Violence Against Women Will Continue Unless Its Roots in Gender Discrimination and Inequality Are Seriously Addressed
Monday, November 1, 2004 3:00 PM

For immediate release
29 October 2004

Contact: Leigh Pasqual +1 212-906-5463


Real solution lies in dealing head on with root causes, which include women's poor economic, social and political status, and unequal access to justice, says UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer

United Nations, New York - Addressing a United Nations Security Council Open Debate on "Women, Peace and Security," Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), emphasized that any real solutions to eliminating violence against women must derive from a concerted attack on its origins -- deeply rooted, historical patterns of discrimination against women and systemic gender inequalities that are pervasive both in peacetime as well as during conflict.

"The international community is now fully aware that rape and other forms of violence against women are systematically deployed, with the cruelest effect, as a weapon of war," she said. "However, gender-based violence during conflict is but part of the continuum of violence that runs through women's lives, from times of peace to times of war. It only deepens with war. Discrimination and gender inequality are seeds that, during wartime, become a bitter fruit that destroys the fabric of communities and the lives of women and their families."

Ms Heyzer referred to the critical opportunity that post-conflict reconstruction presents for establishing justice and the rule of law for women -- including constitutions with strong and clear guarantees of gender equality, legal reforms that ensure equality in marriage and family relations, in property ownership and in access to secure jobs and livelihoods. Ending violence against women requires all of these things, she stressed, as well as on support for women's participation in elections as voters and candidates, and on their equal representation in all facets of government. Gender justice and the rule of law rely upon "judicial processes that fully ensure and protect women's entitlements on a basis of equality with men."

Gender justice, she explained, can serve to remove discrimination against women by upholding and enforcing women's rights, thereby directly addressing the origins of violence. To make gender justice an integral element of the rule of law, it is imperative that gender perspectives be integrated into every dimension of justice, and that women participate in shaping justice frameworks and rule of law institutions.

Ms Heyzer pointed to the effective measures which already exist in many post-conflict countries, such as normative standards, legal frameworks and mechanisms for enforcing rights and redressing violations. "The challenge now," she said, "is to ensure the implementation and replication of the good laws that many countries have already developed. The international community must work closely with and provide the necessary support to national stakeholders."

"As we work towards ending the impunity for gender crimes that prevails in post-conflict societies, it is imperative to ensure that those responsible for crimes against women are not rewarded with state power and high profile jobs as a result of negotiated peace agreements. Justice and accountability are crucial to any peace, and healing, process."

She described three issues that were highlighted in particular at a recent conference on Gender Justice in Post-Conflict Situations, convened by UNIFEM and the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC):

  • The participation of women, and the incorporation of gender dimensions must be increased in all stages of the conceptualization, planning and implementation of UN peace operations;
  • UN peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel have a special obligation not to violate the trust placed in them by women and girls. Because serious criminal sexual misconduct has been identified with UN personnel as well as other international personnel, gender justice must extend to these international guardians as well;
  • Gender justice must be prioritized within the UN system, including peace operations, and institutional arrangements must be strengthened to accelerate progress.

"It has taken more than two decades for women's voices to be seriously heard, a decade to establish the normative and legal frameworks for gender justice in order to remove violence against women and empower them economically and politically. Women from war-torn societies around the world are now waiting for us to fully address the recommendations contained in Security Council resolution 1325 in ways that make a real difference in their everyday lives. We cannot allow another decade to pass before this happens."

To read the full text of the speech, visit:

For more information on gender justice and on UNIFEM's work in conflict-affected areas, visit