The UN recently published two fact sheets on violence against women. The first fact sheet, Violence Against Women, notes that violence against women is increasing. A World Health Organization (WHO) survey revealed that in 2005 over 50 percent of women in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru and Tanzania had been subject to domestic violence. These cases are rarely prosecuted, suggesting a denial of equality before the law.
The fact sheet cites rape as a key problem during recent world conflicts, used as a weapon against the larger community. And, a UNFPA study demonstrated that 1 in 5 women worldwide had been raped or the victim of attempted rape. Crimes of sexual violence, however, are the least likely to be prosecuted.
The second fact sheet, Impunity and the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, considers the problems of prosecuting sexual violence, manifested during war. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court considers “[r]ape, sexual slavery, enforced sterilization, or any other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity” as war crimes, and they are considered crimes against humanity when part of a larger attack on a population.
Security Council ad-hoc tribunals have been working to change the perception of rape, creating awareness that rape can constitute torture. Nevertheless, reports suggest that only 5% of rape prosecutions lead to conviction. The fact sheet contends that it is in a state’s best interest to prosecute crimes against women and girls, and international mechanisms are available when states are unwilling to prosecute.
Compiled from: Fact Sheet 1: Violence Against Women, United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Fact Sheet 2: Impunity and the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 6 March 2007