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The Advocates Welcomes UN Special Rapporteur’s Thematic Report on Rape

May 28, 2021

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women (VAW) Dubravka Šimonovic has released her thematic report on rape as a grave and systematic violation of human rights and gender-based violence against women. The Advocates contributed a detailed written response to the Special Rapporteur’s initial request for submissions about local laws on rape and sexual violence. The Advocates also joined the Expert Group Meeting on May 27, 2020 to discuss a wide variety of issues about rape laws and implementation. The Special Rapporteur invited The Advocates’ Women’s Program director Rosalyn Park to that meeting of worldwide experts and cited to The Advocates’ comments in the Expert Group Meeting’s report.

Based on input from dozens of organizations and states, the Special Rapporteur on VAW issued numerous conclusions and recommendations. Some notable recommendations for states’ legal framework addressing rape are:

  • The law should protect all persons, regardless of gender expression or sexual orientation
  • Spousal rape should be criminalized, and states should abolish provisions mitigating consequences if the rapist marries the victim
  • Rape by a spouse should be an aggravating, rather than a mitigating, or nullifying, factor
  • Non-consent should be the central focus of rape statutes, without requiring proof of force
  • Force, injury, use of a weapon, exploitation of intoxication, and multiple perpetrators should be among the aggravating factors for rape, beyond the basic nonconsensual offense
  • The victim’s testimony should not need further corroboration to be considered as evidence of rape
  • The law should include rape shield provisions, to exclude from evidence the victim’s previous sexual history
  • There should be no statute of limitations for rape, or at most, prolonged limitations periods permitting victims time to heal and for children to reach adulthood before initiating rape proceedings
  • States should collect data on prosecution, sentencing, and the attrition of reported rape cases

This report should help leaders craft statutes and response strategies to improve accountability for rape.

The Advocates for Human Rights thanks the U.N. Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonovic for her six years’ tenure as the special rapporteur on violence against women. Throughout the course of her appointment, she carried out numerous country visits to assess the situation of violence against women in countries including Georgia, Bulgaria, Ecuador, and Nepal. She issued several thematic reports on issues that spanned COVID-19 and domestic violence, mistreatment and violence against women in childbirth, violence against women in politics, online violence against women, and shelters and protection orders. The Advocates expresses its gratitude and congratulations to the U.N. Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonovic for her longstanding commitment and service to women’s human rights.