United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Goodwill Ambassador and Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman became the first today to add her name to a new Internet campaign aimed at eliminating violence against women.
“One in three women may suffer from abuse and violence in her lifetime,” she said in a statement. “This is an appalling human rights violation, yet it remains one of the invisible and under-recognized pandemics of our time.”
Despite the pervasiveness of the issue, Ms. Kidman said that “it is not inevitable. We can put a stop to this.”
She urged people to add their names to the campaign – which will run until 8 March 2008, International Women’s Day – and say “no” to violence against women.
“The more names we collect, the stronger our case to make ending violence against women a top priority for governments everywhere.”
Today’s launch follows yesterday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, commemorated annually on 25 November.
While nearly 90 countries have laws on domestic violence and many more have national action plans or strategies to bring an end to the pandemic, “implementation of these laws is often insufficient,” UNIFEM Acting Executive Director Joanne Sandler said in New York.
“Impunity for perpetrators is the rule rather than the exception; so many women still fear to speak out because they know that justice remains elusive,” she added.
Ms. Sandler highlighted the work of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, which is administered by UNIFEM and has supported over 250 innovative programmes in more than 100 countries in the past decade.
Recipients of the Fund’s grants “are showing how to address the interlinkages of violence against women and HIV/AIDS, how to involve men and boys in ending violence against women and how to reach marginalized groups – such as rural indigenous women – so that they, too, can benefit from improved laws and policies on ending violence against women,” she said.
Despite the problem’s scope, the Fund has receive in excess of $100 million in requests, but was only able to secure $5 million for grant-making last year, unlike the Trust Fund to End HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which draws on billions of dollars.
Also launched today was a UNIFEM report on gender-based violence entitled “NO MORE!!!!! The right of Women to live a Life Free from Violence in Latin American and the Caribbean.”
The new study notes that between 1990 and 2007, nearly 900 Chilean women were killed, mostly by their partners or ex-partners, while in the Bahamas in 2000, almost half of all murders committed were feminicides – women being killed at the hands of their partners or because of their gender status – and rose to 44 per cent in 2001 and 53 per cent in 2002.
“The negative synergy between institutional weakness and patriarchal culture favour and provoke impunity,” the report noted. “These factors are causes and consequences of the lack of power of women and girls.”
The scope of the problem detailed in the report “represents only the tip of the iceberg of the many women affected who remain hidden behind silent statistics, social tolerance and impunity,” Marijke Velzeboer-Salcedo, Chief of the Latin American and Caribbean Section at UNIFEM, said at a press briefing today.
Calling on governments to take greater action, the report also appealed to international organizations, civil society and the media to promote the eradication of violence against women and an end to impunity for those who commit such crimes.