Violence against women remains endemic, UN expert reports

24 October 2008
Yakin Ertürk, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

Women around the world continue to endure violence, abuse and discrimination and often have no recourse to justice, an independent United Nations human rights expert told the General Assembly today as she urged Member States to make greater efforts to record and publicize violations.

“In spite of considerable achievements, violence against women persists in every country as a pervasive and universal violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality,” said Yakin Ertürk, the outgoing Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

Addressing the Assembly’s third committee (social, humanitarian and cultural) for the final time, Ms. Ertürk said the problem of violence against women has become so complex that laws and policies worldwide need to be changed to adjust to the reality.

“To enhance the effectiveness of this mandate in promoting and supporting endeavours to combat violence against women, I would like to emphasize the need to complement the mandate with a substantial funding source from which funds can be channelled to the implementation of the recommendations made following official country visits,” Ms. Ertürk told the committee.

Ms. Ertürk briefed the Assembly committee on her work for the year, which included fact-finding missions to Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Moldova, and informed the body that she will visit Kyrgyzstan next June before ending her six-year stint in the position.

After visiting Saudi Arabia in February, the Special Rapporteur said the Middle East country had made progress in advancing the status of women but more action was needed to reduce gender-based violence and enhance the profile of women in public life.

While some Saudi women expressed satisfaction with their lives, others raised concerns about discrimination or shared stories of men committing systematic domestic abuse with impunity.

Following her visit to Tajikistan in May, Ms. Ertürk reported that strong patriarchal values in the culture mean many women are expected to be obedient to their husbands and often get blamed for having provoked so-called disciplinary measures.

“Unless serious injuries occur, domestic violence is by and large accepted as a normal aspect of private life by men and women alike and not acknowledged as a problem warranting public intervention,” she said.

Although Moldova had come a long way in institution-building and human rights protection since gaining independence in 1991, the reality for many women was bleak, the expert reported after returning from the Eastern European country in July.

“Women experience high levels of unemployment or are concentrated in low paid sex-type jobs, and encounter strong patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes that perpetuate the subordinate position of women in the family and in society. Violence against women, within the family and in formal institutions, is said to be a widespread phenomenon,” Ms. Ertürk said.

Today’s briefing comes weeks before the UN Development Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) target date for gathering a million names on its “Say No to Violence against Women” campaign website. The campaign wraps up on 25 November when the signatures will be handed over to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.


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