Violence against women must be given highest priority, UN agency says

21 November 2003

Efforts to root out violence against women have run into stiffening resistance in many instances and the issue must now be given the highest priority on the global agenda, the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) said today.

"We must make the eradication of violence against women a serious global priority," said UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer, as she launched a new report called "Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women."

The report was launched to mark the tenth anniversary of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, at which women human rights advocates placed women's rights issues on the international agenda for the first time.

"Clearly efforts so far have brought results: there are better legal frameworks and policies, awareness and partnerships, including with men and youth," Ms. Heyzer said.

"We have better integrated services, knowledge and research, including knowledge about the high cost of violence against women to families and societies. And yet, women do not appear to be substantively more free from violence than they were a decade ago."

The report is based on regional reviews UNIFEM conducted in 2002. It provides an overview of women's achievements in moving the issue of gender-based violence from the shadows to the foreground worldwide and framing the problem as a violation of human rights, a public health problem and a crime against women and society.

"We are walking up a down escalator," Ms. Heyzer said. "There are structures and processes that generate violence. We need to break the cycle of violence by ensuring that women have the voice and power to assert their priorities in an increasingly violent world."

For that to happen women would have to have access to property, employment, wages, power and education, she said.

At least 45 nations have specific legislation against domestic violence, 21 more are drafting new laws and many others have amended criminal assault laws to include domestic violence, UNIFEM said in a release.