Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led a chorus of United Nations officials today in calling on the international community to make greater efforts to tackle the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.
“In every country, women and girls continue to be plagued by violence, causing tremendous suffering,” Mr. Ban said in a message marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, observed annually on 25 November.
He noted that such violence undermines development, generates instability and makes peace harder to achieve, stressing that the international community must demand accountability for the violations and take concrete steps to end impunity.
“Our goal is clear; to end these inexcusable crimes – whether it is the use of rape as a weapon of war, domestic violence, sex trafficking, so-called 'honour' crimes or female genital mutilation,” said Mr. Ban.
It is crucial to address the root causes of violence by eradicating discrimination and changing the mindset that reinforces prejudice, he said, highlighting his “UNite to End Violence Against Women” campaign that calls for nations to put in place strong laws, action plans, preventative measures, data collection and systematic measures to address sexual violence in conflict situations.
“Women around the world are the very linchpin keeping families, communities and nations together,” he said. “On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to women's human rights and let us do all it takes to end these horrific assaults once and for all.”
Yesterday Mr. Ban marked the 10th anniversary of the International Day by launching a Network of Men Leaders, which brings together current and former politicians, activists, religious and community figures to combat the global pandemic.
“These men will add their voices to the growing global chorus for action,” he said, noting that 70 per cent of women experience in their lifetime some form of physical or sexual violence from men, the majority from husbands, intimate partners or someone they know.
The head of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) praised women's rights activists around the world for harnessing broader support to combat the scourge, saying that it is now an issue of human rights and peace and security as well as a matter of urgent concern to both men and women.
“There are now more national plans, policies and laws in place than ever before, and momentum is also growing in the intergovernmental arena,” said UNIFEM Executive Director Inés Alberdi.
She said that despite these achievements, it is “shocking” that up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. “It happens everywhere – at home and at work, on the streets and in schools, during peacetime and in conflict.”
Ms. Alberdi said that the solution to ending violence against women and girls lies within each individual by raising “a generation that will not resort to violence, by volunteering to provide services, by raising funds and by raising our voices to say no to violence against women.”
An independent UN human rights expert said that the reality on the ground around the world demonstrates that many forms of violence against women remain endemic, cutting across national boundaries, race, class, culture, tradition and religion.
“The consequences include the violation of dignity and also of the right to equality, non-discrimination, physical integrity and freedom from violence,” said Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences Rashida Manjoo in her message for the Day.
States have a responsibility to eliminate violence against women through legal and policy measures, a robust criminal justice system, the provision of social services and economic policies that empower women, said Ms. Manjoo.
“The due diligence standard requires States to promote the right to be free from all forms of violence, both private and public; and also to develop and implement legislation, policies and programmes that specifically address prevention, protection, prosecution and compensation,” she said.