Today, we celebrate the last International Women's Day of the twentieth century. During this century, human rights have been recognized in law and guaranteed in international agreements. During this century, humanity has learnt that the enjoyment of human rights is essential to the well-being and development of the individual, the community and the world.
And yet, too many women are still denied these basic human rights. Too often, their liberty and dignity are compromised. And, too many of them are subjected to violence. Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.
We have made some advances. States have adopted international instruments prohibiting violence against women. Last September, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda defined rape as a crime of genocide. Governments have passed national laws banning all forms of violence against women. They have introduced more effective protection services; they have mounted campaigns to drive home the point that no act of violence against a woman can or should be tolerated.
But, much remains to be done. By bringing together the United Nations family, Member States and civil society, this conference inspires us to move forward in a spirit of partnership. Each of us must accept responsibility for stamping out gender-based violence. We must ensure that there are legal frameworks and institutions capable of dealing with it. We must ensure that violence is recognized and condemned, and that those who perpetrate it do not go unpunished.
Ultimately, it is up to all of us -- in our homes, our communities, our nations, our global community -- to create a world that is safe for women and girls, in which all women have full enjoyment of all human rights.
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