The Criminalization of Violence Against Women

The Criminalization of Violence Against Women



Historically states have failed to seriously confront violence against women. In response, in many countries women's rights movements have called on the government to prioritize state intervention in cases involving violence between intimate partners, sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault by both strangers and intimate partners. Those interventions have taken various forms, including the passage of substantive civil and criminal laws governing intimate partner violence, rape and sexual assault, and sexual harassment; the development of civil orders of protection; and the introduction of procedures in the criminal legal system to ensure the effective intervention of police and prosecutors. Indeed, many countries have relied upon intervention by the criminal legal system to meet their requirements under international human rights standards that obligate states to prevent, protect from, prosecute, punish, and provide redress for violence. Although states have taken divergent approaches to the passage and implementation of criminal laws and procedures to address violence against women, two things are clear: criminalization is a primary strategy relied upon by most nations, and yet criminalization is not having the desired impact.

This collection explores the extent to which nations have adopted criminal legal reforms to address violence against women, the consequences associated with the implementation of those laws and policies, and who bears those consequences most heavily. The chapters examine the need for both more and less criminalization, ask whether we should think differently about criminalization, and explore the tensions that emerge when criminal law, civil law and social policy speak or fail to speak to each other. Drawing on criminalization approaches and recent debates from across the globe, this collection provides a comparative approach to assess the scope, impact of, and alternatives to criminalization in the response to violence against women.



Publication Date



Oxford Academic


New York


domestic violence, carceral state, survivors, clemency, abolition feminism


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Comparative and Foreign Law | Law | Law and Gender

The Criminalization of Violence Against Women