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Impunity for violence against women is a global concern

Governments are urged to act with due diligence to prevent and investigate violence against women and girls, prosecute perpetrators and provide protection and redress to victims.

Afghan rights activists attend a rally to stop violence against women in Kabul © EPA/S. SABAWOONThis was contained in the report to the Human Rights Council by Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

She noted that religious, cultural, and social norms and beliefs are largely the causal factors for harmful practices resulting in violence against women. Therefore countries’ efforts to comply must also address these structural causes.

Globally the prevalence of different manifestations of killings targeting women is increasing and a lack of accountability for such crimes remains a concern.

“Whether labelled murder, homicide, femicide, feminicide, or ‘honour’ killings, these manifestations of violence are culturally and socially embedded, and continue to be accepted, tolerated or justified - with impunity as the norm,” stressed the independent expert reacting to the latest killing of women in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Impunity for the killings of women has become a global concern, a fact noted by the UN Secretary General BAN Ki-moon when he stated that, “Impunity for violence against women compounds the effects of such violence as a mechanism of control. When the State fails to hold perpetrators accountable, impunity not only intensifies the subordination and powerlessness of the targets of violence, but also sends a message to society that male violence against women is both acceptable and inevitable”.

These killings targeting women, Rashida Manjoo decried, are extreme signs of existing forms of violence against women and are not isolated incidents that arise suddenly.

They are rather the ultimate act of violence which is experienced in a continuum of violence.

“Failure of States to guarantee the right of women to a life free from violence” has led to many deaths of women, she adds.

In her report, she further states that the killings can both be active, direct or passive and indirect. The direct category includes killings as a result of intimate-partner violence; killings related to allegations of sorcery and witchcraft; armed conflict; dowry; gender identity and sexual orientation as a result of hatred and prejudice; ethnic- and indigenous identity; and female infanticide and honour killings.

The indirect killings she states include deaths linked to human trafficking, drug dealing, organized crime and gang-related activities; maternal mortality; deaths of girls or women due to simple neglect through starvation, ill-treatment and deliberate acts of inaction by the State.

Killings by intimate partners have significantly been underreported and the Special Rapporteur states in her report that studies have shown that in many countries the home is the place where a woman is most likely to be murdered.

On killings related to allegations of sorcery and witchcraft, the report shows that the pattern includes violent murders, physical mutilation, women being burned or buried alive, displacement, kidnapping and disappearance of girls and women who are also subjected to “exorcism”.

The report further adds that crimes committed in the name of “honour” have been characterized as being among the most severe of the harmful practices. The murders are carried out to “cleanse" family honour and are committed with high levels of impunity in many parts of the world.

Honour crimes also include stoning, women and girls being coerced to commit suicide after public denunciation of their behaviour, or being subjected to acid attacks. These crimes often go unreported, are rarely investigated and, when punished, sentences are far less than those for equally violent crimes.

In her 2012 report, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo from South Africa underscored that States should adopt a comprehensive approach in addressing the gender related killings of women, and offered key recommendations to that end.

14 August 2012

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