Handbook on Gender-Responsive Police Services

Closing statement by Deputy Ambassador Odd-Inge Kvalheim on the Launch of the Handbook on Gender-Responsive Police Services for Women and Girls subject to Violence, 27 January 2021.

Today’s rich discussion has highlighted the importance – as well as the challenges – of marshalling an effective, gender-sensitive and cross-institutional law enforcement response to violence against women and girls.

I would like to thank each of our briefers for their excellent contributions, as well as the many attendees who took the floor for their incisive and thought-provoking comments.

Addressing all forms of sexual and gender-based violence has long been a core tenet of Norwegian foreign policy. We are therefore proud to have supported the development of the Handbook launched here today, and are grateful to UN Women, UNODC, IAWP, and all other partners for their impressive work bringing it to fruition.

We hope the Handbook will achieve its intended purpose of strengthening national justice sector capacity in this critical area. The Handbook’s guidance – as explained today by Ms. Townsley and Mr. Fernandez – is concrete, operational and adaptable, serving as a complement to national guidelines and protocols that will help identify implementation gaps as well as new best practices. As such, it should prove a valuable resource in support of institutional reform initiatives.

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly underscore a few points that particularly stood out to me during today’s discussion:

First, we have learned that numbers are a means – not an end. That is to say, while it is crucial to achieve gender balance in the ranks of police and other justice institutions, this balance is operationally useful only to the extent that it enables cultural change and a gender-responsive approach. The goal is not simply to achieve mathematical parity, but meaningful equity, in how the institutions conceive of their mission, operations, and constituents.

This brings me to the second point, namely the importance of the institutional and legislative environment in which practitioners operate. Individuals, no matter their talent and drive, cannot effect meaningful change without systemic support. It is therefore imperative that law enforcement efforts to address violence against women and girls also include broader reform initiatives, such as professional incentives and career-advancement opportunities associated with successful SGBV investigations, as well as a legislative framework that specifically provides for this category of crime. Such initiatives must, moreover, be rooted in sustained political will to be truly effectual.

Third, and finally, our discussion has impressed upon me the importance of employing a whole-of-society approach to this issue. Yes, we must empower police services to effectively investigate violence against women and girls, but these efforts will be undermined if social workers are not trained to identify such cases; medical professionals are not trained to treat them; prosecutors to try them; and judges to adjudicate them. Cross-institutional collaboration across the entire judicial chain is therefore a paramount part of our response.

These are just three of several take-aways that I am left with after today’s event. I hope our discussion has provided others with similar food for thought – and that the Handbook will help translate thought into action.

Let me conclude by once again thanking you all – briefers and attendees – for your participation here today. My gratitude also to our co-host, Australia, as well as to UN Women, UNODC, and IAWP for partnering on today’s event. I wish you all a pleasant day.