UN chief urges action to end violence and abuses endured by women

15 September 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today spotlighted the “shocking” abuse, violence and discrimination suffered by women, in a call for action to empower the gender that make up over half the world’s population.

In describing the diverse world population, “I would have to explain that fully half of those people face shocking abuses and discrimination,” Mr. Ban told the launch at United Nations Headquarters in New York of Half the Sky, a book depicting the violence and other abuses suffered by women worldwide and proposing action to combat the scourge.

“They are forced into slavery and prostitution,” said Mr. Ban at the launch, organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Women are denied the right to “speak their views, wear what they want, or pursue an education or a career,” said Mr. Ban, adding that they “are burned to death or scarred with acid with little or no punishment for the perpetrators.”

Mr. Ban noted that even with the technological advances in today’s modern world, women all too often die from easily preventable diseases as well as during childbirth. “The casualties dwarf those of most wars, [and] the costs are too high to put a figure on.”

The Secretary-General told how he was moved and angered when he met a girl in a hospital where he heard of how the 18 year-old was brutally raped at gunpoint by four soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Half the Sky, which was written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn, details stories of sex trafficking and forced prostitution; honour killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality in the developing world, and proposes action to combat the scourge.

“Only by standing up for fundamental rights everywhere can we expect to achieve lasting change,” Mr. Ban said as he welcomed yesterday’s General Assembly decision to streamline all four UN women’s entities.


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