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6 January - In an effort to help law enforcement agencies in southern Africa respond to gender-based violence effectively, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today that it has launched a handbook and a training curriculum to improve the capacity of national police forces in the region to combat the problem.

Through the UNODC-backed capacity-building initiative, the agency is working with officials and civil society in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to support law enforcement and national criminal justice systems in their efforts to tackle violence against women.

The handbook is designed for first-responders, such as the police, and helps to define violence against women by providing an overview of relevant norms and standards, and giving guidance on how to intervene. It focuses on how to investigate acts of violence against women, a process that requires sensitivity.

The training curriculum has been developed to equip local and national police with the knowledge and skills required to respond to violence against women in an effective manner. It has a special focus on violence within intimate relationships.

It includes preventive measures, how to respond to and investigate acts of violence, and specifies resources required to meet the needs of victims during and after an incident.

In addition to the regional initiative focusing on law-enforcement, UNODC is also working with communities in South Africa to provide local-level support to victims of gender-based violence.

Several UNODC-supported “one-stop centres” have been established across South Africa to provide legal, psychological and medical services to the survivors of violence, as well as rehabilitation and support services for men in order to break the cycle of domestic violence.