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Global policy need to reach G20 goal

Law academic Felicity Gerry has co-authored the paper Law academic Felicity Gerry has co-authored the paper

A global policy and uniform laws on sexual violence are needed to help reach the G20 goal of increasing the number of women in employment, according to a new paper which examines the links between sexual violence towards women and economic growth.

Authored by Nottingham Law School senior lecturer and barrister Catarina Sjölin and Charles Darwin University law academic Felicity Gerry QC, the paper sets out the case for empowering women by tackling sexual exploitation through legal uniformity, extra territoriality and corporate responsibility.

While definitions from the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute tackle serious forms of sexual violence in conflict, such as rape or enforced prostitution, the authors argue that the issue when it comes to the global economy and employment is sexual exploitation in all its forms.

“It has been said that there are three key levers to achieve female workforce participation – changing stereotypes about work undertaken, policy changes in relation to incentives and childcare, and closing wage gaps and increasing the number of females in leadership positions,” Ms Sjölin said. However, sexual violence in general, and domestic violence in particular, are also linked to female employment and education.

“Numerous studies show that as women enter the workplace they find themselves at higher risk of violence from an intimate partner, and women who experience economically controlling behaviour may be forbidden from getting a job, may have her earnings taken from her, or may be thrown out of the house. Poverty itself can also force women into high risk, poorly paid occupations such as sex work, making it harder for them to get into other, better employment.”

To support the G20 target of bringing “more than 100 million women into the labour force in order to significantly increase global growth, and reduce poverty and inequality”, the paper suggests that there must be a uniformity of law between G20 states.

“Ultimately, certain violent and sexual acts are the same wherever they are committed, but the difference in the definitions of these acts and attitudes to women’s rights among the G20 countries is marked,” Ms Gerry said.

“Uniformity in legislative definitions, with agreements on issues such as extradition and historical offending, can allow global policy to progress.”

The paper also sets out the advantages of working across borders and using good practice in one country to improve practice in another.

“With a transnational policy, all G20 members can focus on common rules on the basis of their common interests. Progress in one member state can therefore directly influence another state which has not yet made such progress. Instead of the drive coming from women’s groups or human rights groups, the drive can come from economic arguments,” Ms Gerry said.