforcement authorities. Consequently, the role of forensic doctors, who can grade the injuries based on criteria set forth in the Criminal Code, is of extreme importance in determining the charges that might be brought against the perpetrator. During discussions with the Special Rapporteur, civil society organizations and several victims expressed concern at the very small number of forensic doctors in Algeria, their limited working hours (usually morning shifts only) and their reluctance to issue medical certificates for injuries that automatically lead to criminal proceedings. This reluctance by doctors is allegedly due to the fact that they want to avoid subsequent participation as expert witnesses in court cases.

The focus in the law on incapacitation as a determinative criterion for sentencing is problematic in several respects. It assigns a key, though indirect, role to forensic doctors in determining sentences, by virtue of the medical reports they write indicating the number of days of incapacitation. Yet, Algeria’s law is silent about the criteria and elements to be used by forensic doctors to determine the period of incapacitation. This lack of guidance leaves doctors with wide discretion and potentially arbitrary influence over sentencing in criminal cases. The approach also ignores the reality that domestic violence often results in cumulative smaller physical injuries, which may last fewer than 15 days of incapacitation, or other nonphysical or less-visible harm such as brain trauma.[64] The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that in addition to physical injury and “possibly far more common are ailments that often have no identifiable medical cause or are difficult to diagnose. These are sometimes referred to as “functional disorders” or “stress-related conditions” and include irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal symptoms, fibromyalgia, various chronic pain syndromes, and exacerbation of asthma.”[65]

Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 victims with various forms of injuries, ranging from concussions to permanent injuries. The doctor’s determination of the physical injuries varied greatly. In some cases of what appeared to have been severe injuries, the forensic doctors gave a medical certificate of less than 15 days. 

Salwa, from Annaba, suffered years of mistreatment from her husband. She said that, in January 2011, he hung her with wires on a bar in the ceiling of their bedroom and lacerated her breasts with scissors until she fainted. She was able to escape with the help of her sister-in-law and went to the Annaba hospital. After giving her superficial treatment, the healthcare providers told her to go to the police. The police sent her with a requisition order to the forensic doctor, who gave her 14 days of sick leave due to physical incapacitation. Human Rights Watch interviewed two service providers in the shelter that hosted Salwa at that time. They said that when she came to the shelter, she was still bleeding from the mutilations of her breasts. They called a doctor and a nurse who changed her bandages every day for more than a week.[66]

Hassiba said she has a permanent mobility problem as a result of her husband’s beatings. On November 14, 2008, during a violent episode, her husband took a chair and threw it at her, hitting her head. She said she was in terrible pain and, after several minutes, felt that she could not move her left arm and leg. Hassiba went to a neighbor and asked her to call her father. Her father took her to the hospital, where they conducted medical exams. She said the exams showed that some nerves in her brain were damaged and that, as a result, she had been paralyzed in her left arm and leg. Human Rights Watch observed during an interview with her, in April 2016, that she could hardly move her left arm and was still limping. She said that, on the day of the attack, she went to the police of the eighteenth district in Oran with the results of the medical exams in order to file a complaint. They wrote her statement and sent her with a requisition order to the forensic doctor of the Oran hospital. The doctor gave her 13 days of sick leave due to physical incapacitation.[67] Human Rights Watch reviewed the Oran court’s first instance and appeal judgments in this case. On April 8, 2009, the first instance court sentenced Hassiba’s husband to pay fine of 8,000 DZD [US$73] based on the characterization of the act as a minor offense under article 442 of the penal code. In its judgment on October 24, 2009, the appeals court maintained the fine and added a prison sentence of two months.[68]

The court handed down its sentence before the new law took effect. However, even under the new law, the court would rely on the forensic doctors’ assessment of 13 days’ incapacitation in classifying the offense, resulting in one to three years’ imprisonment rather than the 10 to 20 years if the doctor had determined her injuries to be permanent disability.

VI. Algeria’s Legal Framework Compared to International Legal Obligations

Algeria’s International Obligations on Violence Against Women

Failure to protect women and girls from domestic violence, provide adequate services, and ensure access to justice violates not only Algeria’s national constitution, but also its binding international human rights obligations. The Algerian constitution, adopted in 1996, emphasizes equality, including between women and men. Amendments to the constitution that entered in force in March 2016 added that the “state works to attain parity between women and men in the job market” and “encourages the promotion of women in positions of responsibility in public institutions and in businesses.”[69]

Algeria is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) since 1996. The convention calls on states to take a number of measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination on the basis of sex, including by private actors, so as to ensure women’s full enjoyment of their human rights.[70] Algeria has also signed, but not ratified, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, otherwise known as the Maputo Protocol, which calls on states to take comprehensive measures and legislations to end violence against women.

The CEDAW Committee, the UN expert body that monitors implementation of CEDAW, in its General Recommendations No. 19 and No. 28 makes clear that gender-based violence is considered a form of discrimination and may be considered a violation of CEDAW, whether committed by state or private actors.[71] The committee explained that: “States may also be responsible for private acts if they fail to act with due diligence to prevent violations of rights or to investigate and punish acts of violence.”[72] The Committee has stated in particular that “[f]amily violence is one of the most insidious forms of violence against women” and that such violence presents risks to women’s health and ability to fully participate in private and public life.[73]

The CEDAW Committee has identified key steps necessary to combat violence against women, among them: effective legal measures, including penal sanctions, civil remedies, and compensatory provisions; preventive measures, including public information and education programs to change attitudes about the roles and status of men and women; and protective measures, including shelters, counseling, rehabilitation, and support services.[74]

Similarly, the UN General Assembly has urged governments to take specific law enforcement measures to combat domestic violence through its Resolution on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Measures to Eliminate Violence against Women.[75]

Violence prevents women from enjoying a host of other rights stipulated in other treaties ratified by Algeria. These rights include the right not to be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, security of person, and in extreme cases, the right to life.[76] Algeria has also ratified other treaties that contain provisions relevant to domestic violence, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)[77], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)[78], the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)[79], and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.[80] These include provisions on the rights to life, health, physical integrity, nondiscrimination, an adequate standard of living (including housing), a remedy, and freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

In its last two reports on Algeria from 2005 and 2012, the CEDAW committee recalled the need to guarantee human rights to all women victims of violence and those in vulnerable situations, particularly the right to be represented by a lawyer and to receive medical and psychological care, as well as access to shelter with a view to their social and economic reintegration.”[81]

Gaps in New Law on Domestic Violence Compared to International Standards

The Algerian Parliament passed Law no.15-19, on December 10, 2016, amending the penal code by specifying several forms of domestic violence as distinct offenses and imposing heavier sentences on them than other forms of violence.[82] The law also expanded the scope of sexual harassment and strengthened penalties for it, as well as criminalized harassment in public spaces.[83] While this is a step forward in recognizing domestic violence as a serious offense, it falls short of comprehensive legislation on domestic violence.

In UN Women’s Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, it is noted that “to date, many laws on violence against women have focused primarily on criminalization” and legal frameworks should move beyond this limited approach to make effective use of a range of areas of the law. They call for legislation that is “comprehensive and multidisciplinary, criminalizing all forms of violence against women and encompassing issues of prevention, protection, survivor empowerment and support (health, economic, social, psychological), as well as adequate punishment of perpetrators and availability of remedies for survivors.”[84]

Algeria’s neighboring countries such as Morocco and Tunisia are considering draft legislation on violence against women including domestic violence, which while still weaker than international standards, go further than Algeria’s law on criminalizing forms of domestic violence, such as by establishing specialized committees or units to combat violence against women, protection measures, and other services for survivors.

The following analysis and recommendations reflect the gaps and key elements needed for legislation to better prevent domestic violence, protect survivors, and prosecute abusers.

Definition and Scope

Before the new law was introduced, courts prosecuted acts of domestic violence under general assault and violence provisions of the penal code. Although the law criminalizes various forms of domestic violence, it contains no comprehensive definition of the term.  UN Women’s Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women calls for a comprehensive definition that can encompass physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence.[85] Law no. 15-19 increases the penalties for assault to as much as 20 years in prison when the victim is a current or ex-spouse, depending on the victim’s injuries, or a life sentence where such attacks result in death.[86]

The law criminalizes other forms of domestic violence, including psychological and some economic violence. For instance, if a person repeatedly insults his spouse or ex-spouse or subjects her to psychological violence affecting her dignity or her physical or psychological wellbeing, he can face a prison sentence of between one and three years.[87] A person who coerces or intimidates his spouse by any means in order to use her financial resources can also be sentenced to up to two years in prison.[88] In addition, theft between spouses is also now an offense.[89]

While the law does criminalize forms of psychological and economic violence, it should be amended to ensure that “coercive control” is a key part of these acts. Coercive control includes a range of acts designed to make victims subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance, and escape, and regulating their everyday behavior.”[90]

UN Women have warned that there is a risk that violent abusers will manipulate the purpose of laws on psychological and economic violence “by claiming that they have been psychologically or economically abused by their victims. For example, an angry or disgruntled violent abuser may seek a protection order against his wife because she used his property. Another example is that an abuser may claim that physical violence is an appropriate response to his wife’s insults. Even when abusers do not turn claims of psychological and economic violence against their victims, these types of abuse may be very difficult to prove in legal proceedings.”[91]

As such the article on psychological violence should be amended in line with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recommendation that such acts are defined “as controlling, coercive or threatening behavior or intentional conduct seriously impairing a person’s psychological integrity through coercion or threats.”[92] In terms of economic violence, the definition should be amended in line with UN guidance, including the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs guidance on statistical surveys concerning violence against women.[93] The amended language should explain that economic violence includes: an individual’s controlling, coercive, or threatening behavior or intentional conduct aimed at denying an intimate partner access to financial resources, property, and goods; deliberately failing to comply with economic responsibilities, such as alimony or financial support for the family; denying access to employment and education; and denying participation in economic decision-making.

The law provides for penalties of up to three years in prison for assault committed with violence, coercion or threat of violence violating the sexual integrity of the victim. The penalty increases to up to five years in prison if sexual violence is committed by an ascendant (e.g. parents or grandparents).[94] The law does not explicitly criminalize rape by an intimate partner, often referred to as marital rape.

The penal code criminalizes rape with to 10 years’ imprisonment, and where the assault is committed against someone under 16, the penalty doubles to between 10 and 20 years’ imprisonment. However, it does not define rape or sexual assault.

Algeria argued to the CEDAW Committee that its case law shows that it considers rape as an offense involving physical or psychological violence against a woman. The CEDAW Committee nonetheless expressed concern “at the absence in the Criminal Code of a definition of rape including marital rape and other sexual crimes, which should be interpreted as sexual offenses committed in the absence of one’s consent.”[95]

Furthermore, in the amendments to the penal code, the scope of the offenses related to domestic violence does not include all individuals. It considers spouses and ex-spouses as the only potential perpetrators, to the exclusion of other relatives and persons. For example, the provisions on assault, psychological, and economic violence do not apply to individuals in intimate non-marital relationships, individuals with familial ties to one another, or members of the same household. While the assault and psychological violence provisions do relate to spouses and former spouses, regardless of whether they live in the same residence as the victim, the economic violence provision relating to coercing or intimidating in order to use the victim’s financial resources is limited to just spouses and does not provide for whether it applies to couples who do not cohabit.   

The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women recommends that laws on domestic violence apply to “individuals who are or have been in an intimate relationship, including marital, non-marital, same sex and non-cohabiting relationships; individuals with family relationships to one another; and members of the same household.”[96] Many countries have amended their laws in light of these recommendations.[97]

Algerian law criminalizes adultery, which is a sexual relationship between two adults, if one of them or both are married. While consensual sexual relations between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman are not criminalized in Algeria, there are deeply rooted social attitudes that are hostile to sexual relationships outside marriage. This leads to the stigmatization of women living with their partner outside of marriage.

Human Rights Watch documented two cases of unmarried women who lived with abusive partners and who said that their status contributed to preventing them from reporting domestic violence.  

Manal, 31, from Algiers, experienced violence since childhood. Her parents divorced when she was four months old, leaving her to be raised by her paternal grandmother and uncles. At the age of 16, she went to live with her father and his wife. She said that during the two years she stayed with them, they subjected her to daily mistreatment including her stepmother shackling her wrists and feet in order to quiet her, both of them locking her inside a room for days, and underfeeding her. She escaped from the house at 18 and briefly ended up in sex work. In 2003, she began a relationship with a man and lived with him in Algiers from 2003 to 2013. She said after a month of living together, he began to beat her. She said he regularly burned her with cigarettes and grabbed her by her hair pulling her around the room. She said once he threw a picture frame at her head. She said she never filed a complaint against him because she didn’t know where to turn for help. She said the fact that she was not married to him was a barrier to reporting violence to the police. She said she was afraid the police would even arrest her if she told them they were not married.[98]

Another woman, Nabila, 33, with a three-year-old daughter, lived with a man in Annaba, for one year, in 2012. They married by fatiha, a traditional form of marriage that is not registered with the authorities. She said he beat her regularly. When she was pregnant, he did not want the baby and he kicked her on her belly to provoke a miscarriage. He locked her inside the apartment for several days and gave her no food.

Nabila said she never went to the police to complain. “I’m not married to him. I have no rights. If I go to the police, they could even put me in prison.”[99]

Nabila gave birth to her daughter in 2013 and was living in a shelter when Human Rights Watch interviewed her in April 2016.

Prevention

Law no. 15-19 makes no mention of measures for prevention of domestic violence.

The UN Committee on Discrimination against Women, which oversees the implementation of the CEDAW, to which Algeria is a state party, states that “[t]raditional attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men or as having stereotyped roles perpetuate widespread practices involving violence or coercion, such as family violence and abuse.”[100]

The CEDAW Committee says: “Effective measures should be taken to overcome these attitudes and practices,” including education and public information programs to help eliminate prejudices which hinder women’s equality. the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol, which Algeria has signed in 2003 but not yet ratified, also calls on states to “actively promote peace education through curricula and social communication in order to eradicate elements in traditional and cultural beliefs, practices and stereotypes which legitimize and exacerbate the persistence and tolerance of violence against women.”[101]

In its Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, UN Women recommends that legislation on violence against women address prevention.[102] This should include measures such as awareness-raising on women’s human rights, educational curricula to modify discriminatory patterns of behavior and gender stereotypes, and sensitizing the media regarding violence against women. UN Women has also issued a Handbook on National Action Plans on Violence against Women, which explains additional prevention measures.[103] The UNODC has published guidance on prevention as well.[104]

Algeria has not set out prevention measures on violence against women in its legislation.

Orders for Protection

Law no. 15-19 falls short by failing to introduce protective measures for survivors seeking protection from domestic abuse. Such protective measures are not found elsewhere in Algerian legislation. The purpose of such measures, in countries where they are available, is to protect the victim from further violence. In many countries, domestic violence survivors can access emergency or longer-term “orders for protection.” UN Women describes protection orders as “among the most effective legal remedies available to complainants/survivors of violence against women.”[105] Such orders provide women with a measure of protection “while allowing them time to determine how to stay safe over the long term without immediately having to file for divorce or seek criminal sanctions.”[106]

This is crucial for Algerian women, several of whom told Human Rights Watch that they had approached the authorities for protection from domestic violence but either did not pursue prosecution or dropped complaints due to pressure from their families. Lawyers told Human Rights Watch that in most cases involving allegations of domestic violence, women ended up dropping their criminal complaints (see chapter II on social barriers).

Protection orders go by a variety of names, such as restraining orders or protection orders, and can be issued by a variety of authorities. The UN Women’s Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women recommends that they be available to survivors of domestic violence in both civil and criminal proceedings. Violations of protection orders are typically considered criminal offenses.[107]

Short-term emergency orders respond to situations of immediate danger, often by requiring that the suspected abuser maintain a distance from the victim. This is often an appropriate alternative to placing the burden on victims to seek shelter and safety elsewhere. Laws designate the authorities empowered to issue and enforce such orders. As temporary emergency orders, they can be issued on the basis of a victim’s testimony.

Longer-term protection orders are typically issued by courts after notifying the respondent of an opportunity for a full hearing and review of evidence. In many countries, these orders expire after several months. UN Women recommends that they be valid for one year.[108]

Both emergency and longer-term orders specify restrictions that can be placed on the respondent. For example, they may prohibit a respondent from: perpetrating or threatening further violence; contacting or going near the survivor and her dependents; accessing the family home; and possessing or purchasing a firearm.[109] 

Such measures should also ensure appropriate respect for due process.
 

Prosecution

Absence of Guidance for Law Enforcement

Algerian law does not set out any concrete duties or guidance governing what the police or prosecutors should do in responding to domestic violence.

Police and prosecutors, as well as investigating judges, are central to responding to domestic violence. They are often the front line for receiving complaints, investigating cases, and referring survivors for services. Algeria is not the only country where police and prosecutors are often reluctant to address what they may consider “private family matters.” Far too often, they send women back to dangerous partners, and have failed to take action against abusers.[110]

Recognizing this tendency, UN Women recommends that domestic violence laws establish concrete duties for police, prosecutors, and other officials who play a role in law enforcement or investigations in cases of violence against women. The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women calls for police duties to include: conducting a risk assessment; interviewing the parties and witnesses; recording the complaint; advising the survivor of her rights; filing an official report; arranging for transport for medical treatment; and providing other protection (see above regarding orders for protection).[111]

Finally, UN Women recommends that governments adopt “pro-arrest” and “pro-prosecution” policies when there is probable cause to believe that a domestic violence crime has occurred. The UNODC explains that “pro-arrest” policies “highly encourage officers to make an arrest in cases of domestic violence while at the same time leaving them with some discretion. These policies should require a written report from the police on the reasons when they do not follow the policy.”[112] 

Absence of Evidentiary Rules and Guidance for Forensic Doctors

Law no.15-19 does not specify evidentiary rules that courts should apply, except in the case of “psychological violence,” where the law provides that any form of evidence can be used to prove such violence. (See chapter V on evidentiary requirements for domestic violence.)

The UN Handbook for legislation also states that legislation should state that “medical and forensic evidence are not required in order to convict a perpetrator” and should allow the possibility of prosecuting and convicting an offender “based solely on the testimony of the complainant/survivor.”[113] The authorities should develop guidelines on evidence that should be admissible in court for domestic violence cases in line with UNODC recommendations. This may include medical/forensic evidence, victim statements, photographic evidence, expert witnesses, physical evidence such as torn clothing and damaged property, and cell phone records, emergency call recordings, and other communications.[114]

Algerian law also lacks guidance on criteria or elements to be used by forensic doctors to determine the period of incapacitation.

Algeria’s penal code and its new amendments should be reformed to make the extent of incapacitation one, but not the definitive, factor in determining the sentence. The UNODC guidance on sentencing recommends that laws should specify other factors that judges can take into account, including history of abuse, risk of recidivism, rehabilitation needs, and aggravating factors.[115]

Pardoning Offenders

Law no.15-19, while setting out penalties for some forms of domestic violence, also offers the possibility for the offender to escape punishment or benefit from a reduced sentence if the victim pardons the perpetrator.[116] In cases of psychological and economic violence and of physical violence that do not lead to permanent disabilities, a victim’s pardon of the offender terminates the prosecution. [117] Where the violence results in a permanent disability, a victim’s pardon can halve the sentence from 20 to 10 years imprisonment.[118] In cases of theft between spouses, the criminal prosecution cannot take place without a complaint by the victim, and the withdrawal of the complaint terminates the prosecution.[119]

By including possibilities to pardon into such criminal provisions, the law encourages victims to pardon their offenders, and their abusers to know that such escape is possible. This indeed appears to have been the aim of the drafters. The preceding comments in the June 2014 draft of the law by the Ministry of Justice provided that: “To preserve the continuity of married life, the amendments provide for the possibility of pardon to terminate criminal prosecution in matters related to crimes, while also allowing for mitigating circumstances in matters related to felonies if the victim offers pardon.[120]

Women already face existing social presser to drop complaints against their abusers, and while they can now press new charges under this law, they will face social pressure from their abusers and their families to pardon them throughout the legal process and even following conviction. The law provides for no use of “protection orders” which could prohibit perpetrators from contacting the victim and other relevant measures, leaving survivors at risk of further threats of violence or other harm if they don’t pardon their offenders. By prioritizing the “continuity of married life” through the inclusion of such pardons, the law puts women’s safety and even their lives at risk. If most women are pressured into pardoning their offenders, this may leave the law largely ineffective.

The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women recommends that domestic violence laws make clear that the responsibility for deciding whether to prosecute violence against women lies with prosecution authorities, not with survivors. It recommends that the law set minimum standards for what prosecutors must communicate to survivors at all stages of the legal process, including their rights and details of relevant legal proceedings, as well requiring prosecutors to explain why they dropped their cases.[121]

Other Discriminatory Laws for Women

CEDAW requires states to take “all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.”[122] It also requires states to modify social and cultural patterns of behavior that are sources of many women’s rights abuses.[123] The UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, in its General Recommendation 19, stated that “traditional attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men or as having stereotyped roles perpetuate widespread practices involving violence or coercion, such as family violence and abuse… Such prejudices and practices may justify gender-based violence as a form of protection or control of women.”[124]

During the examination of Algeria’s record in 2012, the CEDAW Committee stated that “[w]hile welcoming a number of legislative amendments aimed at eliminating discrimination against women [...], the Committee expressed its concern that many provisions remain in laws such as the Family Code and the Criminal Code contrary to the State party’s obligations under the Convention and other relevant international human rights instruments.”[125] In 2005, the Committee reminded the Algerian government that reservations to articles 2 and 16 of the CEDAW were contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention and urged it to withdraw its reservations within a finite time frame.[126]

In 2005, Algeria introduced significant amendments to the Family Code but did not eliminate all of its discriminatory provisions. The positive measures included the introduction of mutual consent by both spouses as a requirement of marriage, and the ability to contract a marriage on the basis of mutually agreed clauses.[127] The code removed the provision that said, “the duty of the wife is to obey her husband.” An adult woman however still requires a wali (guardian) to conclude her marriage contract, a requirement not imposed on men, though the amended code redefined wali to include any male of her choice.[128] In addition, the law also still allows for polygamy, though it introduced the wife’s approval as a prerequisite for her husband taking on a new wife.

The amended code also broadens the grounds on which a woman may sue for divorce.[129] But the code still gives only men the right to divorce without providing an acceptable motive.[130] For a woman to divorce without her husband’s consent and without providing an acceptable motive, she needs to repay her dowry, or an equivalent amount of money, to her husband in return for the divorce.

The amended code establishes a default position of preferring the mother when assigning responsibility for primary care of the child custody. It also allowed for the possibility that courts could award women guardianship of her children, giving her decision-making power over their children’s education.[131]

Significantly, the amended code provided that when the court has determined that children should live with their mother after divorce, the father is required to provide a decent dwelling to the mother and the children or, alternatively, to provide adequate financial support. Moreover, the code also provided that if the court orders that the children should live with their mother, she can remain in the marital home until the execution of any judicial decision on housing arrangements.[132]

The family code disfavors divorce-seeking women who have no children from the marriage, in that they lose any right to the marital home, in contrast to men who seek divorce in the same circumstances. This is not only discriminatory on its face, it may also deter women survivors of sexual or other violence committed by their spouse from demanding a divorce that could result in their being made homeless.

Moreover, the family code does not recognize marital property. The absence of legal provisions that value a woman’s non-monetary contributions to the marriage at the time of termination – including household and family care, lost economic opportunity and her contribution to her husband’s career – contributes to discrimination against women. Several women told Human Rights Watch how they had to quit paid jobs either at their husband’s insistence or to care for children, leaving them economically dependent on their abusers.

Some discriminatory provisions against women and girls in Algerian legislation also increase the risks of domestic violence. For instance, article 326 of the penal code provides that any person who “abducts or corrupts” a child under 18 years without using violence, threats, or deception or attempts to do so can be punished with imprisonment of between one to five years. However, the perpetrator can escape prosecution or conviction if he marries the child, unless the marriage is annulled. In effect, this can allow cases in which perpetrators who rape children escape prosecution by marrying their victims and use the forced marriage of girls to such men as a means of protecting honor. 

Article 279 of the penal code provides that a spouse who comes upon their spouse in the act of adultery and kills, injures, harms their spouse or his/her partner can benefit from a mitigating excuse. This defense, while gender-neutral, disproportionately affects women who are more often the victims of violence, and as such can end up legitimizing gender-based violence.

Algeria’s inheritance law provides that a daughter is entitled to the equivalent of half her brother’s share of inheritance. When a woman has no brother, the share that would have gone to a brother is divided among other male relatives. Such inequality in inheritance further weakens women’s ability to leave their abusive husbands. Several women told Human Rights Watch that they remained in violent relationships in part because of their reliance on their husbands or their families for food and shelter.

Algerian law permits abortion only if the life or health of the pregnant woman is threatened and when it is practiced by a medical doctor or surgeon who has given his or her medical opinion to the administrative authorities.[133] It does not permit abortion on grounds of rape or incest. A woman seeking or carrying out an abortion outside of the authorized cases faces up to two years in prison. Abortion is also permitted under Article 72 of the 1985 law on the promotion and protection of health if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or in order to protect her physical and mental health.[134]

Such a prohibition means that women who become pregnant as a result of marital rape can be forced into having unwanted pregnancies.

Recommendations

To the Algerian Parliament

  • Amend Law no. 15-19 on domestic violence to:
    • Remove explicit references that provide for termination of prosecution, cancellation, or reduction of any court-imposed punishment if the victim pardons the offender.
    • Make clear that the articles criminalizing forms of domestic violence applies to spouses, intimate partners, ex-spouses, and former intimate partners- regardless of whether the perpetrator and victim are cohabiting or have ever cohabited-as well as members of the family, extended family, and in-laws.
    • Ensure that “coercive control” is a key aspect of acts criminalized in the provisions relating to psychological and economic violence.
  • Adopt additional comprehensive legislation on violence against women that:
    • Defines domestic violence to include physical, sexual violence, psychological, and economic violence. Ensure that the scope of individuals includes: individuals who are or have been in an intimate relationship, such as marital, non-marital, same sex, and non-cohabiting relationships; individuals with family relationships to one another; and members of the same household.
    • Establishes protection orders which can prohibit an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence from: perpetrating or threatening further violence; contacting or going near the survivor and her dependents; accessing the family home; and possessing or purchasing a firearm.
    • Distinguishes between emergency (short-term) protection orders and longer-term orders; set a time-limit for both, with a maximum of a year for long-term orders, and set out relevant authorities to issue such orders.
    • Stipulates appropriate levels of due process for both types of orders, taking into account the nature of emergency orders and the limited amount of evidence that is likely to be available. 
    • Sets out concrete duties for the police, including carrying out risk assessments; interviewing the parties and witnesses; recording the complaint; advising the complainant of her rights; filing an official report; arranging for transport for medical treatment; and providing other protection.
    • Sets out prevention measures of domestic violence, including assigning responsibilities to government agencies to carry out prevention measures, including awareness-raising activities, development of educational curricula, and sensitizing the media regarding domestic violence.
    • Defines the government's role in providing support and services to domestic violence survivors, including in terms of shelter, health services, psychosocial care, legal advice, and hotlines.
    • Establishes a trust fund or other financial assistance for domestic violence survivors, which should not be dependent on the criminal judicial process or the finding of guilt.
  • Adopt legislative guidelines on evidentiary rules for domestic violence cases:
    • Include the types of evidence that are admissible in court proceedings, such as medical/forensic evidence, victim statements, photographic evidence, expert witnesses, physical evidence such as torn clothing and damaged property, and cell phone records, emergency call recordings, and other communications. It should also state that a complainant's testimony may be sufficient evidence for a conviction.
    • While severity of injury, as determined by doctors, should be one factor courts can consider in determining sentences for those convicted of crimes, other factors should be considered, such as history of abuse, risk of recidivism, rehabilitation needs, and aggravating factors.
  • Amend the penal code to define rape as a form of sexual assault that is a physical invasion of a sexual nature without consent or under coercive circumstances. A physical invasion would include penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim - or of the rapist by the victim - with a sexual organ or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body. Provide that sexual violence against an intimate partner (marital rape) is a crime.
  • In the state budget, ensure adequate allocation of resources to facilitate development and implementation of national gender and domestic violence policies and to support services for survivors of domestic violence.
  • Amend discriminatory provisions against women and girls in the family code and the penal code.
  • Ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

To the Algerian Government

  • Establish a national database on violence against women which includes information on domestic violence showing the number of complaints received, investigations undertaken, prosecutions mounted, convictions obtained, and sentences imposed on perpetrators.
  • Gather statistical data at regular intervals on the causes, consequences, and frequency of all forms of violence against women.

·         Statistical data should be disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity, and other relevant characteristics.

To the Ministries of Interior and Justice

 

  • Support the development of specialized domestic violence units and specialized prosecution offices in all regions.
  • Ensure that the police response to domestic violence respects a survivor-centered approach that empowers the survivor, refrains from victim-blaming or stigmatization, and prioritizes the survivor's safety, health, and wellbeing over family unity.
  • Establish a police response protocol to domestic violence whereby police should be directed to:
    • Accept and register domestic violence complaints; and
    • Inform domestic violence survivors of their rights with regards to protection, prosecution, and redress.
  • Require that female police or prosecutors are made available where a victim prefers to communicate with them.
  • Direct relevant ministries to adopt "pro-arrest" and "pro-prosecution" policies in cases of domestic violence when there is probable cause to believe a crime has occurred.
  • Enable individuals to open a procedure complaint against individual officers who violate their rights to increase accountability of officers who fail to uphold the law.
  • Require the police and public prosecutors, as well as investigative judges, to coordinate on domestic violence cases and directly communicate between offices. Authorities should not leave it up to domestic violence survivors to deliver instructions between offices.
  • Design and implement a mandatory core curriculum on domestic violence response in a gender-sensitive manner at the police training institute, as well as in police retraining and qualification courses, in accordance with the above protocols and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) standards.
  • Design and implement a mandatory core curriculum for training of prosecutors on domestic violence response in a gender-sensitive manner in accordance with national and international laws and UNODC standards. Train judges on national domestic violence legislation and international obligations and on responding to domestic violence in a gender-sensitive manner.
  • Provide official protocols for forensic examinations in domestic violence cases, including guidance from the World Health Organization on understanding the health consequences of intimate partner violence on their physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health.

To the Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and Women's Conditions

  • Ensure availability of adequate shelter, psychosocial, legal, and other services for survivors of domestic violence, including in rural areas.
  • Develop and disseminate best practice guidelines for domestic violence services in accordance with international standards.
  • In conjunction with local NGOs and experts, develop and conduct awareness-raising campaigns to:
    • Combat social attitudes that involve seeing domestic violence as normal, blaming victims, and stigmatizing survivors; and
    • Increase public knowledge of available services.
  • Conduct public awareness campaigns on the new laws adopted in Algeria regarding women's rights, especially the reform of the penal code introducing specific criminalization of domestic violence and the creation of the maintenance fund for divorced women with children.

To Algeria's International Partners, including the European Union and its Member States

  • Raise violence against women and domestic violence in Algeria as a key area of concern in bilateral and multilateral dialogues with Algerian authorities, and urge the government of Algeria to address such violence through reforms in the social service, law enforcement, and judicial sectors.
  • Provide funding to support shelter for survivors of domestic violence, as well as for other key services, including psychosocial counseling and legal assistance. Ensure that services meet the needs of women and girls in both urban and rural areas.
  • Support and facilitate the establishment and regular gathering of national and regional networks to ensure information-sharing between agencies and individuals in different sectors of domestic violence prevention and response.

Acknowledgments

This report was researched and written by a researcher from Human Rights Watch. Eric Goldstein, deputy director in the Middle East and North Africa division, and Rothna Begum, researcher in the Women Rights division, edited the report. Clive Baldwin, legal advisor, conducted legal review.

Tom Porteous, deputy Program director, conducted program review. Lila Hassan, associate in the Middle East and North Africa division, and Sarkis Balkhian, senior associate in the Middle East and North Africa division, provided production assistance.

We would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations that supported research and analysis for the report. Among others, these include: Fatma Boufenik, president of the association Femmes Algériennes Revendiquant leurs Droits (FARD) and director of its counseling center for women victims of violence; Mariem Bellala, director of the shelter SOS Femmes en détresse for women victims of violence in Algiers; Mounira Haddad, president of the association Association des Femmes Algériennes pour le Développement; and Cherifa Kheddar, director of the association Djazairouna in Blida. We wish to express our gratitude to all of those who spoke with us during this research, and particularly to the survivors of domestic violence who shared their stories and the service providers and activists dedicated to supporting them.

 

[1] United Nations General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, Mission to Algeria, A/HRC/17/26/Add.3, May 19, 2011, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A-HRC-17-26-Add3.pdf (accessed on January 6, 2017).

[2] The name of the ministry was changed to become Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and Women’s Conditions, see: http://www.msnfcf.gov.dz/fr/

[3] Violence envers les femmes en Algérie : enquête nationale de prévalence, Ministère Déléguée Chargée de la Famille et de la Condition Féminine, February 2007, cited in Ministère Déléguée Chargée de la Famille et de la Condition Féminine publication, Stratégie Nationale de Lutte contre la Violence à l'égard des Femmes, http://gbvaor.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Strategie-Nationale-de-lutte-contre-la-violence-a-legard-des-femmes-Algeria.pdf, (accessed April 13, 2017).

[4] Réseau national des centres d’écoute sur les violences contre les femmes, Balsam, Les violences faites aux femmes en Algérie, Rapport N.5, Decembre 2013, http://www.ciddef-dz.com/pdf/autres-publications/balsam2013.pdf, (accessed January 6, 2017). It was created in 2008 and includes all of the associations that operate counseling centers for women.

[5] Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, May 19, 2011, A/HRC/17/26/Add.3, (accessed January 6, 2017).

[7] The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, Statistics Division, “Guidelines for Producing Statistics on Violence against Women— Statistical Surveys,” ST/ESA/STAT/SER.F/110 (2014), http://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/docs/Guidelines_Statistics_VAW.pdf, (accessed January 15, 2017).

[8] Stratégie Nationale de Lutte contre la Violence à l'égard des Femmes, 2003, http://gbvaor.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Strategie-Nationale-de-lutte-contre-la-violence-a-legard-des-femmes-Algeria.pdf, (accessed January 10, 2017).

[9] The Ministry of National Solidarity, Family and Women’s Conditions created, on November 25, 2013, the “National Committee in charge of implementing the National Strategy to combat violence against women.” According to the Ministerial decision, the Committee is composed of 23 members, including representatives from the ministries of interior, justice health, religious affairs, the National Guard, the police, and two members representing NGOs working on violence against women; Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and Women’s Conditions, http://www.msnfcf.gov.dz/fr/search, (accessed on January 5, 2017).

[10] See Réseau Balsam, op.cit., http://www.ciddef-dz.com/pdf/autres-publications/balsam2013.pdf, (accessed on January 6, 2017).

[11] Human Rights Watch, letter to Algerian authorities, May 25, 2016. See Annex 1.

[12] Article 6 of the Algerian Nationality Code deems that “any child born to an Algerian father or Algerian mother shall be considered to be Algerian.” Ordonnance n. 70-86 du 15 décembre 1970 portant code de la nationalité, modifiée et complétée par l’ordonnance n.05-01 du 27 février 2005, http://www.joradp.dz/TRV/FNat.pdf, (accessed on January 6,2017).

[13] Article 39 of the Algerian Family Code, before the 2005 reform, stated, “The wife shall obey her husband and respect him in his quality of head of the family.” Law no. 84-11 of June 9, 1984 relating to the family code, published in the Official Journal of the Algerian Republic on June 12, 1984. 

[14] Articles 32 and 34 of the Algerian Constitution, adopted on December 8, 1996, http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_protect/---protrav/---ilo_aids/documents/legaldocument/wcms_125825.pdf.

[15] Law no. 16-01 of March 6, 2016 relating to the constitutional reform, http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2016/F2016014.pdf (accessed January 10, 2017).

[16] Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015, Modifying and Completing Ordinance no.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2015/F2015071.pdf http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2015/F2015071.pdf, (accessed January 10, 2017).

[17] Human Rights Watch interview with Yasmina Boumerdassi, Lawyer, Algiers, April 13, 2016.

[18] Human Rights Watch interview with Tata Benhamed, lawyer, Association Femmes Algeriennes revendiquant leurs droits, Oran, June 2015. 

[19] Enquête nationale à indicateurs multiples: suivi de la situation des enfants et des femmes, MICS, December 2008, www.childinfo.org/files/MICS3_Algeria_FinalReport_2006_Fr.pdf, (accessed on January 5, 2017).

[20] Human Rights Watch interview with Lamia (pseudonym), Femmes en détresse Shelter, Algiers, April 2, 2016.

[21] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariem Bellala, director of “SOS Femmes en detresse,” Algiers, April 5, 2016.

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with Hasna (pseudonym), Oran, April 9, 2016.

[23] Human Rights Watch interview with Hassiba (pseudonym), Oran, April 9, 2016.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with Hanan (pseudonym), Oran, April 10, 2016.

[25] Human Rights Watch interview with Jamila (pseudonym), Oran, April 9, 2016.

[26] Loi no. 15-01 du 4 janvier 2015 portant création d’un fonds de la pension alimentaire, Journal Officiel de la République Algérienne, 7 Janvier 2015, http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/jo-francais/2015/F2015001.pdf, (accessed January 16, 2017).

[27] Loi no. 14-10 du 30 décembre 2014, portant loi de finances pour 2015, http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2014/F2014078.pdf, (accessed January 17, 2017). The law states that the fund will be supported by the budgetary allocations of the state, the money recovered from the debtors, taxes, and private donations. 

[28] Human Rights Watch interviews with survivors of domestic violence, Algiers, Oran, Annaba.

[29] Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo. Human Rights Council, seventeenth session, May 19, 2011, A/HRC/17/26/Add.3.

[30] Ibid. Dar al-Rahma means “charity houses” in Arabic.

[31] Dar al-Rahma de Birkhadem wilaya d'Alger; Annexe de Hadjout - Wilaya de Tipaza; Annexe de Naciria - Wilaya de Boumerdes ; Annexe de Tamanrasset - Wilaya de Tamanrasset ; Dar al-Rahma de Constantine ; Annexe d’El Eulma - Wilaya de Sétif ; Dar al-Rahma de Misserghine de la wilaya d’Oran ; Annexe d’El Bayadh - Wilaya d’El Bayadh ; Annexe de Tlemcen - Wilaya de Tlemcen. See: http://www.msnfcf.gov.dz/fr/, (accessed on January 5, 2017).

[32] Decrees no. 04-182 of 24 June 2004 on the “creation, organization and functioning of the national shelters for women and girl victims of violence”, and Decree n. 10-96 of 17 mars 2010 completing the list of such shelters. The latter Decree created a new shelter for women, in the Wilaya of Mostaghanem.

[33] CEDAW 2012 List of Issues and questions with regard to the consideration of periodic reports: Algeria http://repository.un.org/handle/11176/285484, (accessed January 5, 2017).

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with Manal (pseudonym), Algiers, April 3, 2016. 

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariem Bellala, director of “SOS Femmes en detresse”, Algiers, June 2015 and April 2016.

[36] The Division for the Advancement of Women in the Department of Social and Economic Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, “The Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women,” 2010, section 3.6.1 http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/handbook/Handbook%20for%20legislation%20on%20violence%20against%20women.pdf, (accessed January 16, 2017).

[37] NGOs listed in the Balsam report: CIDDEF (Centre d’information et de documentation sur les droits des enfants et des femmes), created in 2002 in Algiers ; SOS femmes en detresse, created in 1992 in Algiers ; Maison Nedjma, created in 2003 in Constantine ; FARD (Femmes Algériennes revendiquant leurs droits), created in 1995 in Oran; AFAD (Association des Femmes Algériennes pour le développement), created in 1999 in Annaba; association Bnet el Kahina, created a counseling center in 1999 in Tebessa; SOS Nour, created in 1997 in Annaba; La Ligue de prevention et de sauvegarde de l’enfance, created in 2004 in Tizi Ouzou.

[38] Shelters visited: SOS femmes en détresse in Algiers. The shelter has the capacity to host 30 women, but they have a policy of not accepting more than 10, with exceptions. The women can be hosted with their children. They provide shelter, legal counseling, and psychological counseling either individually or through focus groups. They take the women to forensic doctors to obtain medical certificates and treatment and accompany the women in their court cases during the complaint or divorce process. SOS femmes en détresse does not get any financial or other support from the State, and are financed through international donor organizations. Human Rights Watch interview with Mariem Bellala, director of SOS Femmes en detresse, June 2015. 

Shelter Darna (Our House) in Algiers can host up to 35 people, children included.  It is intended to house women for up to 6 months, until they find a more permanent home. The center was created in 2000, initially for women victims of terrorism, and since 2003 has become a general shelter for women who face violence or difficult family situations. They receive donations from private individuals. Human Rights Watch interview with Rabiaa Aoui, Algiers, June 2015.

Shelter Dar al-Insania in Annaba was created in 1999. It has the capacity to host 20 women and their children. Human Rights Watch interview with Mounira Haddad, director of Dar al-Insania, April 2016.

[39] UN General Assembly, Resolution A/RES/65/228, Strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice response to violence against women, 2011, and its annex, “Updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice,” 2011, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/65/228 (accessed February 1, 2016); CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation No. 19, Violence Against Women, (Eleventh session, 1992), art. 24, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/INT_CEDAW_GEC_3731_E.pdf (accessed February 1, 2016); CESCR, General Comment No.16 (2005), Substantive issues arising in the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural rights:” The equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social, and cultural rights” (art. 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights), UN Doc E/C.12/2005/4 (August 11, 2005), para. 27, (accessed February 1, 2016). Algeria is acceded to the ICESCR in 1989).

[40] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.6.1, (accessed December 23, 2016).

[41] Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, A/HRC/17/26/Add.3, May 19, 2011, (accessed February 1, 2016).

[42] Ibid., section 3.6.5.

[43] Algeria Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 12, http://www.joradp.dz/trv/fppenal.pdf, (accessed February 17, 2017).

[44] Ibid., Articles 13 and 17.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview with Salwa, Annaba, April 7, 2016. Human Rights Watch also interviewed the director of the Center, and two workers at the shelter. One said that when Salwa arrived: “Her clothes were stained with blood, she had bruises all over her body.” The other recalled: “Her breasts were mutilated, disfigured.” They brought a doctor, and for a week there was a nurse coming to change her bandages, according to the two women working at the shelter.

[46] Human Rights Watch interview with Salwa (pseudonym), Annaba, April 8, 2016.

[47] Human Rights Watch interview with Ramla (pseudonym), Blida, April 5, 2016.

[48] Human Rights Watch interview with Mariem (pseudonym), Blida, April 5, 2016.

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with Hanan (pseudonym), Oran, April 10, 2016.

[50] Certificat Centre Hospitalo-Universitaire d’Oran, Service de médecine légale, Unité de dommage corporel, dated October 11, 2009. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[51] Requisition orders from the prosecutor of the first instance court of Oran to the Oran 15th district police station. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[52] CEDAW, “Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,” March 2, 2012, CEDAW/C/DZA/CO/3-4, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/co/CEDAW-C-DZA-CO-3-4.pdf, (accessed February 17, 2017).

[53] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, Section 3.2.4, (accessed February 17, 2017].

[54] Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 29, http://www.joradp.dz/trv/fppenal.pdf, (accessed February 17, 2017).

[55] Ibid., Article 36.

[56] Ibid., Article 38.

[57] Ibid., Article 66.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Siham Hammache, lawyer in domestic violence cases, Algiers, April 3, 2016; Human Rights Watch interview with Tata Benhamed, lawyer, with the association Femmes Algériennes revendiquant leurs droits, Oran, April 11, 2016.

[59] Article 212 of the Code of Criminal Procedure: Hors les cas où la loi en dispose autrement, les infractions peuvent être établies par tout mode de preuve et le juge décide d’après son intime conviction. Le juge ne peut fonder sa décision que sur des preuves qui sont apportées au cours des débats et contradictoirement discutées devant lui.http://www.joradp.dz/TRV/FPPenal.pdf, (accessed February 10, 2017).

[60] Article 2 of Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 Modifying and Completing Ordinance no.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, available at http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2015/F2015071.pdf, (accessed February 10, 2017).

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with Rabiaa (pseudonym), Algiers, April 10, 2016.

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Amira (pseudonym), Oran, April 10, 2016.

[63] The Algerian penal code, Article 264, http://www.joradp.dz/TRV/FPenal.pdf, (accessed January 1, 2016).

[64] Rolf Gainer, “Domestic violence, brain injury and psychological trauma,” Neurological Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital, December 30, 2015, http://www.traumaticbraininjury.net/domestic-violence-brain-injury-and-psychological-trauma, (accessed January 13, 2017). It describes how brain injury is often “not understood as the outcome of repeated blows to the head or strangulation attempts depriving the victim of oxygen during a violent attack by a domestic partner. The person who is agitated, depressed, forgetful, confused, having slurred speech, experiencing headaches, pain, vertigo and other physical symptoms that we associate with brain injury may be not appropriately diagnosed and treated.”

[65] World Health Organization, “Understanding and addressing violence against women: Intimate Partner Violence,” 2012, pp.5-6, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/77432/1/WHO_RHR_12.36_eng.pdf, (accessed January 13, 2017).

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Salwa (pseudonym), Annaba, April 8, 2016. 

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Hassiba (pseudonym), Oran, April 9, 2016.

[68] First instance and appeals judgments. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[69] Law no. 16-01 of March 6, 2016 relating to the constitutional reform, http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2016/F2016014.pdf.

[70] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted Dec. 18, 1979, G.A. res. 34/180, 34 UN GAOR Supp. (no. 46) at 193, UN Doc. A/34/46, entered into force September 3, 1981, art. 1 http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm; Algeria acceded to the Convention in 1996.

[71] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 19, Violence against Women, (Eleventh session, 1992), Compilation of General Recommendations and General Comments adopted (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm#recom19 (accessed on January 5, 2017); and CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation No. 28, on the core obligations of States parties under Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, UN Doc CEDAW/C/GC/28 (December 16, 2010), para 19.

[72] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation 19, Violence against Women, (Eleventh session, 1992), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, UN Doc. HRI\GEN\1\Rev.1 (1994), p. 84, para. 9, (accessed March 20, 2015).

[73] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 19, Violence against Women, (Eleventh session, 1992), Compilation of General Recommendations and General Comments adopted (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm#recom19 (accessed March 20, 2015), art. 16.

[74] Ibid., para. 24 (t).

[75] United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Measures to Eliminate Violence against Women, UN Doc. A/RES/52/86, February 2, 1998, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N98/764/59/IMG/N9876459.pdf?OpenElement, (accessed March 16, 2015).

[76] CEDAW Committee, General Recommendation 19, paras. 1 and 7.

[77] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990; Algeria ratified in 1993. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx (accessed March 20, 2015).

[78] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1976, Algeria ratified in 1989. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx, (accessed March 20, 2015).

[79] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1976, Algeria ratified in 1989. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx, (accessed March 20, 2015).

[80] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1987, Algeria ratified in 1989, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx, (accessed March 20, 2015).

[81] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Fifty-first session, 13 February – 2 March 2012, CEDAW/C/DZA/CO/3-4, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/co/CEDAW-C-DZA-CO-3-4.pdf (accessed January 13, 2017), and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, at its 667th and 668th meetings, Second Periodic Report of Algeria, CEDAW/C/DZA/2, January 11, 2005,http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=A%2f60%2f38(SUPP)&Lang=en, (accessed January 13, 2017).

[82] Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 Modifying and Completing Ordinance no.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, available at http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2015/F2015071.pdf, (accessed January 13, 2017).

[83] Articles 5 and 6 (amending and adding articles 333 bis/1, 333 bis/2, and 341 bis of the penal code), Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 Modifying and Completing Ordinance no.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, (accessed January 17, 2017).

[84] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.1.2, http://www2.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2012/12/unw_legislation-handbook%20pdf.pdf?v=1&d=20141013T121502, (accessed January 13, 2017).  

[85] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.4.2.1, (accessed January 10, 2017).

[86] Articles 3 and 4 of Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 Modifying and Completing Ordinance no.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, http://www.joradp.dz/FTP/JO-FRANCAIS/2015/F2015071.pdf: “An assault against a spouse or an ex-spouse shall result in one to three years of prison if the beating did not provoke an injury or resulted in a physical incapacity of more than 15 days. Two to five years in prison if the beating resulted in more than 15 days of physical incapacity. Ten to twenty years in prison if the beating resulted in a mutilation, amputation, deprivation of the use of a limb, blindness, loss of an eye or other permanent disability.  Life in prison if the beatings resulted in death,” (accessed January 13, 2017).

[87] Article 266bis.1 of Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 modifying and completing ordinance n.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, (accessed January 10, 2017).

[88] Article 330bis of Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 modifying and completing ordinance n.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, (accessed January 10, 2017).

[89] Article 6 (amending article 368 of the penal code to repeal the exemption from punishment in the case of theft between spouses), of Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 Modifying and Completing Ordinance no.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, (accessed January 10, 2017).

[90] UN Women, EndVAWNow.org (virtual knowledge center), “Definition of Domestic Violence,” last edited February 2, 2014, http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/398-definition-of-domestic-violence.html, (accessed January 8, 2017).

[91] UN Women, EndVAWNow.org (virtual knowledge center), “Definition of Domestic Violence,”, http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/398-definition-of-domestic-violence.html (accessed January 25, 2017).

[92] UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “Strengthening Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses to Violence against Women,” 2014, https://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/Strengthening_Crime_Prevention_and_Criminal_Justice_Responses_to_Violence_against_Women.pdf, p. 39, (accessed June 2016).

[93] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Division, “Guidelines for Producing Statistics on Violence against Women— Statistical Surveys,” ST/ESA/STAT/SER.F/110 (2014), http://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/docs/Guidelines_Statistics_VAW.pdf, (accessed January 15, 2017).

[94] Article 5 of Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015 modifying and completing ordinance n.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, (accessed January 13, 2017).

[95] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Fifty-first session 13 February – 2 March 2012, CEDAW/C/DZA/CO/3-4, para.29, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/co/CEDAW-C-DZA-CO-3-4.pdf, (accessed January 13, 2017).

[96] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.4.2.2, (accessed January 23, 2017).

[97] EndVAWNow.org, “Scope of Persons Protected by Law,” last edited February 2, 2014, http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/399scopeofpersonsprotectedbylaw.html?next=400, (accessed January 25, 2017).

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Manal (pseudonym), Algiers, April 3, 2016.

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with Nabila (pseudonym), Annaba, April 8, 2016.

[100] UN Women, “General recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of discrimination against Women,” General Recommendation No. 19, 1992, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm, (accessed February 2, 2016).

[101] African Commission on Human and People’s rights, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), adopted in July 11, 2003, http://www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/pdf/au/protocol_rights_women_africa_2003.pdf.

[102] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.5.1, (accessed January 23, 2017).

[103] UN Women, Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence against Women, 2012, http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/handbook-for-nap-on-vaw.pdf. (accessed January 23, 2017).

[104] UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “Strengthening Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses to Violence against Women,” 2014.

[105] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.10.1, (accessed January 12, 2017).

[106] Ibid.

[107] Ibid.

[108] EndVAWNow.org, “Time Limits on Protection Orders,” last edited February 2, 2014, http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/416-time-limits-on-protection-orders.html?next=417, (accessed January 12, 2017).

[109] EndVAWNow, “Content of post-hearing orders for protection,” last edited February 2, 2014, http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/414-content-of-post-hearing-orders-for-protection.html?next=415, (accessed on January 5, 2017); and the UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.10.3, (accessed January 13, 2017).

[110] Human Rights Watch, Kyrgyzstan - "Call me when he tries to kill you:” State Response to Domestic Violence in Kyrgyzstan, October 28, 2015 https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/10/28/call-me-when-he-tries-kill-you/state-response-domestic-violence-kyrgyzstan; Human Rights Watch, Hungary - "Unless Blood Flows Lack of Protection from Domestic Violence in Hungary”, November 6, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/report/2013/11/06/unless-blood-flows/lack-protection-domestic-violence-hungary; Human Rights Watch, Turkey -"He Loves You, He Beats You:" Family Violence in Turkey and Access to Protection, May 4, 2011, https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/05/04/he-loves-you-he-beats-you/family-violence-turkey-and-access-protection

[111] UN Women, “UN Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence against Women,” 2012, http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Library/Publications/2012/7/HandbookNationalActionPlansOnVAW-en%20pdf.pdf, section 3.8.1, (accessed January 20, 2017).

[112] UNODC, “Strengthening Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses to Violence against Women,” p. 65, (accessed January 20, 2016).

[113] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.9.5, (accessed January 20, 2017).

[114] UNODC, Strengthening Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses to Violence against Women, 2014, https://www.unodc.org/documents/justiceandprisonreform/, pp. 71-72, (accessed February 1, 2016). 

[115] Ibid.

[116] Articles 226bis, 266bis.1 and 330bis of Law 15-19 of 30 December 2015 modifying and completing ordinance n.66-156 of 8 June 1966 on the penal code, (accessed February 13, 2016)

[117] Art. 226bis.1 and 330bis of Law no. 15-19 of 30 December 2015, (accessed February 13, 2016)

[118] Article 2 of the Law no. 15-19, 30 December 2015, amending art. 266bis of the penal code, (accessed February 13, 2016).

[119] Article 6 of Law no.15-19 of 30 December 2015, modifying article 368 repealing the exemption from punishment in the case of theft between spouses, of Law no.66-156, June 8, 1966 containing the penal code, (accessed February 13, 2016).

[120] June 2015 draft of Law no. 15-19 of 30 December 2015, modifying article 368 repealing the exemption from punishment in the case of theft between spouses, of Law no.66-156, June 8, 1966 containing the penal code. On file with Human Rights Watch.

[121] The UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women, section 3.8.2, (accessed February 1, 2016).

[122] CEDAW, article 2(f), (accessed February 3, 2016).

[123] CEDAW, art. 5(a), (accessed February 3, 2016).

[124] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 19, Violence against Women, (Eleventh session, 1992), Compilation of General Recommendations and General Comments adopted (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/recommendations/recomm.htm#recom19), para. 11, (accessed January 25, 2017.

[125] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Fifty-first session 13 February – 2 March 2012, CEDAW/C/DZA/CO/3-4, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/co/CEDAW-C-DZA-CO-3-4.pdf, (accessed January 25, 2017).  

[126] Article 2 of the CEDAW obliges states parties to eliminate discrimination against women, by, among other things, adopt appropriate legislation and other measures, prohibiting all discrimination against women and changing laws that discriminate against women. Article 16 requires states parties to ensure equality of men and women in entering marriage, the same rights and responsibilities to guardianship, divorce, acquisition, and management of property of the spouses, etc. CEDAW Committee, CEDAW/C/DZA/CC/2, (accessed January 12, 2017).

[127] Article 19 of Ordinance no. 05-02 of February 27, 2005 modifying and completing Law no. 84-11 on the family code, (accessed January 12, 2017).

[128] Article 11 of the family code: "An adult woman concludes her marriage contract in the presence of her “wali” [guardian] who is her father or close male relative or any other male of her choice.” (accessed January 12, 2017).

[129] Article 48 of the family code: “Divorce is the dissolution of marriage… It arises from the will of the husband, mutual consent of the spouses, or the demand of the wife as provided in articles 53 and 54.” (accessed January 12, 2017).

[130] Article 53 of the family code. The wife can seek a divorce on the following grounds: (i) non-payment of the alimony; (ii) infirmities hindering realization of the objects of marriage; (iii) refusal of the husband to cohabit with his wife for more than four months; (iv) conviction of the husband which is of such a nature as to dishonour the family and render impossible leading of common life and conjugal relations; (v) absence of the husband for more than a year without a valid excuse or maintenance; (vi) violation of provisions of article 8 [referring to conditions for polygamy]; (vii) an immoral act which is severely reprehensible; (viii) for persistent disagreement between the spouses; (ix) for violation of the clauses stipulated in the marriage contract; and (x) for any recognized damage; Article 54 of the family code: the wife can separate from her spouse without his agreement, for the payment of an amount of money, (accessed January 23, 2017).

[131] Article 64 of the family code, (accessed January 23, 2017).

[132] Art. 72, family code, (accessed January 12, 2017).              

[133] Article 308 of the penal code.

[134] Law no. 85-05 of February 16, 1985 on the protection and promotion of health, http://www.oit.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_protect/---protrav/---ilo_aids/documents/legaldocument/wcms_125826.pdf, (accessed on February 22, 2017).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Beirut) – Police inaction, insufficient shelter space, and ineffective investigation and prosecution often leave domestic violence survivors in Algeria at risk of further mistreatment despite a new law criminalizing spousal abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 59-page report, “‘Your Destiny is to Stay with Him’: State Response to Domestic Violence in Algeria,” found that domestic violence survivors face an uphill struggle to obtain justice and personal security. They face social stigma, economic dependence on the abusers, a shortage of shelters, lack of an adequate response from the police, the prosecutors, and the judges in investigating abuse, and judicial hurdles such as unreasonable evidentiary requirements. Algerian authorities should increase support for domestic violence victims, including directing police and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute cases, and increasing shelter capacity and protection orders to prevent abusers from inflicting further harm.

Police inaction, insufficient shelter space, and ineffective investigation and prosecution often leave domestic violence survivors in Algeria at risk of further mistreatment despite a new law criminalizing spousal abuse.

“Victims of domestic violence have long faced the double injustice of abuse at home and then a meager response from the government,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Algeria’s new law on domestic violence is only a start.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 women survivors of domestic violence, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and service providers for survivors, including lawyers and psychologists. Human Rights Watch also requested meetings and specific information from the government but received no reply.

A woman at Dar al-Insania, an NGO-run shelter in the eastern city of Annaba on March 3, 2010. Dar al-Insania provides women victims of domestic violence, among others, with shelter and services. 

© 2010 Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

In December 2015, parliament adopted Law no. 15-19, amending the penal code to specifically criminalize some forms of domestic violence and increase penalties for those responsible. The penal code had previously treated domestic violence under general provisions on assault. Law no. 15-19 makes assault against a spouse or former spouse punishable by up to 20 years in prison and by a life sentence if the attack results in death. The law criminalizes other forms of domestic violence, including psychological and some economic abuse.

Survivors of domestic violence face various hurdles when they try to leave abusive relationships, including social pressure to keep their families together. Even though they have serious injuries, several women told Human Rights Watch that their relatives encouraged them to reconcile with their husbands. The police often gave them the same advice, telling them it is a “private matter” and ignoring the legal provisions criminalizing the abuse. Several lawyers told Human Rights Watch that because of these and other hurdles, most survivors either do not press charges or drop their complaints at the investigative stage.

Hasna, a 31-year-old mother of four, told Human Rights Watch that her husband started beating her when she was pregnant. In September 2014, during a dispute, he threw her against the wall, and slapped and punched her in the face. She went in her pajamas to a police station, where a policeman told her: “This is a family matter. This is not our business. This is your husband. Maybe he was angry. He will come back to his senses. Go and find some elders who can calm things down.”

Even when they record the complaint, police often follow up inadequately. Human Rights Watch found that the police often do not conduct on-site investigations or interview witnesses, and that the police give credence too readily to the husband’s account of the incident.

The government should increase availability of essential services – including shelters – for domestic violence victims.
Parliament should adopt a law empowering judicial authorities to issue “protective orders” against suspected abusers to prevent them from inflicting further harm on family members.
Parliament should amend a provision of the domestic violence law that pressures victims to help abusers escape criminal accountability by making it possible to end judicial proceedings against an accused abuser if their victim pardons them.

Salwa, 39, said she filed a complaint against her husband the day that he severely lacerated her breasts with scissors and beat her. When she went back to the police to inquire about the investigation, they told her: “We called your husband. He said you fell down, and this is why you have these bruises.” She said they told her they were closing the case.

When women decide to leave abusive husbands or partners, they usually have few if any places to go. While shelters should be a vital part of protecting victims of domestic violence, Algeria, a country of 41 million, has only three government-run shelters specialized in helping women victims of violence. Private shelters run by nongovernmental groups receive no government funding and struggle to provide services.

The new law criminalizing domestic violence is a positive step, Human Rights Watch said. Algerian authorities should now adopt comprehensive legislation and policies to prevent domestic violence and support victims. They should enact a new law giving victims the possibility to seek protective orders from both the police and the courts. The orders can, among other things, require the suspected offender to vacate the home, stay away from the victim and their children, surrender weapons, and refrain from violence, threats, damaging property, or contacting the victim. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN Women, considers such orders, which can be imposed before the suspected offender faces trial, among the most effective measures to fight violence against women.

Authorities should also ensure that police and prosecutors are directed to investigate domestic violence and bring cases to trial and get adequate training.

Criminalizing domestic violence can only go so far in tackling a problem whose causes are deep and go beyond the criminal justice system.

Sarah Leah Whitson

Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch

Given that oral testimony in domestic violence cases often provides an insufficient basis to convict, the authorities should develop guidelines on admitting other types of evidence in domestic violence cases, such as victim statements, expert witnesses, and medical, photographic, and physical evidence.

The government should increase the availability of essential services – including shelters – for domestic violence victims.

“Criminalizing domestic violence can only go so far in tackling a problem whose causes are deep and go beyond the criminal justice system,” Whitson said. “This is why adopting the 2015 Algerian law on domestic violence should jump-start a process of carrying out comprehensive measures to put an end to this plague."

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The Afghan government launched a National Action Plan this week to end child marriage, an important initiative in a country where about a third of girls marry before age 18. Child marriage is deeply harmful, leaving girls at increased risk of leaving school, health consequences due to early pregnancy, poverty, and domestic violence.

An Afghan girl (R) jumps rope on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan May 18, 2015.

© 2015 Reuters

In Afghanistan, poverty, limited access to education and health care, little support for victims of domestic violence, high birth rates, and harmful perceptions about the role of women heighten the risks. “Mariam,” a pseudonym, told us how she was forced to marry young, never attended school, and was a mother of five by age 22. “Rahima” said that at about 13 she became the second wife of a 75-year-old man. For many Afghan girls, child marriage brutally ends dreams of a happy future.

In recent years, there has been a major global push to end child marriage. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2016, commit all countries to end child marriage by 2030. National Action Plans are one tool countries are using to try to meet this commitment.

Unfortunately, the Afghan government’s record of following through on plans to protect women’s rights is abysmal. The 2007 National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan has done little but gather dust. The 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women is largely unenforced. The 2015 plan to implement Security Council Resolution 1325, which requires full involvement of women in peace processes, languishes, with no realistic plan – or funding – for its implementation.

There is little evidence to suggest the child marriage National Action Plan will be different. The plan does not appear to be publicly available. Inquiries to the presidential palace and media center received no response. Mention of it is conspicuously absent from the websites of the key ministries.

Afghanistan has no shortage of plans to empower women and girls, but these plans have had negligible impact on people’s lives. The child marriage plan should be an important tool for government action. But it should also spur Afghanistan’s donors to press the government and provide support for real change.

Afghanistan’s child brides need much more than one more empty promise.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
 
(London) – More apparel and footwear companies should join 17 leading apparel brands that have aligned with an important new transparency pledge, a coalition of unions and human rights and labor rights advocates said in a joint report issued today. The pledge commits companies to publish information that will enable advocates, workers, and consumers to find out where their products are made.
 
The 40-page report, “Follow the Thread: The Need for Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment and Footwear Industry,” comes just ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse disaster in Bangladesh. It calls for companies to adopt the Apparel and Footwear Supply Chain Transparency Pledge. Companies that align with the pledge agree to publish information identifying the factories that produce their goods, addressing a key obstacle to rooting out abusive labor practices across the industry and helping to prevent disasters like the Rana Plaza collapse.
 
The coalition contacted 72 companies and asked them to adopt and carry out the pledge. The report details their responses and measures their current supply chain transparency practices against the pledge.
 
 
“A basic level of supply chain transparency in the garment industry should be the norm in the 21st century,” said Aruna Kashyap, senior counsel for the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. “Openness about a company’s supply chain is better for workers, better for human rights, and shows that companies care about preventing abuse in their supply chains.”
 
The Rana Plaza building collapse on April 24, 2013 killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured more than 2,000. It was preceded by two large factory fires – one in Pakistan’s Ali Enterprises factory and another in Bangladesh’s Tazreen Fashions factory – that killed more than 350 workers and seriously injured many others. Afterward, labor advocates could not determine which companies’ products were made at these factories and had to hunt for the brand labels from the factory sites and interview surviving workers to determine who was responsible
 
By the end of 2016, at least 29 global apparel companies had published some information about the factories that manufacture their products. To build on this momentum, in 2016, a nine-member coalition of labor and human rights organizations and global unions endorsed the Transparency Pledge. Its aim is to create a level playing field in the industry and move it toward a minimum standard for publishing supplier factory information.
 

 

The coalition consists of Clean Clothes Campaign, Human Rights Watch, IndustriALL Global Union, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, the International Labor Rights Forum, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Maquila Solidarity Network, UNI Global Union, and the Worker Rights Consortium.

Coalition members wrote to 72 companies – including 23 industry leaders that were already publishing supplier factory information – urging them to adopt and carry out the Transparency Pledge standards. At the time, many apparel companies, including some that source from countries with persistent labor rights problems, were not publishing any supplier factory information.

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The Transparency Pledge draws upon existing good practices of global apparel companies and sets a floor, not ceiling, for supply chain transparency. It asks apparel companies to publish important information about supplier factories and their authorized subcontractors. These efforts to publish supplier factory information help assert workers’ human rights, advance ethical business practices and human rights due diligence in apparel supply chains, and build stakeholder trust, in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
 
Many significant investors have begun to urge apparel companies to make their supplier information public. Most recently, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, endorsed by 85 investors representing US$5.3 trillion in assets, score-carded apparel companies’ supply chain transparency, requiring them to publish at least the names of factories that produced for them.
 
“After Rana Plaza and other disasters, human rights groups, unions, and some companies and investors have seen how important transparency is for preventing abuses and for efforts at accountability,” said Ben Vanpeperstraete, lobby and advocacy coordinator at the Clean Clothes Campaign International Office. “Companies need to put transparency into practice to show that they respect human rights and decent working conditions.”
 
Transparency is a powerful tool for promoting corporate accountability for garment workers’ rights in global supply chains, the coalition said. It allows workers and labor and human rights advocates to alert the company to rights abuses in its supplier factories. Information about brands’ supplier factories facilitates faster access to grievance redress mechanisms for human rights abuses.
 
Of the 72 companies that the coalition contacted, 17 will be in full alignment with the pledge standards by December 2017.
 
Many other companies fell short of the pledge standards: five fall just short of the pledge, 18 are moving in the right direction by disclosing at least the names and addresses of cut-make-trim factories, and seven are taking small steps toward publishing supplier factory information – for example, a part of their supplier factories, or at least the names of their supplier factories by country of manufacture, by December 2017.
 
Another 25 apparel companies do not publish information about factories that manufacture their products. Those companies either did not respond or made no commitment to publish any of the information requested.
 
The coalition urges companies that have not aligned with the pledge to do so by December and to help galvanize the apparel industry toward a basic threshold level of supply chain transparency.
 
“Adhering to a minimum level of supply chain transparency in the pledge is important for accountability efforts,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director at the International Labor Rights Forum. “Companies can do more, but they should at least start with this basic step.”
 
Some companies claimed that disclosure would put them at a commercial disadvantage. But that justification is clearly contradicted by the other companies that are publishing such information, the groups said. As Esprit, one of the companies that made a commitment to align with the pledge, said, “[R]eleasing this information is not comfortable for many companies, but the time has come to do it.”
 
Apparel Companies in Full Pledge or Close to Full Pledge Alignment
Apparel companies that had previously published supply chain information and made a commitment to publish additional supplier factory information by December 2017 in full alignment with the pledge standards are adidas, C&A, Cotton On Group, Esprit, G-Star RAW, H&M Group, Hanesbrands, Levis, Lindex, Nike, and Patagonia.
 
Apparel companies that had previously not published any supplier factory information and have made a commitment to publish information in full alignment with the pledge are ASICS, ASOS, Clarks, New Look, Next, and Pentland Brands. These global apparel companies will help break new ground by promoting an industry-wide minimum standard for supply chain transparency.
 
John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Gap, and Mountain Equipment Co-op adhere to transparency practices that fall just short of the pledge standards.
 
In the Right Direction
Coles, Columbia Sportswear, Disney, Hudson’s Bay Company, Kmart and Target Australia, and Woolworths Australia were already publishing the names and street addresses of supplier factories and have not made additional commitments to meet pledge standards. Puma and New Balance were publishing the names and addresses of supplier factories and have made a commitment to add more details to align more closely with the pledge standards.
 
ALDI North and ALDI South, Arcadia Group, Benetton, Debenhams, LIDL, Tchibo, Under Armour, and VF Corporation are taking steps in the right direction and have begun or will begin to publish names and street addresses of at least all cut-make-trim factories in 2017. Fast Retailing published the names and addresses of its UNIQLO brand’s “core factory list” in 2017.
 
Small Steps Toward Publishing Supplier Factory Information
Target USA had previously published the names of their supplier factories with country of manufacture but made no commitment to do more. In 2017, Mizuno, Abercrombie & Fitch, Loblaw, and PVH Corporation have taken steps to publish the names of suppliers, but only with the country of manufacture.
 
BESTSELLER and Decathlon have promised that they will publish supplier factory information in 2017 without specifying precisely what will be included. 
 
No Commitment to Publishing Supplier Factory Information
American Eagle Outfitters, Canadian Tire, Carrefour, Desigual, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Foot Locker, Hugo Boss, KiK, MANGO, Morrison’s, Primark, Sainsbury’s, The Children’s Place, and Walmart did not make a commitment to publish supplier factory information. Inditex declined to publish supplier factory information but makes this data available to IndustriALL and its affiliates as part of its reporting under its Global Framework Agreement.
 
Armani, Carter’s, Forever 21, Matalan, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Rip Curl, River Island, Shop Direct, Sports Direct, and Urban Outfitters did not respond to the coalition and do not publish any supply chain information.
 
Brands that have signed global framework agreements with IndustriALL and publish some supplier factory information:
H&M Group and Mizuno; Tchibo will begin publishing in 2017.
 
Brands that are part of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and publish supplier factory information:
Accord members that have been publishing supplier factory information are adidas, C&A, Cotton On Group, Esprit, G-Star RAW, H&M Group, Kmart Australia, Lindex, Marks and Spencer, Puma, Target Australia, and Woolworths.
 
Accord members that have begun or will begin publishing some supplier factory information in 2017 are Abercrombie & Fitch, ALDI North and ALDI South, BESTSELLER, Debenhams, Fast Retailing, John Lewis, New Look, Next, LIDL, Loblaw, PVH Corporation, Tchibo, and Tesco.
 
Brands that are part of the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles (the Textil Bündnis) and publish their supplier factory information:
Adidas, C&A, Esprit, H&M, and Puma; others including ALDI North and ALDI South, LIDL, and Tchibo began or will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017.
 
 
Current/Anticipated Disclosure by December 31, 2017 vs. Pledge Standards
Company Headquarters Published supplier factory--cut-make-trim (CMT) and subcontractor-- information prior to Pledge Letter? Supplier factory information published meets or will meet Full Pledge by December 2017? Names and street addresses of CMT factories and their subcontractors Worker numbers Product types Parent company information Frequency of disclosures Time Frame to Implement Pledge
Abercrombie & Fitch US None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names of tier-1 factories (CMT for woven, denim, knit, sweater, intimates,and accessoroies) with country of manufacture, but without street address. No No No 2 times per year 2017
Adidas Germany Names of all tier-1 factories, including those used by licensees as well as authorized subcontractors, by country and city. Names of all tier-2 wet process suppliers, by country and city. Separate lists of supplier factories used for the Olympic Games. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
ALDI North and ALDI South Germany None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 (CMT) factories but not their subcontractors. No No No 1+ times per year 2017
American Eagle Outfitters US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Arcadia Group UK None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 (CMT) factories but disclosure of authorized subcontractors will need more time. No No No 1+ times per year NA
Armani Italy None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
ASICS Japan None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 time per year 2017
ASOS UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 6 times per year 2017
Benetton Italy None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 (CMT) factories but not their subcontractors. No Yes No 1 time per year NA
BESTSELLER Denmark None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Company stated that tier-1 (CMT) factories will be published but did not provide more information about what precisely will be disclosed for each factory. No information No information No information No information 2017
C&A Netherlands Names and addresses of all CMT factories. Excluded: Brazil, Mexico, and processing factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Canadian Tire Canada None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Carrefour France None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Carter's US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Clarks UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year A vast majoirity of the supplier factory information will be published in 2017. Five percent of non-footwear accessories to be published in 2018.
Coles Australia Names and addresses of CMT factories, but not subcontractors. Company states that its supplier factories use minimal subcontracting. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of CMT factories, but not subcontractors. Company states that its supplier factories use minimal subcontracting. No No No 1 time per year NA
Columbia Sportswear US Names and addresses of factories from which they directly source and any external subcontractors engaged to perform finishing processes (mostly limited to collegiate suppliers since the others have in-house capacity). No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Yes No No No 1 time per year NA
Cotton On Group Australia Names and addresses of CMT factories used by top 20 suppliers. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes Multiple 2017
Debenhams UK None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 factories which includes all CMT factories; some external processing such as embroidering and washing may not be included. Yes No No No information 2017
Decathlon France None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Company did not provide more information about what precisely will be disclosed for each factory. No information No information No information No information 2017
Desigual Spain None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
DICK'S Sporting Goods US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Disney US Names and addresses of all facilities part of Disney's vertical supply chain and any facility in its vertical supply chains where Disney intellectual property is located, which includes any laundry, printing, embroidery facility if Disney intellectual property is incorporated into that finished product or component. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of all facilities in its vertical supply chain, including subcontractors, where Disney intellectual property is located. No No No 1 time per year NA
Esprit Germany Names and addresses of CMT factoriesand their authorized subcontractors. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Fast Retailing Japan None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Published name and addresses of "Core Factories"producing for UNIQLO brand, representing 80 percent of the total volume of orders for UNIQLO brand. Plans to publish a list of GU's "major partner factories" in 2017. No clear commitment to publish subcontractors in 2017. No No No 1 time per year 2017
Foot Locker US Previously disclosed names and addresses for suppliers of collegiate apparel line that is currently inactive. No commitment to publish current own-brand supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Forever 21 US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
G-Star RAW Netherlands Names, addresses, product types, parent company, and worker numbers for CMT factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Gap US Names and addresses of CMT factories and their authorized subcontractors. Almost full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year Gap did not make any new commitments to align with the Pledge by December 2017. The company updated its supplier factory information to be more closely aligned with the Pledge.
H&M Group Sweden Names and addresses of supplier factories and vendors (suppliers), processing factories, and some fabric suppliers. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 4 times per year 2017
Hanesbrands US Names and addresses of collegiate suppliers and owned factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 4 times per year 2017
Hudson's Bay Company Canada Names and addresses of some, but not all, supplier factories. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of some, but not all, CMT factories. No No No 1 time per year NA
Hugo Boss Germany None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Inditex Spain CMT factories not published. Names and addresses of direct and indirect wet processing factories published. No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
John Lewis UK None Almost full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year 2017
KiK Germany None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Kmart Australia Australia Names and addresses of factories in "high risk" countries. No response to coalition letter. Names and addresses of factories in "high risk" countries. No No No No information NA
Levi Strauss US Names and addresses of CMT factories and authorized subcontractors. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
LIDL Germany None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 factories which includes all CMT, but does not include all processing facilities. No No No 2 times per year 2017
Lindex Sweden Names and addresses of CMT factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 time per year 2017
Loblaw Canada None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names of all factories where they Òsource apparel and footwear directlyÓ with country of manufacture but not street address. No No No 2 times per year 2017
MANGO Spain None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Marks and Spencer (M&S) UK Names and street addresses, worker numbers, gender breakdown, and product types. Almost full Pledge alignment. M&S will continue with its Plan A disclosure commitments and add processing factories and also make its existing disclosure available in a searchable format. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year 2017
Matalan UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Mizuno Japan None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names along with country of manufacture of "Core Suppliers," that is, 125 factories disclosed of 464 tier-1 suppliers as reported on Mizuno website. No Yes No No information Began disclosure in 2017.
Morrison's UK None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Canada Names and addresses of all CMT factories and some processing facilities. Almost full Pledge alignment. Names and addresses of all CMT factories and some processing facilities. Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year Additional details for CMT factories to meet Pledge standards will be published in 2017. Names and other details of authorized printers will be added subsequently.
New Balance US Names and addresses of direct supplier factories, excluding US wholly-owned facilities. Not full Pledge, but will add product type, and update annually in searchable format. Names and addresses of direct supplier factories, excluding US wholly-owned facilities. No Yes No 1 time per year 2017
New Look UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes At least annual 2017
Next UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Nike US Names, addresses, product category, worker numbers, gender and migrant worker breakdown, and authorized subcontractor. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 4 times per year 2017
Patagonia US Names, addresses, product category, worker numbers, gender breakdown, and parent companies of CMT and authorized subcontractors. Some fabric suppliers indicated. One cotton farm also disclosed. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 time per year 2017
Pentland Brands UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Primark UK None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Puma Germany Name of factory by country, city for tier-1 "core suppliers" and tier-2 material and component suppliers. Almost full Pledge alignment for tier-1 "core suppliers" factories. Names and addresses of tier-1 "core suppliers" amounting to 80 percent of their total business volume. But authorized subcontractors (if any) are not included in the definition of "core suppliers." Yes Yes No 1 time per year 2017
PVH Corporation US None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names of CMT factories along with country of manufacture but without street address. No No No 2 times per year 2017
Ralph Lauren Corporation US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Rip Curl Australia None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
River Island UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Sainsbury's UK None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Shop Direct UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Sports Direct UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Target Australia Australia Based on information on its website, Target Australia appears to disclose the names and addresses of CMT factories. No response to coalition letter. Names and addresses of CMT factories appear to be disclosed. The coalition has no information about percentage of supplier factories disclosed or other exclusions, if any. No No No Company website says "regular basis." NA
Target USA US Names and countries of CMT suppliers, textile and wet processing factories. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names of CMT factories along with country of manufacture but without street address. No No No 4 times per year NA
Tchibo Germany None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses for CMT factories. Yes Yes No No information NA
Tesco UK Names and addresses of Bangladesh supplier factories only. Almost full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year 2017
The Children's Place US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Under Armour US Only suppliers factories for collegiate apparel. Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses for all CMT factories (but not embellishers or subcontractors). Yes Yes Yes No information Pledge details for CMT factories will be published in 2017.
Urban Outfitters US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
VF Corporation US Names of factories by country for all VF brands of all VF-owned and operated, and direct sourced, tier-1 supplier factories. Not full Pledge, but will include street addresses to align more with the Pledge. Names and addresses of all CMT factories but not those used by licensees and subcontractors. No No No Regular 2017
Walmart US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Woolworths Australia Names and addresses of all sites in Bangladesh are disclosed, and overall more than 40 percent of the supply chain (for apparel and footwear) is published. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of all sites in Bangladesh are disclosed, and overall more than 40 percent of the supply chain (for apparel and footwear) is published. No No No 4 times per year NA
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

The garment and footwear industry stretches around the world.[1] Clothes and shoes sold in stores in the US, Canada, Europe, and other parts of the world typically travel across the globe. They are cut and stitched in factories in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, or other regions. Factory workers in Bangladesh or Romania could have made clothes only weeks ago that consumers elsewhere are eagerly picking up.

When global supply chains are opaque, consumers often lack meaningful information about where their apparel was made. A T-shirt label might say “Made in China,” but in which of the country’s thousands of factories was this garment made? And under what conditions for workers?

There is a growing trend of global apparel companies adopting supply chain transparency[2]—starting with publishing the names, addresses, and other important information about factories manufacturing their branded products. Such transparency is a powerful tool for promoting corporate accountability for garment workers’ rights in global supply chains.

Transparency can ensure identification of global apparel companies whose branded products are made in factories where bosses abuse workers’ rights. Garment workers, unions, and nongovernmental organizations can call on these apparel companies to take steps to ensure that abuses stop and workers get remedies.

Publishing supply chain information builds the trust of workers, consumers, labor advocates, and investors, and sends a strong message that the apparel company does not fear being held accountable when labor rights abuses are found in its supply chain. It makes a company’s assertion that it is concerned about labor practices in its supplier factories more credible.[3]

The need for information about factories involved in production for global brands has become painfully clear in recent years through deadly incidents that have plagued the garment industry.

A man removes clothing bearing a brand label from the devastated area of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday, April 26, 2013.

©2013 Jeff Holt/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013 killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured more than 2,000. In the year before the collapse, two factory fires—one in Pakistan’s Ali Enterprises factory and another in Bangladesh’s Tazreen Fashions factory—killed more than 350 workers and left many others with serious disabilities. These were the deadliest garment factory fires in nearly a century.

Until these tragedies occurred, virtually no public information was available concerning apparel companies that were sourcing from the factories involved. The only way to identify these apparel companies and advocate for accountability was to interview survivors and rummage through the rubble afterward to find brand labels.

A system of corporate accountability that requires people to scramble on the ground for brand labels is the antithesis of “transparency.”

Over the past decade, a growing number of global apparel companies have published information on their websites about factories that manufacture their branded products. For more than a decade, adidas, Levi Strauss, Nike, Patagonia, and Puma have been publishing information on their supplier factories. Over time, more apparel companies and retailers with own-brand products joined them,[4] posting some information about supplier factories on their websites.

As more companies adopt supply chain transparency, it is becoming a cornerstone of responsible business conduct in the garment sector. Increasingly, brands and retail chains are beginning to understand that being an ethical business requires them to publish where their own-brand clothes or footwear are being made.

Tracing Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment Industry

Until less than two decades ago, no major apparel company published its global supplier factories network. The companies viewed the identity of supplier factories as sensitive business information, and thought disclosure would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, major apparel brands Nike and adidas began disclosing the names and addresses of factories that produced US collegiate apparel.[5] This was a result of a campaign led by a campus network, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), in dozens of universities. Universities included supply chain disclosure as part of their licensing agreements with top athletic apparel companies that produced their college logo apparel.

Subsequently, in 2005, Nike and adidas went further by publishing information about all of their supplier factories for all productsnot just collegiate licensed apparel.

Over the past decade, a growing number of other global apparel companies, including North American companies with no connection to the US collegiate apparel sector like Levi Strauss and Patagonia, as well as some European apparel companies, began publishing supplier factory information.

***

Apparel Companies Publishing Supplier Factory Information in 2016

As of December 2016, the following apparel companies were among those that published some supply chain information about their branded products:

adidas, C&A, Columbia Sportswear, Cotton On Group, Disney, Esprit, Forever New, Fruit of the Loom, Gap Inc., G-Star RAW, Hanesbrands, H&M Group, Hudson’s Bay Company, Jeanswest, Levi Strauss, Lindex, Marks and Spencer, Mountain Equipment Co-op, New Balance, Nike, Pacific Brands, PAS Group, Patagonia, Puma, Specialty Fashion Group, Target USA, VF Corporation, Wesfarmers Group (Kmart and Target Australia, and Coles), and Woolworths.

This is not a comprehensive list.[6]

This report takes stock of supply chain transparency in the garment industry four years after the industry disasters in Bangladesh and Pakistan that shook the global garment industry. To build momentum toward supply chain transparency and develop industry minimum standards, a coalition of labor and human rights groups asked 72 companies to agree to implement a simple Transparency Pledge. It also asked that companies declining to commit to the Pledge provide reasons for choosing not to do so.[7] Where companies engaged with the coalition, the coalition also sought additional information about their existing transparency practices. This report explains the logic and the urgency behind the Pledge and describes the responses we received from the companies contacted.[8] Further information about the apparel companies contacted, the reasons for choosing them, and the coalition’s engagement process is outlined in Appendix I.

Supply chain transparency practices vary immensely among companies. Among those apparel companies that embrace transparency, the details they publish are inconsistent.[9] Many other companies refuse to publish supplier factory information at all, or divulge only scant information. Some companies attempt to justify non-disclosure on commercial grounds. But their explanations are belied by the experiences of other similarly situated companies that do publish and have shown that the benefits of disclosure outweigh perceived risks.[10]

Ultimately apparel companies can do far more than implement the Pledge to ensure respect for human rights in their supply chains. Nonetheless, this is one important step in a holistic effort to improve corporate accountability in the garment industry.

Civil Society Coalition on Garment Industry Transparency

In 2016, nine labor and human rights organizations formed a coalition to advocate for transparency in apparel supply chains. Coalition members are:

  • Global unions: IndustriALL Global Union, International Trade Union Confederation, and UNI Global Union.
  • International labor and human rights organizations that focus on the apparel
    sector: Human Rights Watch, Clean Clothes Campaign, Maquila Solidarity Network, Worker Rights Consortium, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, and International Labor Rights Forum.
  • The coalition endorsed the Transparency Pledge as a minimum standard for supply chain disclosure. The Pledge is based on existing, positive industry practices. See below for more information on the Pledge.

I. The Case for Supply Chain Transparency

Supply chain transparency—starting with publishing names, addresses, and other important information about factories producing for global apparel companies—is a powerful tool to assert workers’ human rights, advance ethical business practices, and build stakeholder trust. Consumers should know where the products they purchase are made. Workers should also know which apparel company’s branded products they are making.

Companies have a responsibility to take steps to prevent human rights risks throughout their supply chains, and to identify and address any abuses that arise despite those preventative efforts. In order to live up to that responsibility, they should adopt industry good practices.

By publishing factory names, street addresses, and other important information, global apparel companies allow workers and labor and human rights advocates to alert apparel companies to labor rights or other abuses in their supplier factories.

An apparel company that does not publish its supplier factory information contributes to possible delays in workers or other stakeholders being able to access the company’s complaint mechanisms or other remedies. Workers and labor rights advocates often expend substantial time and effort trying to collect brand labels or using other methods to determine which companies are sourcing from factories where human rights abuses are occurring. Meanwhile, they lose valuable time and put workers at risk of retaliation and continued exposure to dangerous or abusive working conditions. Such delays reduce the overall effectiveness of grievance redress mechanisms that apparel companies and other parties put in place.

Disclosing names, addresses, and other relevant information about supplier factories helps make it possible to determine whether a brand has sufficient leverage or influence in a particular factory or country to achieve remediation of worker rights abuses.

Supply chain transparency can also help check unauthorized subcontracting, in which factories that contract with apparel companies meet production demands by farming out some of the work, often to smaller, less regulated factories where labor rights abuses are common. This is a persistent challenge in the garment industry. If apparel companies published the names and addresses of all authorized supplier factories and their subcontract facilities, workers and other interested parties would know which factories are authorized to produce for the company and which are not. 

Publishing supplier factory information can also help apparel companies avoid reputational harm. For example, workers may not know that a given apparel company has terminated business with a factory well before labor rights problems arose, and could seek a remedy from the wrong company. Many factories publish information on their websites about their business relationships with major brands that may be outdated and misleading. By publishing supplier factory information themselves, and updating it regularly, apparel companies would reduce the risk that they could be wrongly associated with abusive conditions in factories with which they long before cut business ties.

Moreover, it is difficult for companies to continually identify persistent labor rights problems in specific supplier factories, to detect unauthorized subcontracting, and to regularly verify progress toward corrective action if they limit their sources of information to purely business-led human rights due diligence procedures. These include inspections and labor compliance audits by apparel companies’ own social compliance staff and third-party monitors engaged by them.   

Brand inspectors and third-party monitors—even those that are diligent and professional—are at best able to visit factories periodically and for short periods. The quality and accuracy of third-party monitoring reports depend largely on the methodology used in the assessments, the independence of the assessors from the factory and the apparel company, and the weight given to testimonies from workers and other interested parties. These tools are not sufficient in and of themselves to detect all instances of abuse, unauthorized subcontracting, and other problems. Factory disclosure makes it possible for apparel companies to receive credible information from workers and worker rights advocates between periodic factory audits.

An easily achievable standard of disclosure is for apparel companies to publish on their company websites factory names and addresses (including country, city, and street address). Many leading apparel companies have already done this. In Section III, we describe additional steps apparel companies can and should take to make their supply chains more transparent.

Publishing supply chain information is consistent with a company’s responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles), a set of guidelines that lay out steps companies should take to prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses linked to business operations. The principles state that companies have a responsibility to “identify, prevent, mitigate and account for” adverse human rights impacts of their business operations, and to regularly report on progress made.[11]

The UN Guiding Principles also say that businesses should externally communicate how they address their human rights impacts in “a form and frequency that … are accessible to its intended audiences.”[12] The commentary on the Guiding Principles states that the “responsibility to respect human rights requires that business enterprises have in place policies and processes through which they can both know and show [emphasis added] that they respect human rights in practice.” Further, “[s]howing involves communication, providing a measure of transparency and accountability to individuals or groups who may be impacted and to other relevant stakeholders, including investors.”[13]

In some jurisdictions, companies that publish supplier factory information can also help facilitate compliance with legal obligations under laws like the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010; “sweat-free” procurement laws adopted in dozens of US cities and a few states; the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015; and the French law on the corporate duty of vigilance, 2017.[14]

The transparency of global supply chains is also increasingly recognized by investors as a metric for evaluating the robustness of business human rights practices. The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB), a collaborative effort by business and human rights organizations and investors, developed a public scorecard for the human rights practices of apparel, agricultural, and extractive companies. The benchmark has been endorsed by 85 investors representing US$5.3 trillion in assets.[15] CHRB’s indicators include whether the company publishes supply chain information.

Specifically, the CHRB scorecard assesses whether “[t]he Company maps its suppliers and discloses its mapping publicly [emphasis added].” Apparel companies are given two specific scores depending on whether “[t]he company indicates that it maps its suppliers beyond tier one, including direct and indirect suppliers, and describes how it goes about this” and whether “[t]he Company also discloses the mapping for the most significant parts of its supply chain and explains how it has defined what are the most significant parts of its supply chain.”[16] In order to assess the latter, companies were required to publish at least the names of its supplier factories for the 2016 pilot benchmark.[17]

Kevin Thomas, director of shareholder engagement of SHARE Canada, a nonprofit organization that represents institutional investors in Canadian and other international companies in apparel and other sectors, said that in 2016 at least 20 shareholder resolutions related to supply chains and human rights practices were filed in the US. He said:

[I]nvestors are looking for evidence that demonstrates that the company is effectively identifying human rights risks in its own operations and in the supply chain, and has an effective system to address those risks when they are identified. It’s important that the company not only report on its policies and systems, but also the outcomes of its work – what is it finding, and how is it fixing it. Factory disclosure is a part of that process. [T]he company’s willingness to disclose demonstrates to shareholders that it is confident in its due diligence process. [I]t also assists the company in catching unauthorized subcontracting, as well as developing useful relationships with stakeholders that can assist the company in identifying problem areas and solutions.[18]

II. The Transparency Pledge

The objective of the Transparency Pledge is to help the garment industry reach a common minimum standard for supply chain disclosures by getting companies to publish standardized, meaningful information on all factories in the manufacturing phase of their supply chains. The civil society coalition that developed the Pledge based it on published factory lists of leading apparel companies and developed a set of minimum supply chain disclosure standards. These build on good practices in the industry.

The Apparel and Footwear Supply Chain Transparency Pledge

(“The Transparency Pledge”)

This Transparency Pledge helps demonstrate apparel and footwear companies’ commitment towards greater transparency in their manufacturing supply chain.

Transparency of a company’s manufacturing supply chain better enables a company to collaborate with civil society in identifying, assessing, and avoiding actual or potential adverse human rights impacts. This is a critical step that strengthens a company’s human rights due diligence.

Each company participating in this Transparency Pledge commits to taking at least the following steps within three months of committing to it: 

Publish Manufacturing Sites

The company will publish on its website on a regular basis (such as twice a year) a list naming all sites that manufacture its products. The list should provide the following information in English:

  1. The full name of all authorized production units and processing facilities.*
  2. The site addresses.
  3. The parent company of the business at the site.
  4. Type of products made.**
  5. Worker numbers at each site.***

Companies will publish the above information in a spreadsheet or other searchable format.

The three-month time frame was extended to December 2017 based on the coalition’s engagement with apparel companies. See Appendix I for details.

* Processing factories include printing, embroidery, laundry, and so on.

** Please indicate the broad category—apparel, footwear, home textile, accessories.

*** Please indicate whether the site falls under the following categories by number of workers: Less than 1,000 workers; 1,001 to 5,000 workers; 5,001 to 10,000 workers; More than 10,000 workers.

The Pledge focuses on the “manufacturing phase” of an apparel company’s supply chain, which comprises all factories authorized by the company to produce (that is, cut-make-trim, or CMT) along with others subcontracted by these CMT factories to perform “finishing” processes.[19]

The Pledge aims for consistency in disclosures, which is sorely needed, as shown by an analysis carried out by coalition members of supply chain information published by September 2016 by 23 global apparel companies. In the absence of standards, companies adopt different approaches to transparency, sometimes excluding important information that makes it effective. This analysis informed the content of the Transparency Pledge, as explained in Appendix II.

Why Minimum Standards for Disclosure

Based on an analysis of apparel companies’ disclosure practices, it became clear that without minimum standards, companies’ efforts toward supply chain disclosures suffered from a range of deficiencies:

  • A lack of a common understanding of what constituted the first tier of a brand’s supply chain. For example, not disclosing any information about authorized subcontractors like external printers, embroiderers, and laundries that are essential to producing a finished product, without which it cannot be sold.
  • Publishing only a part of all cut-make-trim supplier factories, without specifying what was included.
  • Omitting factories’ street addresses, making it impossible to know where in a given country or city a factory was located.
  • Excluding names and addresses of factories used by licensees or agents.
  • Not specifying if supplier factory information was published for all or only some brands owned by the apparel company.
  • Not specifying whether the disclosure was for all or only some types of products.
  • Not describing what was being excluded from the disclosure.
  • Not stating what percentage of their total sourcing volume and supplier factories was published, the date the information was last updated, and how frequently such updates were made public.
  • Not publishing this data in downloadable and searchable formats.

Key Pointers for Publishing Supplier Factory Information

When publishing supplier factory information, global apparel companies should pay close attention to the manner in which they provide it. The following guiding points are important to make disclosure effective:

Easy Access

  • Make information easily and freely accessible on their websites.
  • Make information available in formats that have downloadable files and enable machine-readable searches to cut down on the time needed to manually sift through these lists.

Clarity

  • Clearly state what precisely is being published and what definitions are being used. (For example, describe how the company defines terms like “tier-1”; “core manufacturing partners.”)
  • Clearly state whether all authorized subcontractors used by cut-make-trim factories for processes to complete a brand’s products are being published.
  • Indicate the aggregate volume of business that is captured by the disclosure and the percentage of total supplier factories published. (For example, “The factories named represent 80 percent of the factories where the company’s products are manufactured, and are responsible for production of 90 percent of the brand’s products.”)
  • Indicate exclusions from disclosures, if any, and impending plans to expand disclosures. (For example, whether it excludes factories used by licensees, agents, and discloses information for only some or all brands.)

Regular Updates

  • Specify the date when the information was last updated and how frequently the information is publicly updated.

What the Transparency Pledge Does Not Do

The Pledge does not attempt to define the full extent of transparency in the garment industry. It deals with a narrow yet critical part of transparency in apparel supply chains. The full range of transparency practices in the garment industry should be broader and more holistic. Several aspects—ranging from grievance redress procedures and brand efforts to mitigate or remediate human rights problems, including the effectiveness of brands’ compliance programs with respect to worker wages, hours of work, and their freedom of association—stand to benefit from greater transparency.

The Pledge does not set a ceiling, but rather a floor, on what brands should publicly report. The coalition hopes that human rights and environmental advocates, governments, companies, investors, and other stakeholders in the sector will work to deepen and broaden transparency beyond what is included in the Pledge.

Some brands have already taken steps that prove more is possible. They have published more details beyond just a factory name and address, indicating the precise number of workers in the factory, the gender breakdown of the workforce, and other details for every factory disclosed.[20] A very small number of apparel companies have published the textile factories where fabric used in their garments is made and more information beyond the “manufacturing phase” of the supply chain.[21]

 

III. Apparel Company Responses

The civil society coalition that developed the Transparency Pledge contacted 72 apparel and footwear companies asking them to sign on to and implement the Pledge. This section captures responses received as of April 7, 2017.[22]

There were a wide range of responses, which the coalition has grouped into three categories:

  • First, some companies already embrace supply chain transparency and either agreed to add more factory details to meet the Pledge standards or to align their practices more closely with those standards.
  • Second, some companies already publish supplier factory information but declined to add more details to align their disclosure practices with the Pledge standards, or failed to respond to the coalition letter. In the same category are other companies that reported that they intend to begin disclosing more supplier factory information but whose commitments fell far short of the Pledge standards.
  • Third, some companies either did not commit to publishing any supplier factory information or did not respond at all.

These categories are based on commitments made by apparel companies—many of which have promised to begin publishing information for the first time—that they have indicated will be implemented in 2017. An update to this report will be issued in 2018 providing more details about apparel company disclosures and additional responses. Where appropriate the list of companies in each category will be revised, based on the disclosures and commitments that these companies make in the interim period.

Full Pledge or Close to Full Alignment with Pledge

Seventeen apparel companies agreed to publish all supplier factory information requested, meeting all the Pledge standards.[23] Another five companies fell just short of the Pledge standards.

Full Alignment with the Pledge

Apparel companies that previously published supply chain information and committed to publishing additional supplier factory information in full alignment with the Pledge standards are adidas, C&A, Cotton On, Esprit, G-Star RAW, Hanesbrands, H&M, Levis, Lindex, Nike, and Patagonia.

Apparel companies that had previously not published any supplier factory information and have committed to publishing this in full alignment with the Pledge are ASICS, ASOS, Clarks, New Look, Next, and the Pentland Brands.

The commitments of these global apparel companies help break new ground by promoting an industry-wide minimum standard for supply chain transparency.

Just Missing the Pledge Standard

Since its first disclosure in September 2016, Gap updated its information, which now incorporates almost all aspects of the Pledge.[24] Marks and Spencer[25] and Tesco[26] outlined their plans to add more information to their current factory disclosure, which would bring them closer to alignment with the Pledge standard. John Lewis committed to publishing supplier factory information in 2017 in accordance with almost the full Pledge.[27] None of these companies committed to publishing information about parent companies of factories as requested.

Mountain Equipment Co-op added information in accordance with Pledge standards for cut-make-trim factories with a commitment to adding authorized subcontractors in the future.[28]

Some Transparency, More Needed

Some apparel companies (identified in textboxes below) already publish the names and addresses of their supplier factories, but do not disclose other information in line with the Pledge standards, and did not commit to doing more. Others have committed to taking steps to publish supplier factory information but with scant detail or without specifying what precisely they will disclose.

An apparel company should, at the very least, publish the minimum information needed to demonstrate that it “knows and shows” a key part of its supply chain: the names and addresses of all its cut-make-trim factories and authorized subcontractors that undertake processes needed to finish the product.

In the Right Direction

Columbia Sportswear and Disney have been publishing the names and addresses of their cut-make-trim suppliers and authorized subcontractors.[29] But they did not explicitly commit to doing more.[30]

New Balance, which was already publishing factory names and addresses, committed to adding product categories.[31]

PUMA added street addresses, worker numbers, and product categories for all factories it currently publishes.[32]

Coles publishes the names and addresses of its non-food suppliers (not only apparel) from India and China, which the company says includes all supplier factories, but it did not commit to doing more.[33]

Under Armour committed to publishing information for all cut-make-trim factories in accordance with Pledge standards in 2017.[34]

ALDI North and ALDI South published the names and street addresses of their tier-1 suppliers.[35]

LIDL committed to beginning disclosure in 2017, which would list the names and street addresses for all tier-1 factories producing own-brand products.[36]

Tchibo committed to publishing the names, addresses, and product types of cut-make-trim factories in 2017.[37]

VF Corporation committed to adding factory street addresses to its existing publication of owned and operated and tier-1 supplier factory names,[38] but this excludes “licensee and sub-contractor factories.”[39]

Debenhams committed to publishing in 2017 the names and addresses of its tier-1 factories along with worker numbers by gender breakdown.[40]

Benetton published its tier-1 factories in 2017 listing the names, addresses, and product category.[41]

Arcadia Group has committed to publish the names and addresses of all cut-make-trim factories in 2017.[42]

Many Factories Still Missing from Disclosure Lists

The apparel companies named below publish the names and addresses of some factories. But these companies still leave out many cut-make-trim factories and their authorized subcontractor facilities from their factory lists.

Woolworths has suppliers across many countries and responded that it already publishes the names and addresses of all factories in Bangladesh and “overall more than 40 percent” of its apparel supply chain.[43] Their subcontractor facilities are currently only partially disclosed (i.e. for Bangladesh) and the company says it is improving visibility of subcontractors in other countries.[44]

Based on the information given on their respective websites, Kmart Australia appears to publish all apparel factories in “high risk” countries that directly produce Kmart products[45] and Target Australia appears to publish the names and addresses of cut-make-trim factories.[46] But because these companies did not respond to the coalition’s letter, the coalition has no information about the percentage of supplier factories they disclose and whether authorized subcontractors are included.[47]

The Hudson’s Bay Company did not commit to adding more disclosures to its existing factory list, which carries the names and addresses of some, but not all, of its cut-make-trim supplier factories.[48]

Fast Retailing began disclosing the names and addresses of its “core factories list” producing for UNIQLO, the largest of its brands, for the first time in 2017.[49]

Other companies named in the text box below already disclose or have indicated they support some degree of supply chain transparency. But they either disclose or have committed to disclosing only factory names without street addresses. Some have only stated that they plan to begin disclosing in 2017, without indicating what precisely they will disclose.

Beginning to Disclose

Target USA was already disclosing factory names by country and city for manufacturing, textile, and wet-processing factories but did not respond in substance to the coalition’s letter asking for more information to be published about supplier factories.[50]

Mizuno committed to publishing its “core factory list” in January 2017 with “names, location, and product category,” but published the information without including factory street addresses.[51] This list also appears to include only a minority of all Mizuno’s apparel supplier factories.[52] Abercrombie & Fitch and PVH Corporation communicated their decisions to publish all tier-1 factory names by country only.[53] Loblaw similarly committed to publish names of all factories where they “source apparel and footwear directly” and to include the country of manufacture but not the factory address.[54]

Beginning Disclosure, But Details Unknown

BESTSELLER and Decathlon committed to beginning publishing supplier factory information in 2017 but did not specify the details of their disclosure.[55] 

No Commitment to Publish

Some companies gave little or no response to letters requesting information about their disclosure practices or plans, or the Transparency Pledge.

Of the apparel companies and retailers with own-apparel brands who had previously not published any information for cut-make-trim factories, 10 did not send any response to the coalition’s letter.[56] Another 15 did not commit to publish supplier factory information.[57]

No Commitment to Make their Factory List Public

Apparel companies that responded but did not indicate any impending commitment to publishing their supplier factories are American Eagle Outfitters, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Foot Locker,[58] The Children’s Place, Walmart, Canadian Tire, Desigual, MANGO, KiK, Hugo Boss, Carrefour, Morrison’s, Primark, and Sainsbury’s.

Inditex declined to publish supplier factory information but makes this data available to IndustriALL and its affiliates as part of the reporting under its Global Framework Agreement.[59] 

Failed to Respond to Coalition’s Call for Transparency

Armani, Carter’s, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Ralph Lauren Corporation, Matalan, River Island, Sports Direct, Shop Direct, and Rip Curl did not send any response to the coalition.

Debunking the So-Called Barriers to Transparency

Competitive Disadvantage

A few brands—KiK, Inditex, DICK’s Sporting Goods, and The Children’s Place—that declined to publish their supplier factory information cited competitive advantage.[60] However, many other large apparel companies and retailers with own-brand apparel products have published supplier factory information for years.[61] Five companies have published this information for more than a decade.[62] Garment industry giants are increasingly choosing to publish their supplier information, proving that transparency can easily coexist with being competitive.

In some cases, supplier factories already openly advertise on their websites the names of brands they produce for, even where a brand does not.[63]

Many apparel companies are also part of initiatives like the Fair Factories Clearinghouse and Sedex, where they voluntarily disclose and share non-competitive information with other brands, including supplier names, audit reports, and so on, even where they do not do so publicly.[64]

Moreover, apparel companies that import products into US markets are subject to the US law, which requires that customs authorities collect information on each shipping container that enters a US port, including the shipper (typically in the case of garments the overseas supplier) and the consignee (typically the apparel company or its agent).[65] Online subscription databases purchase this trade data and market it in searchable formats, allowing users, including competitors, to gather information about suppliers to apparel companies that import goods into the US.[66] But the costs of accessing such subscription-based databases are prohibitive for workers and many civil society organizations. While apparel companies can easily purchase subscriptions, workers and many labor advocates around the world cannot afford them. Despite the availability of these records, some companies are known to use various means of shielding their own names and their suppliers’ names from appearing in this data.

Anti-Competition Law

KiK declined to publish information about their supplier factories, raising anti-competition concerns among others.[67] However, other brands selling products in Germany or other EU countries are governed by the same laws as KiK. They have been disclosing supplier information for many years; and more brands operating there have committed to begin public disclosure. These include companies that already disclose supplier factory information, such as adidas, C&A, Columbia Sportswear, Disney, Esprit, H&M, Levi’s, Nike, Patagonia, and Puma; and others that have committed to beginning disclosure in 2017, such as ALDI North and ALDI South, BESTSELLER, Fast Retailing, LIDL, and Tchibo.

Moving Beyond Private Disclosure

In response to the coalition’s recommendation that brands publicly disclose their supplier information, a few brands declined, citing their participation in other initiatives, like the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety or global framework agreements (GFA) with IndustriALL and UNI Global Union.

When implemented effectively, such initiatives serve important human rights due diligence purposes. For example, the Bangladesh Accord requires brands to confidentially disclose their supplier factory information to the initiative’s Steering Committee and staff, which makes public the names of all factories covered by the Accord and their performance on building safety issues, but without disclosing the specific brands that are supplied by each factory. An apparel company’s global framework agreement with IndustriALL typically requires the company to disclose its factory lists to the global union. This creates a basis for the union to engage with the company on the behavior of particular supplier factories.

However, none of these agreements prevent brands from publishing their supplier factory information. A number of brands (named in the text box below) participate in the Bangladesh Accord and publish their supplier factory information. Apparel companies H&M, Tchibo, and Mizuno have shown that private, confidential reporting within the framework of legally binding agreements can and should complement publishing supplier factory information.

Brands that Do Both: Publish Supplier Information and Participate in Other Initiatives

Bangladesh Accord members that have been publishing supplier factory information include adidas, C&A, Cotton On, Esprit, G-Star RAW, H&M, Kmart Australia, Lindex, Marks and Spencer, Puma, Target Australia, and Woolworths.

Accord members that will begin some disclosure in 2017 are Abercrombie & Fitch, ALDI North and ALDI South, BESTSELLER, Debenhams, Fast Retailing, John Lewis, Next, New Look, Loblaw, LIDL, PVH, Tesco, and Tchibo. A number of brands that are a part of the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles (the Textil Bündnis) publish their supplier information: adidas, C&A, Esprit, H&M, and Puma; others like ALDI North and ALDI South and LIDL began publishing supplier factory information in 2017; Tchibo will also publish its supplier factory information in 2017.

A number of brands that are a part of the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles (the Textil Bündnis) publish their supplier information: adidas, C&A, Esprit, H&M, and Puma; others like ALDI North and ALDI South and LIDL began publishing supplier factory information in 2017; Tchibo will also publish its supplier factory information in 2017.

MANGO, in response to outreach about the Transparency Pledge, offered an alternative: disclosing only to members of the coalition that spearheaded the Pledge, or to parties that register with the company.[68] These proposals fall short of the level of supply chain transparency needed in the industry. Private disclosure of this type is not sustainable, and does little to improve human rights due diligence in global apparel supply chains.

IV. The Way Forward

Supply chain transparency is an important first step toward more meaningful corporate accountability. As Esprit, one of the global apparel companies that committed to improve its disclosure practices to align with the Pledge, said: “[R]eleasing this information is not comfortable for many companies, but the time has come to do it.”[69]

A number of companies have responded positively to the coalition’s letter committing to add more information in accordance with the Pledge standards. More companies should step out of their comfort zone and join the transparency trend. They should commit to the Transparency Pledge standards.

Multi-stakeholder initiatives should also endorse the Transparency Pledge as a minimum standard for apparel supply chain transparency for their member companies, and publicly scorecard members on transparency practices.

Investors should also endorse the Transparency Pledge as part of broader efforts to promote effective human rights due diligence tools that are industry good practice and in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Transparency Pledge is an important first step, but is not the end of the story. Far more can and should be done to promote deeper and wider transparency and human rights in garment industry supply chains. 

All global apparel companies, including those acknowledged in this report as committing to the Pledge or close, should periodically review and upgrade their transparency practices.

These efforts should include expanding traceability and transparency beyond the cut-make-trim manufacturing phase to other aspects of the supply chain, including manufacture of yarn, fabric, and other inputs, and the production of raw materials like cotton.

While supply chain transparency is widely recognized as an important pillar on which corporate accountability is built, transparency alone does not result in improved working conditions or accountability. Brands should adopt transparent practices and complement them with other steps to strengthen human rights due diligence in their supply chains.

Countries where global apparel companies do business should pass legislation that promotes mandatory human rights due diligence in the global supply chains of companies, including mandatory publication of supplier information. These should build on the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, “sweat-free” procurement laws adopted by dozens of local governments in the US, the UK Modern Slavery Act and the 2017 French law on corporate duty of vigilance.[70] Such legislation will go a long way in creating a level playing field in the garment industry.

[The coalition invites additional endorsements from labor and human rights organizations, apparel companies, and investors interested in supporting the move for industry-wide minimum standards for transparency in garment supply chains, starting with the Transparency Pledge. Inquiries may be sent to: transparency@hrw.org or any coalition member.]

Acknowledgments

This report was authored and edited by the following people:

Human Rights Watch: Aruna Kashyap, senior counsel and Janet Walsh, acting director, Women’s Rights Division; Arvind Ganesan, director, Business and Human Rights Division; Chris Albin-Lackey, senior legal advisor; Tom Porteous, deputy program director; and Danielle Haas, senior editor, Program Office.

Maquila Solidarity Network: Lynda Yanz, executive director; and Robert Jeffcott, policy analyst.

Clean Clothes Campaign (International Office): Ben Vanpeperstraete, lobby and advocacy coordinator; and Christie Miedema, campaign and outreach coordinator.

International Corporate Accountability Roundtable: Nicole Vander Meulen, legal and policy associate.

Worker Rights Consortium: Scott Nova, executive director; and Ben Hensler, general counsel and deputy director.

International Labor Rights Forum: Judy Gearhart, executive director; and Liana Foxvog, director of organizing and communications.

International Trade Union Confederation: Alison Tate, director of economic and social policy.

IndustriALL Global Union

A number of people contributed to this collective advocacy effort by coordinating outreach with brand representatives. They include:

  • Clean Clothes Campaign: Ben Vanpeperstraete, Dominique Muller, Laura Ceresna, Deborah Lucchetti, Ineke Zeldenrust, Frieda de Koninck, and Helle Løvstø Severinsen.
  • Human Rights Watch: Aruna Kashyap.
  • IndustriALL Global Union.
  • International Trade Union Confederation.
  • Maquila Solidarity Network: Lynda Yanz and Robert Jeffcott.
  • UNI Global Union.
  • Worker Rights Consortium: Ben Hensler and Scott Nova.

Human Rights Watch also acknowledges the contribution of Shubhangi Bhadada, a consultant who helped with desk research, and Kate Larsen, a former Human Rights Watch consultant.

Alexandra Kotowski et Annerieke Smaak, coordinatrice senior de la division Droits des Femmes de Human Rights Watch, ont assisté Helen Griffiths, la coordinatrice de la division des Droits de l’Enfant de Human Rights Watch pour le travail de contact avec les entreprises. Kate Segal, coordinatrice de la division Droits des Femmes de Human Rights Watch, et Olivia Hunter, coordinatrice de la divisions Photos et Publications, ainsi que Rafael Jimenez, concepteur graphique, ont assisté dans le lay-out et la publication de ce rapport.

***

Current/Anticipated Disclosure by December 31, 2017 vs. Pledge Standards
Company Headquarters Published supplier factory--cut-make-trim (CMT) and subcontractor-- information prior to Pledge Letter? Supplier factory information published meets or will meet Full Pledge by December 2017? Names and street addresses of CMT factories and their subcontractors Worker numbers Product types Parent company information Frequency of disclosures Time Frame to Implement Pledge
Abercrombie & Fitch US None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names of tier-1 factories (CMT for woven, denim, knit, sweater, intimates,and accessoroies) with country of manufacture, but without street address. No No No 2 times per year 2017
Adidas Germany Names of all tier-1 factories, including those used by licensees as well as authorized subcontractors, by country and city. Names of all tier-2 wet process suppliers, by country and city. Separate lists of supplier factories used for the Olympic Games. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
ALDI North and ALDI South Germany None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 (CMT) factories but not their subcontractors. No No No 1+ times per year 2017
American Eagle Outfitters US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Arcadia Group UK None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 (CMT) factories but disclosure of authorized subcontractors will need more time. No No No 1+ times per year NA
Armani Italy None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
ASICS Japan None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 time per year 2017
ASOS UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 6 times per year 2017
Benetton Italy None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 (CMT) factories but not their subcontractors. No Yes No 1 time per year NA
BESTSELLER Denmark None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Company stated that tier-1 (CMT) factories will be published but did not provide more information about what precisely will be disclosed for each factory. No information No information No information No information 2017
C&A Netherlands Names and addresses of all CMT factories. Excluded: Brazil, Mexico, and processing factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Canadian Tire Canada None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Carrefour France None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Carter's US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Clarks UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year A vast majoirity of the supplier factory information will be published in 2017. Five percent of non-footwear accessories to be published in 2018.
Coles Australia Names and addresses of CMT factories, but not subcontractors. Company states that its supplier factories use minimal subcontracting. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of CMT factories, but not subcontractors. Company states that its supplier factories use minimal subcontracting. No No No 1 time per year NA
Columbia Sportswear US Names and addresses of factories from which they directly source and any external subcontractors engaged to perform finishing processes (mostly limited to collegiate suppliers since the others have in-house capacity). No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Yes No No No 1 time per year NA
Cotton On Group Australia Names and addresses of CMT factories used by top 20 suppliers. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes Multiple 2017
Debenhams UK None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 factories which includes all CMT factories; some external processing such as embroidering and washing may not be included. Yes No No No information 2017
Decathlon France None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Company did not provide more information about what precisely will be disclosed for each factory. No information No information No information No information 2017
Desigual Spain None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
DICK'S Sporting Goods US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Disney US Names and addresses of all facilities part of Disney's vertical supply chain and any facility in its vertical supply chains where Disney intellectual property is located, which includes any laundry, printing, embroidery facility if Disney intellectual property is incorporated into that finished product or component. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of all facilities in its vertical supply chain, including subcontractors, where Disney intellectual property is located. No No No 1 time per year NA
Esprit Germany Names and addresses of CMT factoriesand their authorized subcontractors. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Fast Retailing Japan None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Published name and addresses of "Core Factories"producing for UNIQLO brand, representing 80 percent of the total volume of orders for UNIQLO brand. Plans to publish a list of GU's "major partner factories" in 2017. No clear commitment to publish subcontractors in 2017. No No No 1 time per year 2017
Foot Locker US Previously disclosed names and addresses for suppliers of collegiate apparel line that is currently inactive. No commitment to publish current own-brand supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Forever 21 US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
G-Star RAW Netherlands Names, addresses, product types, parent company, and worker numbers for CMT factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Gap US Names and addresses of CMT factories and their authorized subcontractors. Almost full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year Gap did not make any new commitments to align with the Pledge by December 2017. The company updated its supplier factory information to be more closely aligned with the Pledge.
H&M Group Sweden Names and addresses of supplier factories and vendors (suppliers), processing factories, and some fabric suppliers. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 4 times per year 2017
Hanesbrands US Names and addresses of collegiate suppliers and owned factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 4 times per year 2017
Hudson's Bay Company Canada Names and addresses of some, but not all, supplier factories. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of some, but not all, CMT factories. No No No 1 time per year NA
Hugo Boss Germany None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Inditex Spain CMT factories not published. Names and addresses of direct and indirect wet processing factories published. No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
John Lewis UK None Almost full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year 2017
KiK Germany None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Kmart Australia Australia Names and addresses of factories in "high risk" countries. No response to coalition letter. Names and addresses of factories in "high risk" countries. No No No No information NA
Levi Strauss US Names and addresses of CMT factories and authorized subcontractors. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
LIDL Germany None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses of tier-1 factories which includes all CMT, but does not include all processing facilities. No No No 2 times per year 2017
Lindex Sweden Names and addresses of CMT factories. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 time per year 2017
Loblaw Canada None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names of all factories where they Òsource apparel and footwear directlyÓ with country of manufacture but not street address. No No No 2 times per year 2017
MANGO Spain None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Marks and Spencer (M&S) UK Names and street addresses, worker numbers, gender breakdown, and product types. Almost full Pledge alignment. M&S will continue with its Plan A disclosure commitments and add processing factories and also make its existing disclosure available in a searchable format. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year 2017
Matalan UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Mizuno Japan None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names along with country of manufacture of "Core Suppliers," that is, 125 factories disclosed of 464 tier-1 suppliers as reported on Mizuno website. No Yes No No information Began disclosure in 2017.
Morrison's UK None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Canada Names and addresses of all CMT factories and some processing facilities. Almost full Pledge alignment. Names and addresses of all CMT factories and some processing facilities. Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year Additional details for CMT factories to meet Pledge standards will be published in 2017. Names and other details of authorized printers will be added subsequently.
New Balance US Names and addresses of direct supplier factories, excluding US wholly-owned facilities. Not full Pledge, but will add product type, and update annually in searchable format. Names and addresses of direct supplier factories, excluding US wholly-owned facilities. No Yes No 1 time per year 2017
New Look UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes At least annual 2017
Next UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Nike US Names, addresses, product category, worker numbers, gender and migrant worker breakdown, and authorized subcontractor. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 4 times per year 2017
Patagonia US Names, addresses, product category, worker numbers, gender breakdown, and parent companies of CMT and authorized subcontractors. Some fabric suppliers indicated. One cotton farm also disclosed. Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 time per year 2017
Pentland Brands UK None Full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 times per year 2017
Primark UK None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Puma Germany Name of factory by country, city for tier-1 "core suppliers" and tier-2 material and component suppliers. Almost full Pledge alignment for tier-1 "core suppliers" factories. Names and addresses of tier-1 "core suppliers" amounting to 80 percent of their total business volume. But authorized subcontractors (if any) are not included in the definition of "core suppliers." Yes Yes No 1 time per year 2017
PVH Corporation US None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names of CMT factories along with country of manufacture but without street address. No No No 2 times per year 2017
Ralph Lauren Corporation US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Rip Curl Australia None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
River Island UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Sainsbury's UK None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Shop Direct UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Sports Direct UK None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
Target Australia Australia Based on information on its website, Target Australia appears to disclose the names and addresses of CMT factories. No response to coalition letter. Names and addresses of CMT factories appear to be disclosed. The coalition has no information about percentage of supplier factories disclosed or other exclusions, if any. No No No Company website says "regular basis." NA
Target USA US Names and countries of CMT suppliers, textile and wet processing factories. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names of CMT factories along with country of manufacture but without street address. No No No 4 times per year NA
Tchibo Germany None Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses for CMT factories. Yes Yes No No information NA
Tesco UK Names and addresses of Bangladesh supplier factories only. Almost full Pledge alignment. Yes Yes Yes No 2 times per year 2017
The Children's Place US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Under Armour US Only suppliers factories for collegiate apparel. Not full Pledge, but will begin publishing supplier factory information in 2017. Names and addresses for all CMT factories (but not embellishers or subcontractors). Yes Yes Yes No information Pledge details for CMT factories will be published in 2017.
Urban Outfitters US None No response to coalition letter. No No No No NA NA
VF Corporation US Names of factories by country for all VF brands of all VF-owned and operated, and direct sourced, tier-1 supplier factories. Not full Pledge, but will include street addresses to align more with the Pledge. Names and addresses of all CMT factories but not those used by licensees and subcontractors. No No No Regular 2017
Walmart US None No commitment to publish supplier factory information. No No No No NA NA
Woolworths Australia Names and addresses of all sites in Bangladesh are disclosed, and overall more than 40 percent of the supply chain (for apparel and footwear) is published. No additional commitments to meet Pledge standards; maintaining status quo. Names and addresses of all sites in Bangladesh are disclosed, and overall more than 40 percent of the supply chain (for apparel and footwear) is published. No No No 4 times per year NA

 

[1] The terms garment industry, apparel industry, and garment and footwear industry are used interchangeably in this report. All references to the garment or apparel industry also include the footwear industry.

[2] This report uses the phrase “global apparel companies” or “apparel companies” to refer to companies, retailers, and supermarkets that sell their branded clothing and footwear products. Many global apparel companies, including adidas, H&M, Levi Strauss, and VF Corporation, own multiple brands.

[3] The phrase “supplier factory” refers to a factory engaged in the production of apparel and footwear. This term is distinct from “suppliers,” which some apparel companies use to mean “vendors.”

[4] Retailers and supermarkets typically sell apparel and footwear belonging to a number of different brands, only some of which they own. For example, a shoe retail chain may sell its own-brand shoes as well as other name brands, like adidas, Nike, and Puma.

[5] William McCall, “Nike Discloses Factory Locations,” Washington Post, October 8, 1999, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/19991008/aponline182943_000.htm (accessed March 21, 2017).

[6] Apart from information compiled by advocacy groups, there is no centrally available public repository that tracks which apparel companies are publicly disclosing information about their supplier factories. This list incorporates the latest information released by Fashion Revolution about the names of brands that make their supplier factory information public: Fashion Revolution, “Transparency is Trending,” March 2017, http://fashionrevolution.org/transparency-is-trending/ (accessed March 20, 2017).

For information about US companies licensed to produce collegiate apparel and making these supplier factory names public, see Worker Rights Consortium, “Factory Database,” http://www.workersrights.org/search/ (accessed April 1, 2017); and International Labor Rights Forum, “Tracking Corporate Accountability in the Apparel Industry,” April 5, 2017, http://laborrights.org/apparelcompanychart (accessed April 6, 2017).

[7] For more information, see Section III, “The Transparency Pledge.”

[8] Ibid. See also Section IV, “Apparel Company Responses.”

[9] See Section III, Transparency Pledge, and Appendix III (available online).

[10] See Section IV, “Debunking the So-Called Barriers to Transparency.”

[11] United Nations, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework (UN Guiding Principles), 2011, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf (accessed February 10, 2017).

[12] Ibid, p. 23.

[13] Ibid, p. 24.

[14] The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_0651-0700/sb_657_bill_20100930_chaptered.pdf (accessed February 18, 2017); for a list of US cities with sweat-free procurement policies and codes of conduct, see Sweatfree Purchasing Consortium, “Resource Library,” http://buysweatfree.org/resource_library (accessed March 28, 2017); UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/30/contents/enacted (accessed February 18, 2017); the French law on corporate duty of vigilance, http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/ta/ta0924.asp (accessed March 2. 2017).

[15] Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, 2016, https://business-humanrights.org/en/corporate-human-rights-benchmark (accessed February 18, 2017). The benchmark was developed by a steering committee comprised of six organizations. These include Aviva Investors, Calvert Investments, The Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO), and Vigeo Eiris, a group that also advises on responsible investment.

The benchmark is endorsed in the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework Investor Statement, http://www.ungpreporting.org/early-adopters/investor-statement/ (accessed February 18, 2017).

[16] Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Pilot Methodology 2016, March 2016, https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/CHRB_report_06_singles.pdf (accessed February 18, 2017), p. 97.

[17] Email communications from Eniko Horvath, senior researcher, Business and Human Rights Resource Center, to Human Rights Watch, March 27 and March 28, 2017. The Business and Human Rights Resource Center is one of the organizations that is part of the CHRB’s Methodology Group.

[18] Email communication from Kevin Thomas, SHARE, to Human Rights Watch, February 24, 2017.

[19] The Pledge does not use the first and second tier terminology to avoid confusion because different brands define tiers differently. Where a CMT factory does not have the in-house capacity to undertake printing, embroidery and other embellishments, laundry, and related processes without which a product cannot be readied for shipment, typically the factory outsources these functions to other specialist factories. These authorized subcontractors should also be disclosed.

[20] For example, Nike, “Nike Manufacturing Map,” http://manufacturingmap.nikeinc.com/ (accessed August 23, 2016). For every factory disclosed, Nike publishes information about number of workers, percentage of female workers, and percentage of migrant workers; Marks and Spencer (M&S), “M&S Supplier Map,” https://interactivemap.marksandspencer.com/ (accessed August 23, 2016). For every factory disclosed, M&S publishes information about product type, number of workers, and percentage of male and female workers; Patagonia, “The Footprint Chronicles,” http://www.patagonia.com/footprint.html (accessed August 23, 2016).

[21] H&M Group, “Supplier List,” http://sustainability.hm.com/en/sustainability/downloads-resources/resources/supplier-list.html (accessed August 23, 2016). H&M disclosed a number of fabric and yarn mills that supplied the factories producing apparel. Patagonia, “The Footprint Chronicles.” Patagonia disclosed a number of textile mills in its supply chain as well as one cotton farm.

[22] For information after this date, visit the brand website for any new developments.

[23] In evaluating company responses to the Pledge, the coalition has opted for flexibility on frequency of updates to supplier factory lists. As explained in more detail in Appendix II, this decision was based on its discussions with companies.

[24] Email communication from Gap to the coalition, March 22, 2017.

[25] Email communication from Marks and Spencer to the coalition, December 20, 2016. Marks and Spencer did not commit to additional disclosures in response to the Pledge. They informed the coalition that their existing plans already intended to extend disclosures in January 2017. This will add “[B]eauty suppliers and Homeware suppliers, which will complete the public transparency of … entire first tier product Global clothing and home supply chains.” Marks and Spencer also stated that its representatives were “[a]lready in discussions of how to improve and increase the level of transparency. This includes adding 2nd tier processing sites and some raw materials and we will keep you posted throughout 2017 on these plans.”    

[26] Email communication from Tesco to the coalition, March 16, 2017.

[27] Email communication from John Lewis to the coalition, November 1, 2016.

[28] Mountain Equipment Co-op committed to adding all details as requested in the Pledge for all its “first tier” factories whose names and addresses it was already disclosing. It also noted that it was collecting information about external printers used by its authorized cut-make-trim (CMT) factories. But these would be disclosed as part of its ongoing efforts to deepen supply chain transparency and will happen over the next three years.

[29] Letter from Columbia Sportswear to the coalition, December 20, 2016 (on file with the coalition). Even though Columbia did not commit to additional disclosures in response to the Pledge, it stated that the company was “[c]ommitted to continuously improving transparency … and were open to further dialogue … about it.” Email communication from Disney to the coalition, December 21, 2016. Disney declined to add more details or commit to the full Pledge, stating that “Disney’s facility list is the largest list published to date, with over 6,000 facilities identified,” but said they “remain open to further dialogue about transparency practices.”

[30] Ibid.

[31] Email communication from New Balance to the coalition, February 22, 2017.

[32] “Puma Global Core Factory List 2017,” http://about.puma.com/damfiles/default/sustainability/supply-chain/manufacturing-map/PUMA-Global-Core-FTY-List-2017_final.pdf-dfb64160fd36df1141c4cac5d3ad248d.pdf (accessed April 7, 2017). Letter from Puma to the coalition, December 19, 2016; email communication from Puma to the coalition, March 21, 2017. Puma’s core factory list covers 80 percent of its business volume for tier-1 suppliers but also tier-2 material and component suppliers. However, it does not include tier-1 subcontractors (if they exist) since those do not fall under Puma’s definition of “core supplier.”

[33] “Coles non-food suppliers,” https://www.coles.com.au/about-coles/ethical-sourcing/non-food-suppliers (accessed April 1, 2017). Email communications from Coles to the coalition, December 6, 2016 and March 16, 2017. Coles stated that the majority of its production was done in-house by its cut-make-trim suppliers and that reliance on subcontractors was minimal. All subcontractors were not disclosed. 

[34] Email communications from Under Armour to the coalition, December 20, 2016 and March 7, 2017.

[35] Email communication from ALDI North and ALDI South to the coalition, December 20, 2016. ALDI North and ALDI South stated that the companies were taking measures to restructure their supply chain and “aim to set internal goals regarding increased supply chain transparency,” and subsequently published their factory lists. ALDI North Factories List, http://www.aldi-nord.de/print/01_verantwortung/ALDI_Nord_Hauptproduktionsstaetten_Lieferanten.pdf (accessed April 1, 2017); ALDI South Factories List, https://unternehmen.aldi-sued.de/de/verantwortung/lieferkette/transparenz-in-der-lieferkette/ (accessed April 1, 2017). Email communications from ALDI North and ALDI South to the coalition, March 20 and March 29, 2017. ALDI North and ALDI South defined tier-1 “mainly as CMT factories (of which many do have processes like laundry, printing, embroidery, etc.).”

[36] LIDL, “Disclosure of main production facilities for textiles & footwear worldwide,” https://www.lidl.de/de/transparenz-in-der-lieferkette/s7376023 (accessed April 1, 2017). Email communications from LIDL to the coalition, November 21, 2016 and February 28, 2017. LIDL includes within its definition of tier-1 manufacturing stages depending on vertical integration or contractual arrangement. These may include some processes like printing, washing, and so on, but not all authorized subcontractors.

[37] Email communication from Tchibo to the coalition, March 30, 2017.

[38] Email communication from VF Corporation to the coalition, February 20, 2017.

[39] See VF Corporation, “Factory List,” http://responsiblesourcing.vfc.com/factories-list/ (accessed February 27, 2017).

[40] Email communications from Debanhams to the coalition, November 7, 2016 and March 17, 2017. Debanhams defined tier-1 as cut-make-trim factories including those with in-house capacity to perform processes like laundry, printing, etc. 

[41] “Benetton Supplier List 2016,” http://static.benettongroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Benetton_Supplier_List_2016.pdf (accessed April 4, 2017).

[42] Email communication from Arcadia Group to the coalition, April 7, 2017.

[43] Email communication from Woolworths to the coalition, March 3, 2017.

[44] Ibid. In response to a clarification asking whether all manufacturing and processing sites were disclosed, the company said: “Partially - we have good visibility of this in Bangladesh and are focused on improving this in other markets.” Email communication from Woolworths to the coalition, January 30, 2017. Woolworths committed to exploring whether Pledge standards can be integrated into its ongoing review of its ethical sourcing strategy, but the company did not provide a time frame for when this review is expected to be completed.

[45] Kmart Australia, “Factory List,” http://www.kmart.com.au/ethical-factories (accessed March 5, 2017). Kmart Australia says on its website that its factory list includes “all apparel and general merchandise factories in high risk countries [emphasis added] that directly produce [emphasis added] Kmart Australia products.”

[46] Target Factory Partner List, https://www.target.com.au/company/about-us/ethical-sourcing/factory-list (accessed March 5, 2017).

[47] At time of writing, Kmart Australia and Target Australia had not responded to the coalition’s letter.

[48] Letter from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the coalition, November 4, 2017 (on file with the coalition).

[49] Email communications from Fast Retailing to the coalition, March 22 and March 27, 2017. Fast Retailing stated, “Though not an exhaustive list of UNIQLO factories, it does indeed show all of the factories that UNIQLO currently engages in a long-term, continuous nature, accounting for the vast majority of our production.” In 2017, the company will be expanding its factory list to include another brand, GU’s “major partner factories.”

[50] This is based on information provided by Target USA on its website. “Global Factories List (as of March 24, 2017)” https://corporate.target.com/_media/TargetCorp/csr/pdf/Target-Global-Factory-List-Q1-2017.pdf (accessed April 7, 2017). On its website, Target states, “Target publishes a list of all factories, as well as textile and wet processing facilities producing Target owned-brand products.… This list is subject to change and updates will be provided on a quarterly basis.” Target USA began publishing supplier factory information before the coalition wrote to the company. The company did not respond to the coalition’s letter.

[51] Letter from Mizuno to the coalition, November 14, 2016 and email communication from Mizuno to the coalition, January 31, 2017 (on file with coalition).

[52] “Mizuno Core Factory List as of January, 2016,” http://media.mizuno.com/~/media/Files/com/csr/partner/17_0131_en.pdf (accessed January 31, 2017). Mizuno’s disclosure list has 125 factories, while their website says that there are “240 factories, which constitute … main contract manufacturing,” and further that Mizuno has “464 factories that are Tier 1 suppliers.” The definition of Tier 1 is not included on its disclosure page.

[53] Email communication from Abercrombie & Fitch to the coalition, November 6, 2016; email communication from PVH Corporation to the coalition, April 4, 2017.

[54] Email communication from Loblaw to the coalition, November 7, 2016; “Loblaw Apparel Supply Chain Disclosure, February 2017,” http://www.loblaw.ca/content/dam/lclcorp/pdfs/Responsibility/LCL%20Apparel%20Supply%20Chain%20Disclosure%20V1%20EN%20(Feb117)FINAL.pdf (accessed March 20, 2017).

[55] Email communication from BESTSELLER to the coalition, February 24, 2017. The company committed to disclosing all “tier one” suppliers and said, “Tier 1 are CMT,” excluding authorized subcontractors from within its scope. The company did not have more details about what precisely would be disclosed about its CMT suppliers. Email communications from Decathlon to the coalition, November 3, 2016 and February 14, 2017.

[56] Emails acknowledging receipt of the coalition’s letter with a preliminary response that the company is discussing the letter without a clear indication of the company’s position on supply chain transparency have been counted as not having responded.

[57] Details of company responses sent on company letterhead are available as an Annex online.

[58] Letter from Foot Locker to the coalition, November 4, 2016 (on file with the coalition). Foot Locker has previously disclosed the names and addresses of its cut-make-trim supplier factories that produced goods licensed by US colleges and universities and did not commit to adding more information about factories that produce its other own-brand products. This information was made publicly available on the website of the Worker Rights Consortium, http://www.workersrights.org/search/index.asp?search=results&licensee=Team+Edition+Apparel (accessed April 6, 2017). It appears, however, that Foot Locker is no longer marketing this line of apparel, and, relatedly, no longer discloses any supplier factory information.

[59] Letter from Inditex to the coalition, November 7, 2016 (on file with the coalition). Inditex publishes its direct and indirect wet processing supplier list, https://www.wateractionplan.com/documents/186210/199857/6.1.INDITEX+SUPPLY+CHAIN_WET_PROCESS_v1May2016.pdf/90f1e765-5ca2-4cc3-9215-88e0f1cc12a4 (accessed April 1, 2017). See below for more information about brands like H&M, Mizuno, and Tchibo that have global framework agreements with IndustriALL and publish or have committed to publishing supplier factory information.

[60] Letter from KiK to the coalition, November 7, 2016; letter from Inditex to the coalition, November 7, 2016 (on file with the coalition); email communication from DICK’s Sporting Goods to the coalition, March 6, 2017; email communication from The Children’s Place to the coalition, March 20, 2017.

[61] See Text Box in the Summary for a list of apparel companies that publish supplier factory information.

[62] adidas, Levi’s, Nike, Puma, and Patagonia.

[63] For example, Rupashi Group, http://rupashigroup.com/ (accessed March 3, 2017 and screenshot on file with Human Rights Watch). The group states on its website that it produces for Forever 21, Zara, and other brands that do not publish their supplier factory information; Ha-Meem Group, http://www.hameemgroup.net/ (accessed March 3, 2017 and screenshot on file with Human Rights Watch). The group states on its website that it produces for Zara, Mango, and American Eagle Outfitters among other brands that do not publicly post information on their websites. 

[64] Fair Factories Clearinghouse, “Benefits of Membership,” http://www.fairfactories.org/Home/Benefits-of-Membership (accessed February 23, 2017); Sedex, http://www.sedexglobal.com/ (accessed February 23, 2017).

[65] 19 US Code § 1484, Entry of Merchandise, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/19/1484 (accessed March 21, 2017).

[66] Subscription databases exercise rights under the US Freedom of Information Act to purchase trade data from US Customs and market it in searchable formats to users, including competitors’ apparel companies. See for example, Import Genius, “Our Clients,” https://www.importgenius.com/how-it-works/our-clients (accessed February 18, 2017). Import Genius lists sourcing professionals as part of its clientele and says: “Hundreds of importers use our service to view the U.S. shipping history for overseas suppliers in any industry.… They can search by company name or product keywords to identify the manufacturers already supplying their competitors, from world-class brands to small-time importers.” In fact, Import Genius clearly says that it serves “competitive intelligence analysts,” providing “unrivaled access into the supply chain activities of … major competitors.” Panjiva, https://panjiva.com/ (accessed February 18, 2017). Panjiva advertises that one of the database’s advantages is to “[u]nderstand [the] market share by seeing where … competitors source their goods, and which entities are involved in the shipment of goods.”

[67] Letter from KiK to the coalition, November 7, 2016 (on file with the coalition).

[68] Email communication from MANGO to the coalition, November 24, 2016. MANGO said it was developing a system to create a username and password upon request to its CSR department through which supplier information can be accessed by “any organisation that may be interested, as long as they do not have any competitive conflict.”

[69] Letter from Esprit to the coalition, November 23, 2016 (on file with the coalition).

[70] See for example, ITUC, “Closing the loopholes—How legislators can build on the UK Modern Slavery Act,” https://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/uk_modern_slavery_act.pdf (accessed March 7, 2017).

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

“Sometimes [having your period] is a challenge. [It] stops girls from going to school.”

Rebeca, who was 17 when she spoke to Human Rights Watch in 2016, should know. She and other school girls in Tanzania told us they lacked menstrual supplies, toilets with privacy, and information needed to handle menstruation. They described taunts and humiliation when, because of inadequate materials, they leaked blood, missing school as a result.

Female and male latrines at a secondary school in Mwanza, northeastern Tanzania. Many students told Human Rights Watch that they had to use dirty and congested pit latrines. 

© 2016 Elin Martínez/Human Rights Watch

Girls around the world face the same challenge – often with the same, dispiriting result.

The right to sanitation entitles everyone to sanitation services – including to manage menstruation – that provide privacy, ensure dignity, and are safe and hygienic.

This is often not the case. Human Rights Watch research from 2005 to 2017 documents obstacles people encounter when trying to perform the simple acts of relieving themselves or managing menstruation safely and with dignity.

In almost every setting we examined, including schools, prisons and jails, and refugee camps, we found that discrimination based on caste, gender, disability, age, or other status makes it even harder for some people to access adequate sanitation services than others.

We found women and girls often lack safe and private sanitation facilities and materials to manage their menstruation. This can undermine their health, education, work, and gender equality.

A lack of access to safe and accessible sanitation facilities can also impact the rights of people with disabilities, older adults, and transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

To ensure adequate sanitation for all people, governments need to do more than simply commit new funding and resources. They also need to address discrimination and distinctive challenges for certain populations that prevent some people from accessing sanitation.  

Finance and water and sanitation ministers from around the world gathering in Washington, DC, this week for a high-level meeting on global sanitation and drinking water challenges have an opportunity to do just this.

Otherwise, sanitation will continue to be viewed as something for some people.

But it’s not. Sanitation is a human right for all people. Governments need to be treating it that way.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Manila) – A fleeing Saudi woman faces grave risks after being returned to Saudi Arabia against her will while in transit in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi authorities should ensure that Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, is not subjected to violence from her family or prosecution by Saudi authorities for trying to flee, Human Rights Watch said.

On April 10, 2017, Saudi activists posted videos that appeared to show Lasloom at Manila’s international airport pleading not to be returned because she feared her family would kill her. The Saudi embassy in the Philippines issued a statement on April 12 saying that Lasloom’s return was a “family matter.”

A photo of Dina Ali Lasloom’s boarding pass from Kuwait to the Philippines. 

Twitter.

“Saudi women fleeing their family or the country can face so-called ‘honor’ violence or other serious harm if returned against their will,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi authorities should immediately protect this woman from her family to ensure she’s not subjected to violence and should not punish her for fleeing.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed four people linked to Lasloom’s case, including two who said that they spoke to her at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

A Canadian woman, Meagan Khan, transiting through Manila on April 10, told Human Rights Watch that Lasloom approached her at 11 a.m. to ask if she could borrow her cell phone. She said that Lasloom identified herself as a Saudi woman living in Kuwait who intended to flee to Australia to escape a forced marriage and that airport officials had confiscated her passport and boarding pass for a scheduled 11:15 a.m. flight to Sydney.

Khan said she then assisted Lasloom in filming several short videos explaining her case, which were later circulated on social media networks. One video shows Lasloom saying: “They took my passport and locked me up for 13 hours … if my family comes they will kill me. If I go back to Saudi Arabia I will be dead. Please help me.” Khan said several hours later, two men Lasloom identified as her uncles arrived at the airport. After sitting with her for eight hours, Khan then left for her connecting flight.

Philippine immigration officials denied holding Lasloom in immigration detention, according to local media outlets. An airline security official, who requested not to be identified, told Human Rights Watch that he met Lasloom at about 12:30 p.m. on April 11 in the lobby of a small temporary lodging facility in Terminal One. He said that Lasloom told him that she feared going back to Saudi Arabia with her uncles and that he saw bruises on her arms that she said were the result of a beating by her uncles.

The security official said that at 5:15 p.m., while he was in the hotel lobby, he saw two airline security officials and three apparently Middle Eastern men enter the hotel and go to her room, which he said was near the lobby. He said he heard her screaming and begging for help from her room, after which he saw them carry her out with duct tape on her mouth, feet, and hands. He said she was still struggling to break free when he saw them put her in a wheelchair and take her out of the hotel.

A Saudi source sent Human Rights Watch photos obtained via a contact who works at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport that show flight information that includes details of Lasloom, along with her two uncles, as passengers on Saudia Airlines flight SV871, which departed Manila at 7:01 p.m. on April 11 and arrived in Riyadh at midnight local time.

Reuters reported that several passengers said they had seen a woman being carried onto the plane screaming. One woman told Reuters, “I heard a lady screaming from upstairs. Then I saw two or three men carrying her. They weren’t Filipino. They looked Arab.” Two people who went to Riyadh airport at midnight to seek information about Lasloom told Human Rights Watch that she did not emerge from the flight with the rest of the passengers. Reuters also reported that a Saudi activist who went to the airport to meet Lasloom appeared to have been detained after approaching security officials to inquire about the case.

The role Philippine authorities played in Lasloom’s return is unclear. As a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention against Torture, the Philippines has an obligation not to return anyone to a territory where they face persecution because of their gender or a real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

“The Philippine government should fully investigate this incident and hold any of their officials who failed to protect Dina Ali Lasloom accountable, as required by international law,” Whitson said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte began a three-day state visit to Saudi Arabia on April 10, the same day Lasloom attempted to fly to Australia.

Lasloom’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

The Saudi authorities should disclose whether Lasloom is with her family or held by the state, Human Rights Watch said. If held by the state, the authorities should disclose under what conditions she is being held, including whether she is at a shelter at her request and whether she has freedom of movement and ability to contact the outside world. State shelter facilities in Saudi Arabia are used both to detain women and to provide protection for those fleeing abuse, and may require a male relative to agree to their release. Lasloom is at serious risk of harm if returned to her family. She also faces possible criminal charges, in violation of her basic rights, for “parental disobedience,” which can result in punishments ranging from being returned to a guardian’s home to imprisonment, and for “harming the reputation of the kingdom” for her public cries for help.

Human Rights Watch has documented how under Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel abroad, marry, or be released from prison, and may be required to provide guardian consent to work or get health care. These restrictions last from birth until death, as women are, in the view of the Saudi state, permanent legal minors.

“Saudi women face systematic discrimination every day, and Lasloom’s case shows that fleeing abroad may not protect them from abuses,” Whitson said.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Seoul, April 14, 2017) – North Korea is betraying the pledge to protect the rights of women and girls and promote gender equality made by its former leader and “perpetual” president, Kim Il-Sung, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch is publishing the full text of its March 2017 submission to the United Nations Committee to End Discrimination Against Women as a somber counterpoint to Kim Il-Sung’s birthday on April 15, which North Koreans celebrate as the country’s most important national holiday.

During his rise to power, Kim Il-Sung publicly pledged to empower and promote equality for women, calling them “a powerful driving force that pushes one side of the wheels of the cart of the revolution.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un takes part in a photo session with the participants of the 6th Congress of the Democratic Women's Union of Korea in Pyongyang.

© 2016 KCNA

“On Kim Il-Sung’s birthday, the world should remember just how severe the North Korean government’s abuses against women are, and not be distracted by the annual camera-ready propaganda parade in Pyongyang where women wear fancy colorful dresses, perform public dances, and shout meaningless slogans of praise for a dead leader,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The harsh reality is that every day North Korean women face severe gender discrimination at work and home, and sexual harassment and violence that the authorities do nothing to stop.”

Human Rights Watch’s submission to the committee's pre-sessional working group meeting ahead of its 68th session review of North Korea between October and November 2017 detailed discrimination and exploitation, as well as physical and sexual violence faced by women and girls in North Korea. North Koreans who recently escaped from the country or keep in regular contact with people still in North Korea told Human Rights Watch that women and girls face gender-based discrimination starting from childhood at school, work, and home. They also said women frequently face violence from men at home, in public spaces, including the market, and there is virtually no official recourse or protection mechanisms for victims.

A total of 26 North Koreans spoke with Human Rights Watch about the deeply patriarchal nature of North Korean society today. They said that women and girls in North Korea are constantly exposed to and forced to comply with gender stereotyped roles that foster acceptance of acts of violence against women, and cast blame for violence on female victims themselves.

The harsh reality is that every day North Korean women face severe gender discrimination at work and home, and sexual harassment and violence that the authorities do nothing to stop.

Phil Robertson

Deputy Asia Director

Gender discrimination makes it harder for women and girls to be admitted to university, to join the military, and by extension, to become part of the ruling Korean Workers Party, which is the gateway to positions of power in North Korea.

North Koreans interviewed by Human Rights Watch describe an environment where it is unremarkable for North Korean woman to experience gender-based violence. They said that domestic violence is not punished or checked in any way – but rather regarded by government authorities as a private matter in which the state and outsiders should not intervene. Female interviewees described to Human Rights Watch being subjected to unwanted sexual contact by strangers in crowded public areas such as workplaces, trains, or on trucks on the road, including men touching women and girls’ breasts and hips, and trying to place their hands under women’s clothing. Interviewees said that even when police and other government authorities directly observed this type of assault, they made no attempt to protect women and girls.

Female interviewees said North Korea’s current informal market economic system makes women traders vulnerable to sexual violence. Implementation of rules and regulations over market operations are arbitrary and government officials can demand bribes and sexually harass and coerce women with impunity. Women seeking to earn a living are at the mercy of government regulators who are almost all men and who can engage in sexual exploitation, including demanding sex in return for permitting women to pursue their livelihoods.

The women explained to Human Rights Watch that they do not dare report crimes of violence, including sexual harassment and rape by government officials, because they fear retaliation that could harm them and end their ability to sell in the market. They also stated that they lacked confidence the police would take any action to investigate and prosecute the men responsible.

“Kim Il-Sung’s birthday is nothing to celebrate for North Korean women who live with a daily nightmare of discrimination and abuse,” Robertson said.

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council passed without a vote a North Korea resolution recognizing “that particular risk factors affect women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly” and stating there is a “need to ensure the full enjoyment of all their human rights and fundamental freedoms by them against neglect, abuse, exploitation and violence.” The resolution also strengthened the UN’s work to assess and develop strategies to prosecute the continued pervasive abuse of human rights by the North Korean government.

A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report on human rights in North Korea reported that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations committed by the North Korean government had no parallel in the contemporary world. In addition to extermination, enslavement, torture, imprisonment of the North Korean people, the report also listed rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence as widespread, and found “sexual and gender-based violence against women is prevalent throughout all areas of society.”

“Our research and interviews show North Korean women face a host of awful abuses,” Robertson said. “It is time the world started paying attention and calling for current North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to address the country’s systemic discrimination and exploitation of women and girls.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Human Rights Watch is making this submission to the pre-sessional working group of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women for its review of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea), which is scheduled to take place in March 2017, ahead of the reporting cycle for the DPRK in September 2017.

North Korea rarely publishes data on the situation of women in the country. In the few cases when it does so, the data is often limited, inconsistent, or otherwise of questionable utility.[1] Human Rights Watch does not have the access to interview people currently residing inside the country. But Human Rights Watch has documented violations of gender-based discrimination that took place in North Korea between 2002 and 2015 (the period covered in the report) by interviewing North Koreans, including women and girls, who escaped the country after 2009. Human Rights Watch also interviewed people who still have regular contacts with persons inside North Korea who provide them with information. This submission is intended to give not a comprehensive account but an alternate reference point to the DPRK government’s contribution. Our submission is based on 26 interviews with North Koreans done by Human Rights Watch between January 2015 and January 2017.

The North Korean government remains one of the most repressive in the world.[2] A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation of human rights in the DPRK found a gravity, scale, and nature of violations that revealed a state “without parallel in the contemporary world.”[3] Some of the abuses faced by women that the COI documented are: detention of women in political prison camps because of activities by their husbands, their families or their husband’s family; torture, rape, and other abuses in detention facilities, especially of women and their children forcibly repatriated by China to North Korea; trafficking and sexual exploitation of North Korean women and girls by Chinese men as wives or in the sex industry; sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination; and lack of civil and political rights and freedoms.

During the reporting period, North Korea adopted the Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Women, which became law in December 2010. The act stipulates, in article 2, that “it is a consistent policy of the DPRK to guarantee gender equality. The State shall strictly prohibit all forms of discrimination against women.” In its latest submission to the Committee, the government said the adoption of the law showed its “commitment to fully ensuring gender equality and non-tolerance of discrimination against women in whatever form.”

The Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Women also provides in article 46 that “there must not be any form of violence against women in the family. Municipal People’s Committees, institutions, corporate associations and organizations shall adequately educate residents and employees against domestic violence so that domestic violence does not appear in the district or at the homes of the citizens under their supervision.”

The passage of this law followed recommendations by CEDAW in its review of the DPRK in 2005, as well as recommendations made to North Korea at the Universal Periodic Review. However, as seen below, there is reason to question whether these provisions of law are effectively enforced.

This submission cannot address all types of discrimination against women in North Korea, but Human Rights Watch wishes to bring to the Committee’s attention information regarding stereotyping and education, and violence against women and lack of protection for its victims.

Stereotyping and Education

Article, 2, 3, 5 and 10

In its submission to the Committee, the North Korean government said that “women in the DPRK, under the wise leadership of the great comrade Kim Jong Il and the supreme leader comrade Kim Jong Un as full-fledged masters of the society, fully exercised equal rights with men in all fields of politics, the economy, and social and cultural life, performing great feats in the efforts for the prosperity of the country” and achieved remarkable “advancement of women and protection and promotion of their rights.”

However, our interviews suggest that the reality is far from that lofty rhetoric. Women and girls appear to face gender-based discrimination starting from childhood at both school and home, and are constantly exposed to and compelled to comply with prevalent stereotyped gender roles. Four former North Korean students and two former teachers who left North Korea after 2009 all told Human Rights Watch that in mixed gender classes, boys are almost always made leaders, such as the class president.[4] The students and teachers interviewed by Human Rights Watch added that in their experience, even among teachers, it is usually the men who make decisions for the group although a significant majority of teachers may be women. They noted that even in all-girl schools, where all the teachers are female, the school principals are often male. None of the thirteen people asked by Human Rights Watch could recall any instance of a female principal at an all-boys school.[5]

In its report, the government claimed that it identified and corrected biased attitudes against women in university admissions and textbooks, and favoritism by teachers and administrators towards male students. We do not have a basis to evaluate these claims. However, North Koreans who have fled the country in the last four years reported that it was still harder for women and girls to be admitted to and attend university, and to join the military, and by extension, the ruling Korean Workers Party, which serves as the gateway to any position of power in North Korea.[6] Social structures and conventions that discriminate against women and reserve predominant positions of power for men are also reflected in the socially enforced rules of interaction between girls and boys. From middle school onwards, girls are required to use a formal, honorific form of speaking when speaking to boys. However, there is no requirement or social compulsion that means boys must use a formal form of language when speaking to girls. This practice continues through university, and in fact, extends into the workplace, marriage and family life.[7] The government, which has identified these attitudes as a problem needing more active measures, reported to the Committee that it launched education campaigns, including lectures and seminars about government policies and laws regarding gender equality and the protection of women and children. Yet among the 21 persons interviewed by Human Rights Watch who had left the country after 2010, there was no awareness that the 2010 Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Women even existed, much less could be enforced. In fact, the women we spoke to thought “gender equality” referred exclusively to female participation in the workforce or the government, and did not refer to the need for women’s status and value to be equal to those of men.

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to ask:

  • What is the ratio of females compared to males entering university for every year since 2002? What is the proportion of women being admitted to the ruling Korean Workers Party versus that of men, for each year since 2002? What percentage of the people holding director or managerial positions in the government are women?
  • What is the gender ratio of school principals in mixed, all-girls, and all-boys schools by year since 2002?
  • What mechanisms has the government put in place to identify discriminatory practices against women? What policies has the government developed to promote awareness of women’s roles in society beyond traditional, gender stereotyped roles of followers, mothers responsible for the family, and holders of family finances?
  • What orders, and policy guidance, does the government give to state affiliated institutions, including the Women’s Union, to increase awareness of equality of women in all social, economic, and political fields in North Korea?

Human Rights Watch urges the government of North Korea to: 

  • Respect and ensure the rights set forth in the Convention to end discrimination against women of any kind;
  • End all discrimination against women in access to all levels of education and employment;
  • Improve the quality of education and awareness campaigns regarding gender equality; and
  • Establish systems to collect and track data regarding equal participation of women and girls in education and employment at all levels.

 

Violence against Women

Articles 2, 5, 6, and 15

Acts of violence against women are prevalent throughout North Korean society, and include those that generate physical, sexual, or psychological harm to women, including threats, coercion, and arbitrary deprivation of liberty in public or private life. Every one of the 26 North Koreans who spoke with Human Rights Watch stated that every woman in North Korea they knew had experienced gender-based violence at some point in their lives, especially domestic violence and sexual harassment.[8] According to all our interviewees, domestic violence is widespread. Interviewees said that both state authorities and the wider society consider domestic violence a private family matter in which the state and outsiders should not intervene.

One of the reasons that these attitudes prevail is because of the general lack of education and awareness at all levels and ages about sexual education, gender-based violence, and gender equality. From childhood, North Koreans, raised in a patriarchal society, learn stereotypical gender roles that condone violence against women, and that the blame for sexual violence lies with the victims.

All the North Korean women and men who spoke to Human Rights Watch described sexual harassment as commonplace in public spaces, especially in crowded areas such as workplaces, public markets, or on the road. Unwanted sexual contact includes men indiscriminately touching women and girls’ bodies, grabbing their breasts and hips, trying to touch them underneath their skirts or pants, poking their cheeks, pulling their hair, or holding their bodies in their arms. The physical harassment was often accompanied by verbal abuse and intimidation.[9]

Under the current economic system, the government is dominated by men, with the government reporting in its submission to the Committee that over 20 percent of government officials and 10 percent of divisional directors in government bodies are female. Women are vulnerable to extortion, sexual violence, and rape, as well as physical and verbal abuse, especially those trying to work in the market economy to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.

Following the collapse of the government-run food distribution system in the mid-1990s, by necessity, North Koreans had to engage in private commercial activities for the first time. Although wages and food distribution stopped altogether for most persons, the government still compelled men to report to work at their state-owned workplaces. Since many men were now effectively working for the state for free, it was often women who struggled to ensure their families’ economic survival through work in the emerging grey market, which eventually became a corrupt parallel capitalist market economy, marked by widespread bribery and nepotism.[10]

According to five former North Korean traders who left after 2011 and a former State Security Department (SSD, or bowibu in Korean) agent with connections in North Korea, traders are often compelled to pay bribes to officials and market regulators.[11] But for women, the bribes are not just monetary, but can extend to include sexual coercion, harassment, and violence, including rape, by perpetrators who take advantage of the coercive environment of the market. Many of the men who sexually prey on women in this situation are government officials. Perpetrators include managers at state-owned enterprises, traders with money and connections, gangsters or other criminal elements with government connections, and gate-keeper officials of the markets and roads, such as Public Security Department Agents (police), SSD agents, soldiers, and railroad inspectors on trains.[12] The cost of refusing a sexual advance by an official includes confiscation of goods and money, increased future scrutiny of the victim and her family members, being sent to labor training facilities (rodong dallyeondae) or ordinary crimes prison camps (kyohwaso) for being involved in market activities, losing access to prime trading locations, being overlooked for jobs, being deprived of means of transportation or business opportunities, being purged or reallocated to a remote area, and facing more physical violence.[13]

A former trader who sold clothes at stalls in Hyesan city in Ryanggang province until 2014 said that guards would regularly pass by her stall to demand bribes, and the market guards or policemen who desired her forced her to follow them to an empty room outside the market, or other locations they picked, and raped her. She told Human Rights Watch she had no power to resist or to report these abuses.[14]

Official checkpoints on roads are another location where sexual violence occurs, perpetrated by soldiers from the Korean People’s Army, the police or local Workers’ Party officials, according to the traders.[15] They described both experiencing and witnessing male officials at checkpoints conducting intrusive body searches of young female traders, including touching their breasts and hips, spending extra time conducting invasive searchers around women’s breasts and hips, and sometimes searching inside the women’s underwear.[16] They also told Human Rights Watch that they saw female traders being taken away by guards, and then returning after 30 or 40 minutes, before being allowed to pass through the checkpoint. 

North Korea’s laws ban domestic violence, rape, or sexual relations with women in subordinate positions and with children younger than fifteen. But North Korean laws are generally vague, so they can be broadly interpreted and therefore maximize the discretion of government officials to decide how, or whether, to enforce the law.[17] Many times North Korea’s laws use indeterminate language, and lack definitions as well as guidance on which state agency is in charge of implementing the laws, or what the necessary actions and obligations are.[18]  This makes implementation difficult, enforcement of rights by individuals impossible, and violates basic rules of due process. 

For instance, the Criminal Code does not include any definitions of “rape” or a discussion of consent. To the extent that there is a common understanding of what the term “rape” means in North Korea, people interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they believe the government views it as unwanted vaginal penetration by a man’s penis using physical violence, a definition which excludes other forms of rape.

Article 46 of the 2010 Law on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Women, which bans domestic violence, does not include marital rape.[19] That law provides some specific preventative measures, but it does not criminalize domestic violence, nor does it provide any civil sanctions for offenders, legal protections or services for victims, or rehabilitation programs for perpetrators.[20] The law itself is also vague: its provisions are expressed as general principles, sexual harassment is not defined or banned, and there is no guidance on which state agency is in charge of implementation of the law or what concrete actions must be taken in what timeline. As a result, the law is unlikely to make any difference in terms of reducing violence against women or assisting individual victims.[21]

All of the North Koreans interviewed said that the police and security forces do not consider violence against women a serious crime. The former SSD agent who received all criminal reports that took place in two provinces for a decade until the late 2000s said that he never saw a single instance of a woman who filed a rape case with the police when there were no other witnesses present. In practice, he said the police and the SSD only investigated alleged sexual assault or rape cases when severe injury or death of the woman occurred, or if the victim was connected to a powerful family.[22]

North Korea’s submission to the Committee stated that some immoral persons who committed rape were punished, put on public trial, and sentenced to heavy penalties, and that these actions alerted others not to commit such crimes. But the former SSD agent and two former high ranking party officers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that although there were some cases in which authorities took action against perpetrators of violence against women, cases were usually brought either for political gain at the instigation of an opponent competing for the perpetrator’s position, or for reasons of personal revenge.[23] The officers said the punishment in such cases rarely includes imprisonment, but would more likely entail demotion, and/or sending the perpetrator to a less desirable posting in the countryside or working in a mine. In any case, the types of official interventions described by our sources do not lead to support for victims. Victims suffer stigma as a result of attacks, and are left open to possible retaliation, without support or assistance.

In all the cases of violence against women documented by Human Rights Watch, women said they had not reported their experiences to the police because they did not trust the police and did not believe they would take any action. They also feared that social stigma and possible repercussions would be directed at them if they reported the crime, while the perpetrators would remain untouched by stigma or the justice process.[24] The women also said that their family members and close friends who knew about what happened discouraged them from going to the authorities.

 

Human Rights Watch urges the Committee to ask the government of North Korea:

  • How many people have been convicted in North Korea for rape every year since 2002?
  • How many cases have been filed with police, alleging the crime of sexual violence, each year since 2002? What percentage of these cases, disaggregated by type of offense, resulted in criminal charges being brought, in conviction on charges, and in prison sentences?
  • How many cases have been filed with police, alleging the crime of domestic violence, each year since 2002? How many domestic violence convictions have occurred in each of these years?
  • What mechanisms has the government put in place to protect vulnerable women from sexual predation by men in power, and to protect women from domestic violence?
  • What services are available to assist those who have experienced violence or need help escaping domestic violence, and to protect and enable women who may wish to file complaints of rape or sexual violence to law enforcement?

 

Human Rights Watch urges the government of North Korea to: 

  • Reform national legislation to create a clear and enforceable provisions within the Criminal Code criminalizing a full range of forms of violence against women, including sexual assault, sexual coercion, rape, marital rape, and sexual harassment, and ensure full enforcement of this law;
  • Establish comprehensive free legal and social services, a mechanism for redress, and protection mechanisms, including shelters, for women who are victims of violence;
  • Introduce sexual education classes in schools, including content about gender equality;
  • Undertake a widespread program of public awareness and public education regarding gender equality and North Korea’s prohibition of violence against women of all forms, including domestic violence, as well as information on how victims can get help. Conduct training for all law enforcement, health, and education professionals regarding gender equality, the rights of victims of violence, and the duty of public officials to refrain from exploitation, to report abuses, and assist victims in obtaining help and justice.
 

[1] In its latest submission to the Committee, the North Korean government explained that state institutions were required to ensure the proportion of female officials was 20-25 percent or higher, and 10 percent for female department or division heads, but provided no clarification over the time period or specific yearly data.

[2] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2017), North Korea chapter, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/north-korea.

[3] “Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” United Nations,  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/CommissionInquiryonHRinDPRK.aspx, accessed January 22, 2017.

[4] Human Rights Watch interview with four former students on June 22, 2015, February 3, 2016, and December 7-8, 2016, and two former teachers on January 15, 2015 and May 15, 2016. Names of interviewees and location of interviews withheld.

[5] Human Rights Watch interviews with thirteen North Koreans between January 2015 and January 2017.

[6] Human Rights Watch interview with four former students on June 22, 2015, February 3, 2016 and December 7 and 8, 2016, and two former teachers on January 15, 2015 and May 15, 2016. Names of interviewees and location of interviews withheld.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Human Rights Watch interviews with 26 North Koreans between January 2015 and December 2017.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “North Korea: Private Commerce Brings Arbitrary Arrest, Abuse,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 7, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/06/07/north-korea-private-commerce-brings-....

[11] Human Rights Watch interviews with five former North Korean traders on August 31, 2015, and a former SSD agent on December 2, 2016. Names and locations withheld.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Human Rights Watch interview with a former trader on August 31, 2015. Name and location withheld.

[15]Human Rights Watch interview with five former North Korean traders on August 31, 2015. Names and locations withheld.

[16] Ibid.

[17] John C. Reitz, Export of the Rule of Law, 13 Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems 429, 469 (2003).

[18] Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, Status of Women’s Rights in the Context of Socio-Economic Changes in the DPRK, NKHR Briefing Report No. 7, May 2013, http://eng.nkhumanrights.or.kr/nkhr/bbs/board.php?bo_table=n_r_reports&w... (accessed January 22, 2017).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., p.20

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with former SSD agent on December 2, 2016. Name and location withheld.

[23] Human Rights Watch interview with two former high ranking party officials and a former SSD agent on December 2, 2016. Names and location withheld.

[24] Human Rights Watch interview with 20 former North Korean traders and farmers. Names and locations withheld. 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Many US military personnel who reported being raped or sexually assaulted by other armed service members have been discharged on erroneous mental health grounds.

But being assigned a mental disorder – one they were never even diagnosed with – has life-long consequences for veterans. They can be denied health benefits, job opportunities, or even custody of their children. They can’t get security clearances and may even be stripped of their rights to make medical and legal decisions.

Gary Noling holding dogtags belonging to his daughter, Carri Goodwin, a rape victim who died of acute alcohol intoxication less than a week after receiving an Other Than Honorable discharge from the Marines. Because of her discharge, her father has been unable to secure a military burial for her remains. 

© 2013 François Pesant

The military’s discharge review boards are responsible for correcting any errors in service members’ discharge papers. Yet Human Rights Watch’s research found that – when it came to the wrongful discharge of rape survivors – this rarely happens. Most applications are rejected, often without meaningful review. Our 2016 report found that the review boards’ strict timelines for deciding cases and insufficient resources to handle the workload contributed to the large backlog of cases and the cursory review process.

Allocating more funding to the review boards could help the military ensure sufficient staff and resources to help the boards perform their important work. As a recent congressional report noted, despite a decrease in the size of the military, the number of service members seeking review has likely increased. If the Trump administration achieves its goal of growing the military after years of downsizing, the problem of over-extended review boards will only be exacerbated.

Augmenting the budget of review board agencies is a minimal investment that could have a tremendous impact on people’s lives, particularly survivors of military sexual trauma.

As congress gears up to work on the 2018 Defense Authorization and Appropriation bills, which establish priorities across the military, it should remember that the military depends on the service members who comprise it. That includes former service members who may have been wrongfully discharged.

Ensuring military boards have sufficient resources to fairly adjudicate applications and eliminate the backlog would send a big message at a small cost.

Thousands of United States service members, who lost their military careers after reporting a sexual assault, live with stigmatizing discharge papers.

 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

“I [felt] discouraged …the school was very far, I had to climb the stones,” Lucia (not her real name) told me last year as I talked to her about her school experiences. Lucia lives in the hilly city of Mwanza bordering Lake Victoria, well-known as Tanzania’s rock city. As we drove in the area interviewing girls and visiting secondary schools perched high up amid the boulders, I remember thinking this cannot be an easy climb for these children.  

But climbing stony hills to get to remote schools is not the only hurdle school children face in Tanzania. We found multiple barriers that prevent many adolescents from getting a secondary school education, including financial problems and insufficient schools and teachers. In particular, though, we found out that government policies and practices specifically discriminate against girls.

One such issue is widespread sexual abuse and harassment by teachers and other adults. Like many girls I interviewed, Lucia, now 17, told me that one teacher started approaching her for sex when she was 14: “[He] tried to convince me to have sex. He was approaching me during [sports] field practice … he would call me when [other] students went for a break.” Lucia said she felt confused about how to deal with her teacher, stopped showing up to practice, and gradually stopped wanting to go to school. As her performance in school deteriorated--teachers called her parents to talk about her lack of concentration -- she said she decided to leave school “and stop wasting my parents’ money.”

As I interviewed more girls, I realized Lucia’s story was shockingly common in Tanzania’s secondary schools, where adolescent girls frequently face sexual harassment or are persuaded or coerced into sexual relationships by their teachers. In 2011, UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, found that roughly 1 in 10 girls in Tanzania experienced sexual violence  by a teacher. Many school-going adolescents are also exposed to widespread corporal punishment, which can be particularly humiliating and degrading for girls.

Most girls I spoke with told me they did not report these abuses because they did not know how, did not trust that their concerns would be addressed, and were afraid that if they said something, they would be blamed or the teachers would retaliate against them. None of the schools we visited had confidential reporting mechanisms or staff adequately trained to handle allegations of abuse and counsel students. With nowhere to turn, girls like Lucia may drop out because they fear being sexually abused, or because they become pregnant.

Tanzanian schools generally do not allow pregnant girls to remain in school, and government policy encourages this discrimination. They routinely conduct mandatory pregnancy tests and expel pregnant girls. Mandatory pregnancy testing itself is a serious infringement of girls’ rights to privacy, equality, and autonomy, and may cause some to drop out peremptorily. Every year, more than 8,000 girls in Tanzania drop-out of school because of pregnancy. Married girls are also expelled from school.

Many Tanzanian girls also suffer sexual abuse and harassment on their way to school, by adults who promise them lifts and gifts.

© 2017 Marco Tibasima for Human Rights Watch

Some of these problems, like corporal punishment and long distances to schools, also affect boys, but girls are at higher risk of dropping out of school. Fewer than a third of girls who complete primary schooling end up completing lower-secondary school although almost equal numbers of boys and girls start secondary school. Once out because of pregnancy or marriage, girls struggle to get back into education because of lack of supportive school policies, fear of stigma, child care responsibilities and lack of family support.  

Over the years, the Tanzanian government has made progress in tackling some of these problems, and took a significant step by eliminating secondary school fees in 2016. It has also committed to build secondary schools closer to communities, build hostels for girls who need to travel long distances, and improve sanitation – important especially for managing menstrual hygiene.

But to ensure that all children are able to stay in school, Tanzania should take immediate policy and practical steps to protect children from physical and sexual abuse, and investigate and prosecute teachers and school officials who sexually abuse students. It should stop expelling pregnant and married girls, develop systems for their re-entry; and unequivocally ban corporal punishment.

 I asked Lucia how she felt about going back to school: “I would like to… but … I feel I’m going to fail again.” I reminded her she did not fail in the first place; her school failed to ensure her safety. Lucia and other girls need to know that their government will protect them to enable them to stay in school and achieve their potential. 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am