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23 November 2007

Statement of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November:

Every day, in all corners of the world, countless women and girls are killed, mutilated, beaten, raped, sold into sexual slavery or tortured. Most of the survivors of this violence have little hope of seeing their tormentors pay for their crimes. And so the violence goes on.

This impunity is built on a foundation of discrimination and inequality. States have largely accepted the international human rights framework in place to prevent, condemn and punish discrimination against women. But unless these inequalities are addressed, including in the economic and social spheres, the violence will persist. A woman is more likely to remain in a relationship in which she is the victim of domestic violence when the alternative is homelessness for herself and her children. A woman will not report rape if we continue to stigmatize the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.

International law requires States to adopt appropriate and effective legislative and administrative procedures for fair, effective and prompt access to justice.

A sustained effort to end violence against women also means a commitment to ensure equality with respect to economic and social rights. This contributes not only to the equitable allocation of public goods and services but also leads to improved law enforcement by facilitating accountability for violence against women. As we prepare to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is no better demonstration of the interdependence of all human rights.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and on every day that will follow, we must demand action to stop the killing and the abuse. We must demand that States honour their commitments to bring perpetrators to justice and provide redress for their victims. We must demand, simply, that more than half of humanity is given the full protection it is entitled to.