Every Woman Treaty: Q & A with Professor David Richards


Professor David Richards, Political Science/Human Rights, serves as an Expert Committee Member for Treaty Content and a member of the Global Working Group for Every Woman Treaty, and is the faculty advisor for the Every Woman Treaty undergraduate internship program through the Human Rights Institute (HRI).

What is Every Woman Treaty and how did you become involved with the NGO?

The mission of Every Woman Treaty (EWT) is “the creation, adoption, and implementation of a global treaty to end violence against women and girls.” The NGO was co-founded by Lisa Shannon, Vidya Sri, and Charlie Clements and now has an international membership of individuals and organizations from well-more than half the countries in the world.

In 2015, there was a very brief Washington Post article about a book I had co-written on comparative sexual violence law. Rashida Manjoo, then the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, read the WaPo article and wanted to meet. At some point during our eventual meeting, she said I should send a copy of my book to someone named Vidya Sri. Some time after doing so, I got an email from Vidya Sri, asking to talk. When we did, I was very impressed with her personal commitment, intelligence, and drive. When she asked me to join her NGO – then called Everywoman Everywhere—I did so happily. Vidya soon after came to UConn for the first time in the spring of 2016 to present on the NGO and campaign to pass the Every Woman Treaty.

As a member of the Global Working Group and an Expert Committee Member for Treaty Content, what types of research and/or projects are you involved in?

Primarily I am an advisor in the area of human rights and legal metrics. From the beginning, Vidya and Lisa understood the variety of important roles metrics would play in pursuit of a treaty. For example, they felt that human rights and legal metrics could demonstrate their point that around the world laws addressing violence against women and girls (VAWG) are typically either non-existent or insufficient. Also, these same metrics can be used to establish a before-treaty baseline of laws and conditions, as well as to determine countries’ level of treaty compliance after a treaty has come into force.

I’m also one of their many advisors in the areas of international and domestic human rights law and politics. For example, taking a cue from Rashida Manjoo, we’ve talked much about the existence and nature of normative gaps (the gaps between human rights aspirations and actual legal protections) in international human rights law. This discussion brings up interesting issues such as the legal character of treaty-committee general recommendations. As well, advocating for a global treaty addressing a topic (like VAWG) that has several regional treaties devoted to it brings up any number of matters combining human rights theory and international politics.

Why are you doing this work?

There are two things that inform my work with EWT. First, a personal commitment to the principal that women and girls should live lives free from violence. Second, that I’m really a student in my role with EWT because working with them is an ongoing education in the real-world machinations of activism, law, and politics.

How is the UConn student community involved in this advocacy work and research? 

Students can do an internship with EWT through the Human Rights Institute. The response to this opportunity has been positive and, this past year, a number of students from a variety of majors have participated in the internship, working on a baseline assessment of constitutional provisions, statutes, and regulations in 165 countries. A greater number of students have simply volunteered of their own volition outside of the framework of an internship. The internship program will continue in 2020, with the work shifting to research investigating the effects of existing domestic laws on the prevalence of VAWG.

For more information about Every Woman Treaty visit https://everywoman.org/.