UN calls for intensified efforts to curb violence against women

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New York - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday led a chorus of United Nations officials 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," 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 Ban.

It is crucial to address the root causes of violence by eradicating discrimination and changing the mindset that reinforces prejudice, he said.

He 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. 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."

On Tuesday, the secretary-general 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 percent 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 Ines Alberdi.

She said that despite these achievements, it is "shocking" that up to 70 percent 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."

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."

In South Africa, Minister of Women, Children and People living with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya launched the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign on Wednesday.

The campaign, which runs from 25 November to 10 December every year, highlights government's commitment in a building caring and peaceful society, which protects women and children from all forms of violence.

Mayende-Sibiya called for women and child abusers to be given stiff sentences.

"The criminal justice system need to reconsider the sentences imposed to perpetrators and give stiff sentences so that our society will feel the impact of this campaign as well as 365 Days of Activism," she said.

South Africa's Progressive Women's Movement of South Africa (PWMSA) Convener, Baleka Mbete, called on families to stop protecting abusers of women and children.

Mbete warned that if families continue to sweep these incidents under the carpets more women and children will be victimised.