Press release: New handbook for a more effective police response to women survivors of violence launched in the Arab States

Date: Sunday, April 25, 2021

Law enforcement representatives from the Arab States region were briefed on a new global Police Handbook that provides guidance and practical knowledge for police middle managers to protect the rights of women survivors of violence when accessing police services around the world.

Cairo, 21 April 2021 — UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA) have launched a new Handbook on Gender-Responsive Police Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence.

The Arab States regional launch of the Handbook was organized by UN Women and UNODC Regional Offices with the generous support of the Government of Japan, was held online on 21 April. The event saw the participation of representatives of law enforcement entities from across the region.

The handbook, developed by UN Women in partnership with UNODC, targets police middle managers and provides practical, peer-to-peer guidance for to enable them to provide an effective and gender-sensitive response to violence against women and girls. It is based on and complements existing global and country-specific training materials for law enforcement. The handbook will also be made available in French and Arabic in the coming months.

In-depth guidance is provided on areas such as police responses during crises like COVID-19; gender-responsive police investigations (including being more perpetrator-focused); prevention of violence against women and girls; survivor-centred approaches; promoting positive masculinities; and dealing with emerging issues, such as online violence and exploitation.

A quality police and justice response are crucial to keep women and girls safe from violence, including from the recurrence of further violence; to hold perpetrators accountable; and to provide for effective reparations to victims and survivors. it is vital that from the initial contact with the survivor, the police service providers demonstrate their commitment to her health and safety, that the complaint is treated with due seriousness, and that they will provide support to navigate the journey through the justice system. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global emergency of multiple dimensions. Beyond the health repercussions of the coronavirus, a “shadow pandemic” of violence against women and girls (VAWG) has emerged across the world, triggered by lockdown and curfew measures put in place by governments to limit the spread of the virus.

With the rise in reported cases of violence, support services have been under increased pressure to protect survivors’ fundamental rights. Law enforcement entities were forced to shift their focus to monitoring quarantines and other measures, and many courts closed, resulting in postponed hearings and a backlog of cases. With many police resources assigned to ensure public health measures are followed, protection orders may not have been enforced.

According to a regional survey on the effects of COVID-19 on violence against women conducted by UN Women, between 23 per cent and 38 per cent of women who experienced violence sought help. Respondents reported that women mainly turned to police and justice to seek support in the majority of the surveyed countries.

"When women finally find the courage to report an incident of violence, they must feel comfortable, be heard, and be treated with dignity and respect. They must know that their complaint is being taken seriously from the moment they reach out,” said Janneke van der Graaff – Kukler, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States.

Mirna Bouhabib, UNODC ROMENA Deputy Regional Representative affirmed that “Police are on the frontline of the criminal justice system. […] Therefore, proper initial police contact is extremely important for survivors of violence, and from this standpoint, achieving an effective police response for all women and girls in contact with the criminal justice system is imperative to the protection of their rights and freedoms.”

The Handbook will be rolled out in pilot countries in the Arab States to measure progress and impact with efforts focused on building trust between the police and local communities, improving collaboration with other service providers, and supporting police middle managers to deliver survivor-centered approaches.

See the Handbook here: 
https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2021/01/handbook-gender-responsive-police-services


For more information, please contact:

Diego De La Rosa - diego.delarosa(at)unwomen.org
Nourhan El-Nagdy - nourhan.elnagdy(at)unwomen.org
Nermine Abdelhamid - nermine.abdelhamid(at)un.org