States must make good on pledges to end violence against women, UN officials say

25 November 2002
UNIFEM Chief Noeleen Heyzer

Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, senior United Nations officials today called on governments to translate promises into action in order to stem the scourge.

Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, senior United Nations officials today called on governments to translate promises into action in order to stem the scourge.

In his message on the occasion, Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted progress in addressing gender-based abuse, including the establishment of the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at any civilian population.

"Clearly, the world is achieving greater awareness and understanding of gender-based violence, and more effective measures are being developed to confront it, but much more remains to be done to create and sustain an environment where women can go about their lives free from this scourge," he said, calling for rededicated efforts to reach that goal.

The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy, appealed to all governments to uphold their obligations. "While an impressive set of international legal instruments aimed at the protection and promotion of women's rights had been put in place over the years, there often remains a gap between the enactment of a law and its full implementation, resulting in high levels of impunity," she pointed out.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello said women's unequal status was the root cause of the problem. "If we are to overcome the scourge of gender-based violence, we must also address these warped attitudes and the resultant discrimination that perpetuate them by preventing women from participating in society on an equal basis with men."

The President of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan, urged States to pursue strategies to sensitize the male population - particularly law enforcements officials, the military, local police and security officials - to accord special protection to women. "I strongly appeal to every State and every individual to show their appreciation to women and respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms through zero-tolerance to any act of violence against them and by providing adequate assistance and help those who are suffering," he said.

Speaking to the press in New York, Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), described the agency's efforts to break the cycle of violence, especially through a special Trust Fund which has supported "very effective strategies that have made a difference."

To date, the Trust Fund has provided grants totalling $7 million to projects in more than 73 countries. But needs still far outpace resources; this year UNIFEM received more than $15 million in project requests, but the Fund currently has only $1 million to give annually.

 

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