[16days_discussion] Statement from the Secretary-General on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

16 Days Campaign 16days at cwgl.rutgers.edu
Wed Dec 3 12:14:43 EST 2008

  U N I T E D N A T I O N S N A T I O N S U N I E S

25 November 2008

Across the world, in countries rich and poor, women are being beaten, 
trafficked, raped and killed. These human rights violations do more than 
harm individuals; they undermine the development, peace and security of 
entire societies.

Women everywhere are at risk, but those living in societies experiencing 
armed conflict face even graver danger. As conflicts have become more 
complex, the pattern of sexual violence has evolved. Women are no longer 
in jeopardy only during periods of actual fighting; they are just as 
likely to be assaulted when there is calm, by armies, militias, rebels, 
criminal gangs or even police.

We do not know the true number of victims, but we do know that there are 
far more crimes than ever get reported, and far fewer lead to arrests. 
In too many places, rape still carries a stigma that forces women to 
avoid the courts that should exist to protect them. In some countries, 
victims are brutalized twice: first during the crime itself, and then by 
the justice system, where they may face trumped-up charges of “adultery” 
and the possibility of subsequent punishment.

Even when perpetrators are identified, they often go unpunished, 
especially if they are working in the police or military. At times, 
these crimes are particularly shocking. In the Democratic Republic of 
the Congo’s troubled North Kivu province, where some 350 rape cases are 
reported every month, victims are also sometimes subjected to genital 

Even more disturbing is the age of many victims. In certain violent 
areas of Haiti, fifty per cent of the young women have been raped or 
sexually assaulted. Of the handful of courageous victims who do seek 
justice, one in three is under thirteen. During one particularly violent 
month earlier this year in Liberia, the majority of reported rapes were 
committed against girls under the age of twelve, some of whom were not 
even five years old.

These examples come from countries where the United Nations has a 
peacekeeping presence. Thanks to the Security Council’s groundbreaking 
resolution 1820, adopted in June, the use of sexual violence as a tactic 
of warfare is now recognized as a matter of international peace and 
security. According to the resolution, peacekeeping missions, in 
particular those with mandates to protect civilians, must now include 
the protection of women and children from all forms of violence in their 
reporting on conflict situations. Resolution 1820 also requested 
stronger efforts to implement the vital zero-tolerance policy on sexual 
exploitation by UN personnel, and urged troop and police contributing 
countries to ensure full accountability in cases of misconduct.

The adoption of resolution 1820 is part of a growing global trend to 
address this scourge. This past February’s Vienna Forum to Fight Human 
Trafficking, and the continued leadership of the General Assembly, are 
additional signs of international momentum.

At the national level, more and more countries are meeting their 
obligations to protect women through comprehensive legislation, better 
services for victims, stronger partnerships and increased efforts to 
engage men and boys in addressing the problem.

This progress is welcome, but there are still gaps. We need to do more 
to enforce laws and counter impunity. We need to combat attitudes and 
behaviour that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed 
against women. And we need to increase funding for services for victims 
and survivors.

I am determined to strengthen these efforts, including through my global 
campaign “UNiTE to end violence against women”, which aims to raise 
public awareness, increase political will and resources and create a 
supportive environment to make good on existing policy commitments.

All of us – men and women, soldiers and peacekeepers, citizens and 
leaders – have a responsibility to help end violence against women. 
States must honour their commitments to prevent violence, bring 
perpetrators to justice and provide redress to victims. And each of us 
must speak out in our families, workplaces and communities, so that acts 
of violence against women cease.

The CWGL Staff
16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign
Center for Women's Global Leadership
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
160 Ryders Lane
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8555
Tel: 1-732-932-8782
Fax: 1-732-932-1180
Email: 16days at cwgl.rutgers.edu
Website: http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu 

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