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Demonstration in Qamishli,  Syria, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence againt Women, Nov. 25. Demonstration in Qamishli, Syria, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence againt Women, Nov. 25.   (AFP or licensors)

UN: violence against women a ‘mark of shame’ on our societies

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a message for the Nov. 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was observed on Sunday, with the UN chief stressing that violence against women and girls is not only a fundamental human rights issue but also a “moral affront” against them and a “mark of shame” on all societies. 

In a message for the November 25 observance UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that such violence and abuse is a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity,” he said, “can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.”

The UN chief also noted that at its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect – a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women – and that it is tied to the broader issues of power and control in societies.

Inequality

Noting that violence against women and girls is also a deeply political issue, the Secretary-General pointed out that in a male-dominated society women are made vulnerable to violence through the multiple ways in which they are kept unequal.  This, he said, harms the individual and has far-reaching consequences for families and society.

Violence against women, Guterres said, can take many forms: domestic attacks to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide.

He said that increasing public disclosure by all women of the sexual harassment they faced is galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive action to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

Global action: Orange the World

Guterres said that this year, the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls is highlighting support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’.  He said it is designed to send a clear message that “violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play.”

Culture of silence

In a separate message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, the United Nations’ entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women, also hit out against the culture of silencing violence against women.

She said the true extent of violence against women cannot be gauged because of the fear of reprisals and being believed.  She said the stigma borne by the survivor, not the perpetrator, have silenced the voices of millions of survivors of violence and masked the true extent of women’s continued horrific experiences.

“The focus must change from questioning the credibility of the victim to pursuing the accountability of the perpetrator,” she said, underscoring that the theme is “therefore also a strong call to law enforcement.”

She said that those who have spoken out have helped in realizing just “how far sexual harassment has been normalized and even justified as an inevitable part of a woman’s life.”

The UN Women chief spoke about the serious responsibility of the police , judicial institutions and employers in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of survivors and employees. 

The Nov. 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence marks the launch of 16 days of activism that will conclude on 10 December 2018, International Human Rights Day.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was instituted by the UN in 1999 to honour the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, who were brutally assassinated on orders of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Facts & figures

• 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner

• Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM)

• 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances

• 71% of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited

• Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.  (Source: UN)

26 November 2018, 15:00