Violence against Women

Mother and child, in the Dafur region of Sudan - ©UN Photo / Eskinder DebebeTo combat the rising phenomenon of violence against women and girls, those committing the crimes must be prosecuted. On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said most perpetrators of these crimes enjoyed impunity.

“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.”

Countless women and girls are killed, mutilated, beaten, raped, sold into sexual slavery or tortured every day in the world. Violence against women and girls, including domestic violence and sexual violence, is increasing. Domestic gender-based violence is still, in some parts of the world, an issue that is confined to the private domain, and a symptom of how women are generally considered as objects. Men often use domestic violence to diminish women’s autonomy and self-worth.

“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,” said the High Commissioner.

Violence against women is one of the most pervasive human rights violations. It devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her, according to the In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General, 2006.

Most of the survivors have little hope of seeing their perpetrators pay for their crimes, and so the violence perpetuates. States must ensure, under international law, that crimes of violence against women and girls are prosecuted and that the economic and social rights of the victims are protected. Putting such a system in place will bring perpetrators to justice, encourage victims and witnesses to testify, and put an end to impunity for crimes of sexual violence against women and girls, including rape.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, began the “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence”. This campaign, originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute, runs until Human Rights Day on 10 December.


29 January 2010

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