Global Campaign Launched to End Violence Against Women
Wednesday, March 5, 2008 3:10 PM

Launching a multi-year campaign to end violence against women, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an urgent call this morning to world leaders, Member States, lawmakers, United Nations entities, civil society, the private sector, the media and individuals to work together to end such violence.

Speaking during the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women’s fifty-second session, he said: “Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable and never tolerable.”  Statistics made it clear that it was “an issue that cannot wait”.  At least one in every three women was likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, and the practice of prenatal sex selection meant that countless others were denied the right even to exist.

No country, culture or woman was immune, he said.  Horrific crimes -- including rape, sexual violence and the abduction and sexual enslavement of women and children during times of armed conflict -- went unpunished, and perpetrators walked free.  What’s more, gender inequality thwarted progress towards achieving the millennium targets.

“This is a campaign for them.  It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future.  It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind,” he said, stressing that the global campaign would continue until 2015, to coincide with the target date for the Millennium Development Goals.

The Secretary-General urged all States to review and, when necessary, revise or create applicable laws to ensure that violence against women was always criminalized.  In December, the General Assembly had adopted a historic resolution on rape and sexual violence.  Now it was time for the Security Council to create a mechanism to monitor violence against women and girls, under the framework of its landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  He pledged to galvanize the United Nations system to provide stronger, more effective support to all stakeholders and said he would form a global network of male leaders to help him mobilize men in Government, the arts and sports, business and the religious sphere, as well as work with women’s groups worldwide.

Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said his Department would do its part, noting that the recently concluded forty-sixth session of the Commission for Social Development had addressed the issue of gender-based violence in employment.  He urged the Women’s Commission to establish a set of indicators, supported by the United Nations Statistical Division, as there were few reliable statistics on women’s discrimination.  Further, the Commission’s current session, which was considering the impact of climate change on women as an “emerging issue”, should seek ways to boost women’s representation and input in global efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Similarly, Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, said women accounted for most of the poorest people in disaster-prone areas and always faced the greatest obstacles to rebuilding their lives after disaster struck.  She called on the Commission to include human security in its agenda, in order to address climate change’s serious threat to humanity and hold a meaningful discussion on its impact on women, men and children.  She said the 2002 Monterrey Consensus had recognized gender equality, women’s empowerment and poverty eradication as development goals, but it provided little in the way of concrete action plans or specific policy recommendations.  More than 120 countries had national gender plans, but they were rarely integrated into national development strategies or funded adequately for effective implementation.  Sufficient, predictable and sustainable resources to reduce and eliminate gender bias across sectors were crucial.

Léo Mérorès ( Haiti), President of the Economic and Social Council, said violence against women was inconsistent with the millennium targets and must be eliminated.  It was part of a systematic discrimination against women, a heinous violation of women’s human rights and a major obstacle to development.  The statistics were alarming: up to 1 billion women had experienced at least one form of violence and up to 70 per cent of women murder victims were killed by their male partners.  Since the General Assembly had adopted its first resolution on domestic violence against women, the Economic and Social Council had been following work on the issue through its annual report to the Commission and its reporting to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  But, much more was needed, he said, adding that he intended to use the reformed Council to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Taina Bien Aime, of the international human rights organization Equality Now, speaking on behalf of women’s organizations championing an end to violence against women, said the Secretary-General, Governments and grass-roots organizations must join forces to end the unspeakable acts of violence committed against women.  Those who committed such vile acts in the name of religion or “cultural practice”, who exploited women in the sex trade and used rape as weapon of war must be held accountable under the law.  The overall goal should be to envision a world of equality for all, “rendering violence against women unacceptable and extinct”.

Echoing those sentiments, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), speaking on behalf of the wider United Nations system, said: “Demanding the end of violence against women is not about demanding exceptional treatment; it is simply about letting women live in dignity.”  Families, communities and nations could be enriched by respecting women’s rights and by empowering them.  “It is clear that we cannot make poverty history unless we make violence against women history,” she said, also stressing that such violence thwarted efforts to achieve international health goals as it increased the spread of HIV, as well as maternal and child mortality.

The Commission also began its general discussion for its current session today, hearing from some 10 delegations.  Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, Minister of Labour, Public Administration and Empowerment of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that gender-responsive budgeting was a particularly important mechanism in the planning and evaluation of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  But, some developing countries, facing huge obstacles such as debt burdens and trade imbalances, were unable to allocate sufficient resources to programmes dedicated to women’s empowerment.

Romana Tomc, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said legal obligations and political commitments must be translated into human and financial resource allocation for achieving gender equality and women’s full enjoyment of human rights and freedoms.  National budgets must be used in a gender-sensitive manner, and that required allocating adequate funds to empower women and overcome gender inequalities and stereotypes, as well as gender-sensitive planning, executing and monitoring of general budgets.  That view was manifested in the European Union’s multi-year programme and priorities on gender equality, which included action to encourage gender budgeting.

Flavia García, Secretary of State for Women of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that, while the United Nations had been targeting women’s rights and gender equality since the first World Conference on Women in 1975, Member States were struggling to achieve equal opportunities for women in such areas as nutrition, education, employment and democracy.  Women were still battling deep–rooted social and cultural attitudes and standards, and some actors were indifferent to, or sceptical of, the gains that had been made.  She proposed stronger coordination among United Nations agencies, civil society and States to achieve the goals set by the Beijing Platform for Action.

At the outset of the meeting, Chairperson Olivier Belle ( Belgium) highlighted several outstanding matters pertaining to the Commission’s work.  He informed delegations that, on 9 March, at the first meeting of the fifty-second session, the Commission had elected a Bureau for two terms.  At that time, it had deferred the election of one Vice-Chair and the Rapporteur.  To that end, the African Group had subsequently endorsed Cécile Mballa Eyenga ( Cameroon) to serve as Vice-Chair and Rapporteur.  Ms. Eyenga was then elected by acclamation and will join the other Vice-Chairs elected in March: Enna Park ( Republic of Korea); Ara Margarian ( Armenia); and Julio Peralta ( Paraguay).

The Chair said that, also last March, the Commission had elected Ivana Kozer ( Croatia) and Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez ( El Salvador) to serve on the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women of the fifty-second session.  Today, the Commission filled out the membership of that five-person body with the election by acclamation of Charif Cherkaoui ( Morocco), Askar Zhumanayev ( Kazakhstan) and Emil Breki Hreggviosson ( Iceland).

The Commission also approved its provisional agenda and draft organization of work for the current session (document E/CN.6/2008/1).

In the afternoon, the Commission held two round tables on “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”.  One was moderated by Commission Chairperson Belle, and featured a presentation on Morocco’s experience in gender-responsive budgeting by Mohamed Chafiki, Director of Study and Forecast, Finance Ministry of Morocco.  The second was moderated by Iya Tidjani ( Cameroon) and featured a presentation by Dioniso Pereze Jacome Friscione, Vice-Minister of Expenditures of the Ministry of Finance of Mexico.

Also participating in the general discussion this morning were the women and social affairs ministers of Iceland, Sweden, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Argentina (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), Togo and Mexico.

Invited guests participating in the first round table were Letty Chiwara, Programme Specialist for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); Manuel Montes, Chief of Policy Analysis and Development, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director of EFD-Global Consulting Network and representative of Baha’i International; Gemma Adaba, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) representative of the United Nations; and Fulya Vekiloglu, representative of the Non-Governmental Organization Committee on UNICEF’s Working Group on Girls.

Invited guests participating the second round able were Sonia Montano, Chief of the Women and Development Unit of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Evy Messell, Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality of the International Labour Organization (ILO); Ireen Dubel, Programme Manager for Gender, Women and Development of the Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking (HIVOS); Peggy Antrobus, representative of Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era (DAWN); and Mama Koite Doumbia, Chairperson of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 26 February, to hold a panel discussion on “key policy initiatives on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”.

Published in: "Violence Against Women 'Never Acceptable, Never Excusable, Never Tolerable,' Says Secretary General as Global Campaign Launched at Women's Commission," Economic and Social Council Woman/1664, 25 February 2008.