Condemning widespread global violence against women as a human rights violation, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for more political will and financial resources to fight the scourge, warning that as long as such acts continue there will be no real progress towards equality, development and peace.
“Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive
violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality,” he writes in an exhaustive 139-page study that was presented to the General Assembly’s Third Committee today.
“Such violence is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by the State and its agents or by
family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in
times of conflict… as long as violence against women continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.”
“Violence against women impoverishes individuals, families, communities and countries. The social, political and economic costs of allowing it to continue unabated are great and call for a commensurate investment in women’s security. Such an effort requires increased political will expressed through a much greater commitment of financial and human resources.”
The study, which was called for by the General Assembly in December 2003, examines many forms and manifestations of violence against women in a wide range of settings, including the family, the community, State custody and institutions, armed conflict and refugee and situations involving internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Such violence often takes a direct physical form, but can also involve psychological abuse and economic deprivation, it notes, while highlighting that States have “an obligation to protect women from violence, to hold perpetrators accountable and to provide justice and remedies to victims.”
It says that much remains to be done to create an environment where women can live free from gender-based violence, and warns that at the international level “violence against women has not received the visibility and prominence required to enable significant change.”
Before elaborating on 10 pages of recommendations, Mr. Annan highlights the role of the Assembly in “ensuring that meaningful follow-up and implementation is undertaken by different stakeholders,” stressing that Member States and the international community must acknowledge the “devastating impact any further delay in taking these limited but critical measures will have on women, their families and their communities.”
The recommendations are divided into six key areas for action at the national level that include a wide range of measures from ensuring States ratify all human rights treaties to increasing funding for adequate services and access to justice and redress to victims/survivors.
Four key areas at the international level also include similarly detailed recommendations, including calling for a “stronger, more consistent and visible” leadership role by intergovernmental bodies and the entities of the UN system, while also stressing the role of the world body in assisting countries to collect data on violence against women so as to better combat it.
Welcoming Mr. Annan’s report, the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) bemoaned the fact that “far too many women are subjected to violence and made to feel shame.”
“It is time to end tolerance and complicity. We cannot make poverty history unless we make violence against women history. We cannot stop the spread of HIV unless we stop discrimination and violence against women and girls,” said UNFPA Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, in a press release.
As well as discussing the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on violence today, the Third Committee also debated his report on the work of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), which was presented by its Executive Director, Noeleen Heyzer.