8 March 2007

Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls

"Violence against women has yet to receive the priority attention and resources needed at all levels to tackle it with the seriousness and visibility necessary."

Secretary-General’s in-depth study on
violence against women (2006)

While manifestations of violence against women and girls vary across social, economic, cultural and historical contexts, it is clear that violence against women and girls remains a devastating reality in all parts of the world. Existing research, data and testimonials from women and girls world-wide provide chilling evidence. It is a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality, development and peace.

Such violence is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by the State and its agents or by family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in times of conflict.

International, regional and national legal and policy frameworks have been established, covering many different forms of violence in public as well as in private settings. However, progress in the development of such legal norms, standards and policies has not been accompanied by comparable progress in their implementation. It remains insufficient and inconsistent in all parts of the world.

States have an obligation to protect women and girls from violence, to hold perpetrators accountable and to provide justice and remedies to victims. The failure to meet these obligations is unacceptable. When the State fails to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable and society explicitly or tacitly condones such violence, impunity not only encourages further abuses but also gives the message that male violence against women is acceptable and normal. The result is the denial of justice to the individual victims/survivors, as well as the reinforcement of the prevailing gender inequality.

Eliminating violence against women remains one of the most serious and urgent challenges of our time. Every one has a responsibility to act when confronted with violence. Each one of us has a duty to support and sustain a political and social environment where violence against women and girls is not tolerated; where friends, family members, neighbors, men and women, intervene to prevent perpetrators to go unpunished.

A panel discussion on this topic will mark the United Nations official observance of International Women's Day on 8 March 2007. The panel will examine good practices and examples of specific solutions to eliminate violence and end impunity from the global to the local levels.  The panel discussion will illustrate various dimensions of the problem from perspectives of parliamentarians, law enforcement officials, civil society and the media.