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Domestic violence lawmaking intersects global human rights norms and domestic women's movements. Domestic violence is both a global and local phenomenon. The World Bank argues that domestic violence accounts for one in five lost years in women aged 15-44. The costs range from direct expenses such as medical care and social services to productivity and labor market costs to the psychological toll imposed by the intergenerational transmission of violence. The international women's movement and the international human rights conventions have confirmed that violence in the home is neither a private issue nor a cultural practice. Domestic violence was placed on the global agenda as a global epidemic largely due to an explosion of activism by women's rights activists. Bolstered by increasing pressure from international women's human rights advocates, domestic movements demanded the governments make domestic violence lawmaking central to good governance. The explosion of lawmaking around the world on domestic violence makes this clear by establishing state accountability for violence in the home. The positive responsibility of the state inherent in human rights treaties therefore required states to take positive measures to end domestic violence. The concept of state responsibility to include accountability for acts of private individuals is an integral part of the definition of domestic violence as a human rights violation. The concept of state responsibility has expanded to not only direct state action but also a state's systematic failure to act.

Despite the weak enforcement of these laws, the law making processes provide women's movements an opportunity to network globally. The transformation of international human rights and transnational idea sharing into domestic violence lawmaking has been defined as one of the most important social movements of our times. Although much more must be done to realize the promise of these laws, countries that are in the process of lawmaking have much to learn from these experiences. In the last decade, many countries in the Asian region have either passed or are in the process of passing national domestic violence laws. Despite the fact that the laws in force are yet to be transformed fully into practice these laws are important benchmarks and integrate some novel elements in domestic violence lawmaking. Although there is little homogeneity in the Asian region in the field of political, economic, social, or cultural development, these laws have the transformative potential to create new standards in an area where women victims of violence are often silenced because of a culture of impunity. The existence of a law provides space for women to claim their right to bodily integrity and security. Many elements of these laws in different parts of Asia are also instructive to other jurisdictions and can resonate between and across the Asian region.

Publication Title

UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal

Publication Citation

29 UCLA Pac. Basin L. J. 176 (2012)