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Stop violence against women - It's in our hands!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Inaugural Human Rights Parliamentary Dinner 14 December, Wellington

Stop violence against women - It's in our hands!

Amnesty International welcomes an Inaugural Human Rights Parliamentary Dinner in the Grand Hall of the Parliament Buildings on Tuesday 14 December which will highlight the issue of violence against women.

From the battlefield to the bedroom, women are at risk. Violence threatens women in multiple forms during conflict. Amnesty International's latest report Lives blown apart lays out the global picture revealing a systematic pattern of abuse repeating itself in conflicts all over the world from Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya, Nepal to Afghanistan and in 30 other ongoing conflicts.

Whether in times of peace or war, women are subjected to atrocities simply because they are women. Millions of women are beaten, raped, murdered, assaulted, mutilated and even denied the right to ever exist. Worldwide more women die as a result of violence than are killed by cancer, road accidents or even malaria.

"At least one in three women in the world will suffer serious violence in their lifetime. These human rights violations happen because laws, policies and practices discriminate against women, denying them equality with men, politically, economically and socially", said Mr. Ced Simpson, Executive Director of Amnesty International New Zealand.

As of last year, 54 countries still have laws that actively discriminate against women. 79 countries have no law against domestic violence. 127 countries have no laws against sexual harassment. This is a direct result of inequality and impunity, of power and prejudice - sustained by apathy and upheld by misogyny.

"Violence against women is not confined to any particular political or economic system, but is prevalent in every society in the world. It cuts across boundaries of wealth, race and culture." said Mr. Simpson.

In countries around the world, millions of women and girls are genitally mutilated in the name of custom. In some societies, girls have been subjected to forced sex because of the fallacy that sex with a virgin will cure a man of HIV/AIDS. Tens of thousands of women are killed in the name of honour. And this femicide finds its way into the richest, most developed countries of the world where hundreds of women are battered to death by their partners.

In the USA, women accounted for 85 % of the victims of domestic violence in 1999. It is estimated that in Russia 14,000 women were killed by their partners or relatives in 1999, yet the country still has no law specifically addressing domestic violence.

"But domestic violence is not something that happens over there. It happens here. It is not something that happens to other people, it happens to us, our friends and our families" said Mr. Simpson "In New Zealand, one woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every five weeks. 50 % of all homicides of New Zealand women are committed by the woman's partner or ex-partner."

Last year the UN Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) considered the fifth periodic report of the New Zealand government to the Committee. It expressed its concern at the prevalence of gender-based violence in New Zealand, including rape and sexual and domestic violence within the family. It also expressed its concern at the lack of systematic data collection on violence against women, including domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace and recommended that New Zealand devise a structure to collect data. The Committee recommended that public officials, especially law enforcement officials, the judiciary, health-care providers and social workers, be fully sensitized to all forms of violence against women. It called upon New Zealand to create public awareness of violence against women as an infringement of women's human rights that has grave social costs for the whole community. It further recommended that the number of shelters for women victims of violence be increased.

Figures show that 23,782 women and children accessed refuge services in 2003. Women's Refuge - the umbrella organization of 50 Women's Refuges around Aotearoa/ New Zealand and the only provider of services to battered women and children, receives 25% of their funds from Government but the remaining 75% of their funding they must raise from the community.

"Violence against women impoverishes society economically, politically and culturally. The direct economic costs of violence against women are enormous, in terms of lost working time, lost earnings and medical expenditure. The indirect costs of limiting the active role that women can take in the development of their community are unquantifiable." said Ced Simpson.

For more information including the report Lives Blown Apart please visit AINZ's website at http://www.amnesty.org.nz

ENDS

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