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Violence Against Women Remains Widespread

Violence Against Women Remains Widespread And Largely Unpunished – UN Officials

New York, Nov 25 2008 10:10AM

Violence against women is the least punished crime in the world, United Nations officials said today, urging governments to end the widespread impunity and to take measures to ensure that the laws and policies that aim to protect women and girls are enforced.

In separate messages to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed today, the heads of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) called on policymakers to harness the momentum generated by recent global efforts against the scourge.

UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid described the battle to end violence against women as “a major challenge of our time,” alongside climate change and the global financial crisis.

“Violence against women is the most prevalent and least punished crime in the world. It is also a grave threat to health and well-being,” Ms. Obaid statementsaid in a statement, adding that it was disturbing that it still persisted 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.

In her message, Ms. Obaid underscored UNFPA’s commitment to support women’s empowerment, gender equality and reproductive health and rights and said that tackling violence against women and girls was critical to ensuring the success of these efforts.

UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Executive Director Inés Alberdi pointed to two significant events this year that she said have marked a defining moment in the global drive to end violence against women.

In March Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched his global campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women with a 2015 deadline to coincide with the target date for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of internationally agreed objectives for eradicating poverty and other social ills, including gender inequality.

“[It] is a challenge for all of us, governments, civil society as well as the international community to take the actions needed to stop this prevalent human rights violation,” said Ms. Alberdi.

She added that the Security Council reached another milestone in adopting resolution 1820, which recognizes sexual violence in situations of armed conflict as a threat to national and international peace and security and calls for decisive actions by all involved in the conflict to protect women and girls.

The UNIFEM campaign, which aims to gather one million names on its “Say No to Violence against Women” website, also wraps up today and the signatures will be handed over to Mr. Ban to coincide with the Day.

“Now, we must use this momentum to get governments to implement the laws and policies already in place. Despite the fact that more governments than ever have passed such laws, there is still a wide implementation gap,” said Ms. Alberdi.

Mr. Ban, in his message for the Day, noted the progress that has been made but also highlighted the need to address existing gaps. “We need to do more to enforce laws and counter impunity. We need to combat attitudes and behaviour that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed against women. And we need to increase funding for services for victims and survivors,” he stated.

“All of us – men and women, soldiers and peacekeepers, citizens and leaders – have a responsibility to help end violence against women. States must honour their commitments to prevent violence, bring perpetrators to justice and provide redress to victims. And each of us must speak out in our families, workplaces and communities, so that acts of violence against women cease,” he stressed.

Adding her voice to the call to ensure justice for women, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that despite many advances over the past century, some level of impunity for sexual and other forms of violence against women occurs all across the world, and in virtually all societies.

“In some societies, men are fully aware that if they beat or injure – or, in some cases, even kill – their wives or daughters, they will not end up in court,” the High Commissioner said in a statement. “What kind of lesson does a State pass on to the next generation, when it turns a blind eye to the abusive treatment of one parent by the other?

“Efforts to combat violence against women will never be fully successful while national legal frameworks to protect them, and grant them the possibility of economic and social independence, remain inadequate,” Ms. Pillay added.


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