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Violence Against Women - Missing Millennium Development Goal

6 December 2010

"Tackling violence against women would address the gender dimensions of the Development Goals," says UN expert on violence against women

The following statement was issued by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, in the course of the campaign “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence”

GENEVA - “Violence against women and girls, one of the most pervasive human rights violations throughout the world, is deeply rooted in discriminatory attitudes, practices and systems. Violence against women has been considered by many as the “missing Millennium Development Goal(MDG)” and new challenges have emerged in the fight against such violence due to phenomena such as the global financial and economic crisis, the acceleration in environmental degradation, or the continued use of brutal violence against women as a weapon of war in conflict situations. In this context, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination have contributed to and exacerbated violence against women. The 16-day campaign once again challenges us to focus on ways, measures and means to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

Considerable progress has been achieved in the past ten years on some MDG targets. Yet, structural inequality and discrimination against women and girls remains pervasive, and information on the intersections between gender-based discrimination and other forms of discrimination is too often overlooked. As long as such discrimination persists, and as long as the achievement of the MDGs is not pursued by closely looking at the increased risks and challenges faced by women, be it in law, policies and practices, the MDGs will fail in the promotion and protection of women’s human rights.

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Gender-based violence manifests itself from childhood to all stages of women’s and girls’ lives. Deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes at home and school perpetuate male power and control, reinforce discrimination and inequalities, and compromise the health, the dignity and the enjoyment of all human rights for women and girls.

Universal primary education for girls and boys is essential, yet enrolment of girls into schools alone is not enough. Education needs to be rights-based, rooted in the principles of gender equality, so that girls can have a voice to contest discrimination, demand justice and live a life free of violence. Violence against girls at and on the way to schools, which today constitutes a major barrier to girls’ school enrolment and achievement, should be combated as a matter of priority. ¨

Violence restricts women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and has a direct and dangerous impact upon effectively addressing preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. Harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and forced and early marriages, all manifestations of deep-rooted gender inequalities, have a life changing impact on young girls’ sexual autonomy and increase their risks to death or permanent injury during pregnancy and childbirth. Violence, of course, also constitutes a cause and a consequence of HIV/AIDS.

Violence hinders women’s full and equal access to social and economic policies, full and productive employment and decent work which could lift them out of extreme poverty and hunger. Violence is also a major obstacle to ensure that women have equal access to adequate housing, property, land and other resources, including safe drinking water and basic sanitation, thus hampering their social and economic empowerment.

Yet women’s participation in the workforce, like education alone, is not enough when such environments are not safe for women to be free from the threat of violence. Today, while more women than ever before are participating in the work force, many of them are employed in the informal sector, in poorly paid, insecure and hazardous jobs with no labour rights, social protection or protection from violence. In the race towards the MDGs we cannot allow women’s psychological and physical integrity to be the price they pay in order to become more financially independent.

With five years left to reach the Millennium Development Goals, tackling inequalities and discrimination against women and enhancing gender justice –in other words, addressing the gender-dimensions of each of the targets- are critical to accelerating and sustaining progress on all the MDGs.

In September 2010 at the MDG Summit world leaders committed to strengthen comprehensive national laws, policies and programmes to enhance accountability and raise awareness, prevent and combat all forms of violence against women and girls. They also committed to ensure that women have access to justice and protection, and that all perpetrators of such violence are duly investigated, prosecuted and punished in order to end impunity, in conformity with national legislation, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. While these commitments are a step forward in the recognition of the need to link efforts to achieve the MDGs with the combating of against violence against women, States must remember that they have an obligation to prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation for acts of violence against women.

Importantly, understanding the structural inequality and discrimination that is at the root of the violations, the share of state responsibility by either action or omission, as well as the gender specific impact of the violence on women’s and girls’ lives, requires that States improve national statistical systems to monitor violence against women and address it in their MDG plans, policies and programmes. In addition, impact assessments on violence against women should become part of cost benefit analysis of government policies.

Let us not forget that violence does not only have a devastating effect on the millions of women and girls who suffer from it, but also directly impacts their ability to fully participate in the development of their countries. It is only by placing women’s human rights, including the right to be free from violence, at the center of our efforts that we will be able to build a more secure world, based on the common goal and the shared obligation of ensuring that human rights are universally and equally enjoyed.”


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