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Country visits (also referred to as “fact-finding missions”) are a way for the SR-VAW to holistically assess the situation of VAW at a national level and provide an opportunity to:
- Meet with national and local authorities, including members of the judiciary, parliamentarians, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations and survivors of VAW, to understand the nature of risks women face on the ground
- Gather information on the multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination that contribute to VAW
- Identify protection gaps in a state’s approach to tackling VAW
- Raise awareness on the root causes of and range of consequences resulting from VAW
- Issue conclusions and recommendations on steps to address all forms of VAW women experience in a state-specific context
Prior to a country visit, the SR-VAW must receive an invitation from the state concerned. If an invitation is received, for the visit will take place and a provisional agenda for the visit will be published. To ensure the SR-VAW is able to carry out country visits in accordance with her mandate, states are provided with terms of reference to guide governments in the conduct of the visit. This means that the SR-VAW, and any staff accompanying her, should be guaranteed:
- Freedom of movement throughout the entire country –including facilitation of transport, especially with regard to restricted areas
- Freedom of inquiry, in particular:
- Access to all prisons, detention centres and places of interrogation
- Contacts with central and local authorities of all branches of government
- Contacts with representatives of non-governmental organizations, other private institutions and the media
- Confidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons, including persons deprived of their liberty, considered necessary to fulfil the mandate of the special rapporteur
- Full access to all documentary material relevant to the mandate
- Appropriate security arrangements without, restricting the freedom of movement and inquiry referred to above
- Assurance by the government that persons, whether state officials or private individuals, who have been in contact with the special rapporteur/representative in relation to the mandate, will not suffer threats, harassment or punishment or be subjected to judicial proceedings as a result;
Once a country visit has concluded, the SR-VAW drafts and publishes a report analysing the situation of gender-based violence in the state concerned, contextualising the risks women face and identifying any gaps in state, including any recommendations for state action to eradicate VAW.
Prior to a country visit, the SR-VAW must receive an invitation from the country she wishes to visit. These invitations may be extended on a case-by-case basis or through a standing invitation.
A standing invitation is an open invitation by a government to all thematic special procedures of the Human Rights Council – which includes the SR-VAW. By extending a standing invitation, states announce that they will always accept country visit requests from the SR-VAW and all other thematic special procedures.
As of 13 June 2016. 115 member states and 1 non-member observer state have extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures.
Civil Society Engagement: Country Visits
There are four stages of the SR-VAW’s country visits where civil society may intervene:
Civil society actors may alert the SR-VAW to issues occurring on the ground. Detailed and reliable information submitted to the SR-VAW can lead to the initiation of a country visit, as a large number of individual complaints (and other submissions) may indicate the need to assess the situation of VAW in a state-specific context. Civil society actors can encourage states to issue standing invitations to all Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, thereby providing the SR-VAW an open invitation to conduct a country visit if needed.
Civil society actors may raise public awareness of the visit, submit relevant information to and raise matters of concern with the SR-VAW prior to a country visit. This enables the SR-VAW to raise specific issues with the authorities ahead of time and, if needed, make arrangements to include it in the official programme of the visit.
Civil society actors may ask to meet with the SR-VAW during her visit to provide information on VAW-related issues, areas of concern and/or services needed to assist survivors of gender-based violence. This could include visits to emergency shelters, detention centres and one-stop sexual assault referral centres.
Once the SR-VAW has concluded her visit, a report is published on information gathered during the visit with conclusions and recommendations for state action to tackle VAW. Civil society actors can engage with this phase of the process by:
- Disseminating recommendations to their communities
- Publicising the work of Special Procedures and raising awareness of their work
- Developing plans of action and activities to continue the work initiated by the country visit
- Working with states to implement recommendations
- Contributing inputs to specific follow-up reports issued by the SR-VAW
- Monitoring the steps states have taken to meet the recommendations, and informing the SR-VAW on this progress
Anyone contemplating submitting a complaint to the SR-VAW is strongly advised to also review the guidelines on the OHCHR website.
Submissions may be made to the SR-VAW online, through email (a separate email address is provided for cases needing urgent attention – see below) or by post. A model individual complaint form is also provided on the SR-VAW’s webpage to help guide documentation of cases of VAW.
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10,
Fax: + 41 22 917 9006