Violence against women is a mark of shame on societies, the UN declared, saying until women and girls can live free of fear, violence and insecurity, the world cannot pride itself as being fair and equal.
The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, made the remark on Monday at a special event at the UN Headquarters to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, adding that “violence against women and girls was a global pandemic.”
The Day, observed annually on November 25, highlights violence against women as serious cause of death and incapacity as cancer, among women of reproductive age.
Mr Guterres said “it is a moral affront to all women and girls and to us all, a mark of shame on societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.
“At its core, violence against women and girls in all its forms is the manifestation of profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognise the inherent equality and dignity of women.
“It is an issue of fundamental human rights. The violence can take many forms – from domestic violence to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.
“It is an issue that harms the individual but also has far-reaching consequences for families and for society.
“Violence experienced as a child is linked to vulnerability and violence later in life.
“Other consequences include long-term physical and mental health impacts and costs to individuals and society in services and lost employment days.”
The Day kicks off the 16 Days of Activism under the Secretary-Generals’ UNiTe campaign, which called on people of all sectors to join in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls.
The theme for 2018 is ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo,’ and as in previous years, the colour orange is used to draw global attention to the issue, while the hashtag is encouraged to amplify the message of survivors and activists and to put them at the centre of the conversation and response.
The theme aims to broaden the global conversation and highlight the voices and activism of all survivors of violence and advocates around the world – many of whom are often missing from the media headlines and social media discussions.
The executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, highlighted UN initiatives, shifting the livelihoods of women signalled hope for progress.
She said “a culture that changes from questioning the credibility of the victims, to pursuing the accountability of the perpetrators within due process, is possible.”
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is one of the ways the UN is fortifying prevention and responses to the global scourge, by awarding grants to initiatives that support the rights of women and girls.
Over the past two decades, the UN Trust Fund has supported more than 460 projects in 139 territories and reached over six million individuals in 2017 alone
In other efforts, UN Women, alongside the European Union and UN partners, are at the forefront of the ‘Spotlight Initiative’, the largest ever single investment in eliminating violence against women toward the ‘Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative’.
Pointing to alarming statistics, Maria Garces, President of the UN General Assembly, regretted that hundreds of millions of women were still victims to violence or sexual abuse.
Statistics estimated that 35 per cent of women have experienced some form of physical and or sexual violence, and as many as 38 per cent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
“It is a sad reflection on all communities, States, and the United Nations that the world is still far from reaching the goal of ending violence against women and girls.
“We are still far away,” Ms Garces said at the event.
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