Women's commission call to stop gender-based violence

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pretoria - The United Nations commission focusing on women kicked off its annual session with a call to eliminate violence against women and girls, a global scourge that affects millions around the world.

Speaking on Monday during the opening of the two-week session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) taking place in New York, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that ending violence against women was a matter of life and death.

He said the problem pervaded all countries, even in the most stable and developed regions.

Eliasson stressed that it would take multiple approaches to tackle this issue, from governments implementing policies to empower victims and prosecute perpetrators, to creating a culture where gender stereotypes are broken by encouraging men and boys to take an equal share of responsibilities in their homes and families.

“Violence against women pervades war zones as well as stable communities, capitals as well as the countryside, public space as well as the private sphere. Since it is an unacceptable feature of daily life, we have to respond everywhere and on every level,” Eliasson said.

According to the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), up to 70 percent of women in some countries face physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

In countries such as Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for 40 to 70 percent of female murder victims.

In addition, some 140 million girls have suffered female genital mutilation and millions more are subjected to forced marriage and trafficking.

Eliasson underlined that eliminating violence against women and girls was also an issue intricately linked to development and peace.

He said it was critical to achieve the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as access to sanitation was essential to guarantee women had safe places to seek privacy.

However, he said this was not possible when there were currently more than one billion people without access to toilets.

“The same is true for our pursuit of peace. Women are especially vulnerable in conflicts. They are far too often subjected to unspeakable atrocities,” Eliasson said, noting that sexual violence in conflict had become a weapon of terror to instil fear among women and civilian populations.

Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet, warned that the world could no longer afford the costs of violence against women and girls, the social and economic costs and the costs in deep human pain and suffering.

“Over the past few months, women, men and young people took to the streets with signs that ask ‘Where is the justice?’. They declared solidarity with a Pakistani girl shot for defending the right to education.

“They pledged justice for a young woman in India and another in South Africa who were brutally raped and later died. They demanded an end to the endless cases of rape and violence that threaten the lives of countless women and girls in every country but never make the headlines,” Bachelet said.

She said that while there had been progress over the past decades in establishing international norms and standards to protect women against violence, the issue remained widespread and impunity was still the norm rather than the exception.

“This is an issue of universal human rights and inherent human dignity that concerns us all, involves us all and requires concerted and urgent action from all of us.”

A South African government delegation, led by Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, is also attending the 57th UNCSW.

The delegation includes the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Adv Ngoako Ramahlodi and Deputy Minister of South African Police Service, Maggie Sotyu.

The session, attended by government delegations from other UN member states, will see governments reporting to the UN on work that has been done in their respective countries to prevent gender-based violence.

South Africa will participate in various activities of the session and will host and coordinate side events on gender based violence, economic empowerment of women as well as an event which will emphasise strengthening the hand-in-hand approach in the fight against gender-based violence, strategies and approaches for ending violence against women, strengthening partnerships for working solutions.

Chairperson of the Commission, Ambassador Marjon V Kamara of Liberia, said that during its two-week session, the Commission would examine ways for more effectively preventing violence against women and girls and ensure that action is taken on the ground to create real change in women’s lives.

“We have assembled here with a clear mandate: to create a world where gender equality is never in question and discrimination and violence against women and girls are a thing of the past,” she said.

The theme for the session is ‘Equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care giving in the context of HIV/Aids’. – SAnews.gov.za