International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, held each year on 25 November, and the following 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence are commemorated every year around the world to raise awareness and spark action on this pervasive human rights violation. The campaign runs for 16 days through 10 December, International Human Rights Day, to highlight that gender based violence is a violation of human rights.
Violence against women and girls is a universal phenomenon which takes place in all countries irrespective of development status or income, whether the country is experiencing conflict or is at peace. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon emphasized the critical role that men must play in ending violence against women. “Men must teach each other that real men do not violate or oppress women- and that a woman’s place is not just in the home or the field, but in schools and offices and boardrooms.”
Women and girls account for half of the human capital available to reduce poverty and achieve development. Yet gender-based violence undermines human rights, social stability and security, public health, women’s educational and employment opportunities, and the well-being and development prospects of children and communities – all fundamental factors to achieving long term stability and growth.
In the Pacific, there is a growing body of national data demonstrating that a high proportion of women experience violence against women (VAW) by intimate partners. In Kiribati, 68% of ever-partnered women reported experiencing at least one act of physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, by an intimate partner. In Solomon Islands research found that 37% of women reported having been sexually abused before aged 15. In Tonga, 79% of women and girls have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, by partners or anyone. Preliminary data from a study in Fiji by the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre show that 64% of women ever in a relationship experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Factors that contribute to violence include the low status of women legally and culturally, and the lack of access to services including the justice system and other protective measures. Implementing services for survivors of violence against women and girls is essential in order to assist in breaking the cycle of violence and to help survivors and their families heal. “Fortunately many Pacific countries are taking on the challenge of addressing violence against women and girls, by developing new legislation, policies and establishing services that are critically needed to address violence against women and girls,” noted Elzira Sagynbaeva, Representative of UN Women’s Fiji Multi-Country Office covering the Pacific region. Today several Pacific Island Countries have passed legislation to criminalise violence against women and others are in development. Two countries have specific National Action Plans on violence against women, and others are developing policies and strategies to prevent and respond to violence appropriately. Services for survivors are being expanded, including reaching survivors in the Pacific’s largely rural population and outer islands.
Prevention is the most effective long term solution: The only way to eliminate violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Prevention strategies include addressing the root causes of violence - changing the social practices, behaviors and attitudes that allow or tolerate such violence; encouraging women’s participation and leadership; addressing economic inequalities and discrimination in the workplace; engaging men and boys to challenge gender stereotypes and discrimination and promote respectful relationships; and working with faith-based organizations. Visible, positive role models that show how to share power and decision making in relationships, and handle conflict without violence, are important.
“Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation. It is violence against families, communities, nations and humanity. It is a threat to international peace and security... It has reached a crisis point and demands action from all of us, young and old, women and men” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, commented in a message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka further highlighted the “glaring omission that ending violence against women was not included in the Millennium Development Goals. I urge all UN Member States to make ending violence against women and girls a priority in the new development framework that comes after the MDGs expire in 2015.” UN Women is calling for a stand-alone goal on women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Preventing and addressing violence against women and girls requires bringing together the expertise and resources of committed Governments, civil society organizations, development partners, faith-based organizations, the private sector, youth and media through effective partnerships. Everyone has a role to play. UN Women is committed to addressing violence against women and girls in the Pacific through partnerships with governments, women’s rights and civil society groups, regional organizations and UN agencies across the region.
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