What does Policy refer to?
Policies cover a) policy frameworks, which refer to a coherent set of measures with a clear vision and comprehensive strategy that respond to incidents of gender-based violence in an integral and structured way, and b) policy documents which formalise explicitly and specifically the organisation’s commitment to ending gender-based violence.
Policies can take different forms, such as protocols, action plans, informative or explanatory documents, strategies, regulations, procedures and directives and may include definitions of the different forms of gender-based violence, codes of conduct, procedures for reporting and responding to incidents of gender-based violence, prevention measures, support services, training programmes, collaborations, evaluation and timelines, etc. A holistic policy document addresses all 7Ps.
An eligibility requirement for universities and research organisations wishing to participate in Horizon Europe is to have a Gender Equality Plan, and addressing gender-based violence is one of the key areas to be covered by such a mandatory plan. Gender-based violence policies can also be part of the organisation’s overall strategic plan to ensure alignment with the institutional goals and values.
How to approach Policy?
Setting up effective policies to address gender-based violence requires a comprehensive approach involving key elements and steps. Different ways exist to start a policy addressing gender-based violence. Here are some practical suggestions on how to set up well-functioning policies:
The institutional policies must align with any regional, national and/or European legal framework. Start by investigating the legal background at the national and European levels. At the European level, there are legal frameworks and policies that provide guidance on preventing and responding to gender-based violence. For example, the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (known as the Istanbul Convention) provides a comprehensive legal framework for preventing and responding to gender-based violence and requires Member States to take measures to prevent violence, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators. UniSAFE has published an interactive map of laws and policies addressing gender-based violence which includes national reports, as well as an inventory of institutional policies for inspiration (find it here: Huck A., Andreska Z., Dvořáčková J. & Linková, M. (2022). UniSAFE D5.1 Inventory of policies and measures to respond to GBV in European universities and research organisations. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5939082).
Having a good understanding of the institutional context is important, as it can affect the implementation of the policies. This includes the organisational structure, governance, culture, and resources. An internal assessment can help identify potential challenges or resistances to implementation, and determine how to address them. Important factors for effective implementation are leadership support and political willingness, a political-institutional context favourable to the recognition of gender-based violence and to addressing the problem, as well as specific gender and gender-based violence expertise among the units responsible for the policy’s implementation. For an effective internal assessment, read more in Prevalence and in the assessment framework developed by UniSAFE.
To ensure that the policy meets the organisation’s needs, defining and co-creating measures with stakeholders (such as students, researchers, faculty, staff, top and middle management and decision makers) is key to grasping the specific context and tailoring the policy to the community. This step will help identify the needs of the different institutional communities and groups to ensure an inclusive approach. It will also help promote transparency and accountability in policy design and implementation.
Setting up policies requires a variety of resources, from human resources to financial resources:
- time and expertise, notably on, but not limited to, gender equality and gender-based violence;
- funding for implementing training, awareness-raising, support services, collaborating with external experts and partners, incorporating communication tools, etc.
Regular monitoring and evaluation of the policies and their implementation is needed to check their effectiveness. Qualitative and quantitative indicators will help measure the short and long-term impacts of the policies (see more in Prevalence).
The top management and organisational leadership must endorse and commit to policies on addressing gender-based violence. Effective policies are supported by the faculty and staff, the students and researchers, and other members of the organisation’s community.
In the context of implementing a comprehensive policy framework against gender-based violence in academia, an action plan is a roadmap that provides a clear and detailed plan of actions on how to design, implement, enforce, monitor and evaluate such a policy framework. It should be comprehensive, realistic and flexible, with clear goals, roles, timelines and monitoring mechanisms to ensure its success. UniSAFE developed a guidance document that is particularly helpful for those who are at the beginning stages of creating and implementing a policy framework to prevent gender-based violence. It offers an excellent starting point, with clear and easy-to-understand instructions, and practical tips.
Tips and Hints / Dos and Don'ts
- Make sure to address all forms of violence, including intersectional violence, in the policies;
- Clearly establish the institutional values, including what is considered as transgressions or inappropriate behaviours, and define what gender-based violence is;
- Ensure institutional policies are known by all members of the organisation. Plan and implement a clear communication strategy to give visibility to institutional policies, as this will support their effective implementation;
- Develop policies that incorporate the organisation’s values and principles, and that consider the current challenges, while focusing on proactiveness rather than on reactiveness to gender-based violence. Draft the policy in clear language and include specific details that reflect its scope and purpose. Consider all the 7Ps for a holistic approach;
- Locate the team coordinating the gender-based violence policies close to the top management or high in the institutional hierarchy. This ensures that the team has the necessary authority and access to resources needed to carry out its responsibilities effectively. It also demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to address gender-based violence, which can help generate additional support from other members.
Thinking intersectionally about Policy
- Implement inclusive co-creation and participatory practices in the design of the policy;
- Include clear statements in the institution’s policies about intersectionality to create a favourable environment for intersectionality also to be addressed in the implementation of measures. Guidance notes accompanying the policies could include case studies to show how intersectionality is relevant;
- Professionals should be made aware that intersecting inequalities may influence the forms of violence that are enacted as well as their consequences on different people. How professionals approach people and ask questions should be sensitive to a spectrum of possibilities (e.g. LGBTQIA+ identities, religious norms or beliefs, earlier traumas, etc.).