8 March 2007

Message of the President of the General Assembly

Violence against women and girls is widespread in all societies. The United Nations Charter affirms faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women. The right to live without fear of violence is a basic human right for all people, including women and girls. The right to seek equal justice, without discrimination, is a basic human right. We have a moral and political duty to uphold these rights.

The comprehensive study on violence against women issued during the 61st Session of the General Assembly includes strong recommendations that can end the impunity of violence committed against women. We have made huge advances in setting global standards to prevent, punish and eradicate these heinous crimes. Our efforts have gone far to reverse what used to be the traditional lack of response. But progress in ending violence and impunity remains insufficient and inconsistent in all parts of the world. States have binding obligations and can be held accountable. The failure to comply with international standards or to exercise due diligence is a violation of the human rights of women.

Sates cannot abdicate their international obligations to punish perpetrators and prevent violence against, and the exploitation of, women and girls. Neither can they hide behind cultural and religious reservations to international treaties condemning this violence. We must demonstrate by our actions that we intend to keep our promises.

We also need to recognize that ending violence against women and girls is not only the responsibility of the State. It also requires a change of mindset. It requires us to demonstrate, once and for all, that there are no grounds for tolerance and no tolerable excuses. If we are going to stop violence against women and girls – we must begin by speaking out. We must ensure that women and girls enjoy their basic human rights without discrimination. Criminal impunity must end. Every crime must be prosecuted.

When the Charter was being signed, Eleanor Roosevelt said that universal human rights begin in small places, close to home. Most violence against women and girls happens at home - not only physical, but sexual and psychological violence too. To change attitudes, to prevent and prosecute violence against women and girls we need to begin in the home.