Violence against women is widespread in every corner of the globe: from the bedroom to the battlefield. Women and girls suffer many forms of violence, including genital mutilation, rape, beatings by their partners, families or killings in the name of honour. It is shocking that in women’s lifetime, up to 76 per cent are subject to physical and/or sexual violence within intimate relationships.
Discrimination in law, social practice and attitude, impunity and apathy are the underlying causes of violence against women and girls. In many countries, laws, policies and practices discriminate against women and girls, denying them equality with men, politically, economically and socially. Social roles reinforce the power of men over women’s lives and bodies, while traditions and customs can subjugate women and leave them vulnerable to violence.
Leadership of Corporate Sector
This year’s commemoration of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November will take place under the umbrella of the Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women and will focus on: “The Leadership of the Corporate Sector in Empowering Women and Ending Violence against Women and Girls.”
In many cases, the private sector has shown to be effective in preventing violence against women through raising awareness, generally at the workplace and in the community. These private sector initiatives aim to eliminate violence against women by adopting measures such as employment-based codes of conduct and zero tolerance policies, distributing awareness-raising materials to employees, clients, and customers, and providing technical assistance to other organizations.
The private sector has also played a key role by contributing financially to foundations and organizations focusing on initiatives to end violence against women and girls. Examples of this commitment include Avon Products Inc., which in 2008, announced a public-private partnership with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), part of UN Women, and committed $1 million USD to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. In 2009, Avon committed an additional $250,000 USD to the Trust Fund.
The major challenge worldwide is to translate commitments into practice. Innovative and groundbreaking campaigns, as well as policy and practice changing initiatives, are some of the areas in which the corporate sector can focus their efforts to raise awareness among employees and customers and change their attitudes.
Since the UNiTE campaign was launched in February 2008, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has made urgent calls on governments, civil society, the media, the private sector and the entire United Nations system to join forces in addressing this global issue. This year’s commemoration will acknowledge the continuing corporate leadership in addressing this issue, and it will also provide an important opportunity for sharing experiences and discussing strategies for enhancing the leadership role in addressing violence against women and girls.
UN trust fund
In October this year, the United Nations Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) announced US$10 million in grants to 13 initiatives in 18 countries. The UN Trust Fund is the only multilateral grant-making mechanism exclusively devoted to supporting local and national efforts to end violence against women and girls. Established in 1996, the Fund is managed by UNIFEM.
“Violence against women destroys families, fractures communities and hampers progress on development goals,” said Inés Alberdi, Executive Director, UNIFEM. “But it is a problem with a solution. Only by intensifying support and increasing investment to national and local efforts can we ensure women and girls are safe from violence and can lead healthy, productive lives,” she added.
The Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women includes a specific target of raising US$100 million annually for the UN Trust Fund by 2015.
Tasks of UN Committee
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women regularly reviews the status and progress of each of the 186 countries that have accepted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was adopted in 1979.
“Significant progress has been achieved with respect to women’s human rights but we know that much more needs to be done throughout the whole world,” said Zou Xiaoqiau, the vice chair of the 23-member Committee during the recent meeting in October.
Ms. Zou expressed alarm over the fact that violence against women is prevalent in many parts of the world, pointing out that the scourge is on the rise with one in three women around the world being beaten, coerced into sex or abused. Characterizing the statistics as “frightening,” she noted that many rapes go unreported due to stigma and trauma.
Asked why sexual violence against women was on the rise, she cited several different reasons, saying that in some countries, stereotypes were deeply rooted and women were considered objects. Incidents of sexual violence against women, especially in situations of armed conflict, were often politically charged. The Committee had therefore started discussing, in cooperation with UNIFEM, general recommendations for women in such situations.
She also welcomed the creation of UN Women, the first UN super-agency on female empowerment, headed by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
Michelle Bachelet’s address to the 3rd Committee
“Although Member States set the goal of universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) for 2000, ten years later, it still has not been reached. We all agree that much more needs to be done to close the gaps between women’s rights in the law, and their enjoyment in practice,” Ms. Bachelet told the Third Committee in her first address as Head of UN Women.
“One area that has clearly moved to the centre of global and local attention is ending violence against women,” she added, noting that two reports on the subject were put before the Third Committee, during the 65th session of the General Assembly. The first focused on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and the second addressed trafficking in women and girls
“These are indicative of the scope and range of actions taken by Member States and other stakeholders…,” Ms. Bachelet recognized, “Yet, notwithstanding this attention, violence against women continues in all parts of the world, and trafficking in women persists. The reports highlight key actions and strategies that should be in place and effectively enforced. …I pledge UN Women’s enhanced support at national level to strengthen implementation of your recommendations,” she added.
History of International Day
In October 1999, at a meeting of the Third Committee, the representative of the Dominican Republic, on behalf of 74 Member States, introduced a draft resolution calling for the designation of 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The draft expressed alarm that endemic violence against women was impeding women’s opportunities to achieve legal, social, political and economic equality in society.
On 17 December 1999, the General Assembly designated 25 November as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in commemoration of the Mirabal sisters as it marked the day when these political activists from the Dominican Republic were assassinated in 1960, during the Trujillo dictatorship. This day also marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence.
For more information: http://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/