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UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women calls on women and men to unite in times of economic crisis

PRESS STATEMENT ON 8 MARCH 2009


On the occasion of International Women's Day (8 March), the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Yakin Ertürk, issued the following statement:

“The scale and impact of the current crisis is still largely unknown, but it is expected that women and girls in both developed and developing countries will be particularly affected by job cuts, lose of livelihoods, increased responsibilities in all spheres of their life, and an increased risk of societal and domestic violence. A systematic gender analysis of the current economic crisis is critical for developing viable solutions and upholding human rights standards”, recommends the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences.

The World Bank predicts that up to 53 million more people will be driven to poverty in developing countries this year, bringing the total number of those living on less than $2 a day to over 1.5 billion. This will seriously jeopardize the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals which aim to slash poverty, hunger, infant and maternal mortality, and illiteracy by 2015. These worrisome signs are likely to result in serious setbacks to the realization of gender equality.

“Studies have shown that violence against women intensifies when men experience displacement and dispossession related to economic crises, migration, war, foreign occupation or other situations where masculinities compete and power relations are altered in society. This makes it crucial to challenge norms of masculinity in times of global economic and financial crisis” continues Ms. Erturk.

If women are to live a life free of violence, efforts to change attitudes must include strategies to challenge notions of masculinity based on policing women’s sexuality and /or on sustaining male supremacy in public and private life. Violence is not only an act of individual men but is embedded in the way manhood is constructed, reinforced and challenged under societal pressures, social approval mechanisms and crisis situations. The struggle for gender equality is not about a battle of the sexes but rather a battle against oppression, which men also have a stake in. Therefore, men and women working together to end violence against women can be a step forward for greater emancipation for all.

“After six years of extraordinary endeavours which took me to some 18 countries and afforded me the privilege of meeting many remarkable women of great courage and resilience, I will be submitting my final report to the 11th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in June this year”, states the Special Rapporteur. Appointed by the HRC in August 2003, Ms. Erturk will be completing her term with the submission of her country mission and thematic reports to the HRC in June 2009.

This year the thematic report will focus on the political economy of women’s rights and its implications for violence against women. The report discusses the current limitations of human rights discourse and practice in responding to the socioeconomic conditions that produce and sustain gender-based violence. “I believe this report will prove particularly relevant in the current economic and financial crisis that is affecting people worldwide”, states Ms. Erturk.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day and in anticipation of the upcoming 30th anniversary of CEDAW, the women’s bill of rights, the Special Rapporteur takes this opportunity to call on states parties to ensure full compliance with its provisions.