New York

28 November 2012

Secretary-General's remarks at official commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Every year at the United Nations, officials come together to show their strong support for ending violence against women.

I welcome these strong, public denunciations of this egregious violation of women and girls’ human rights.

But this year, one leader decided to express his outrage not only through a speech but in a different way. President Evo Morales of Bolivia staged a football match to raise awareness of the problem.

I am proud to say that Madame Bachelet was also there. She wore a jersey and kicked the ball around. But more than that, she scored by showcasing our efforts to prevent and end violence.

She said, “We are sending a clear message to the world that violence is unacceptable … that it can be prevented … it can be eradicated … and we will be working very strongly on this.”

You can see why Ms. Bachelet is the captain of my team!

President Morales of Bolivia is one of many leaders taking action. My UNiTE campaign has built active partnerships with national governments and leaders. The Presidents of Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mozambique, and the Prime Minister of Thailand, are among those who are offering strong support. We are also developing national initiatives from Uruguay to Seychelles, from Cambodia to Namibia to the Caribbean and beyond.

We are at work around the world because violence against women is one of the world’s most pervasive human rights violations.

This threat is rooted in discrimination, impunity and complacency. Violence stems from social attitudes that belittle women and girls. It is tolerated through indifference, ignorance and fear of speaking out. And it thrives where families and communities pressure women to suffer in silence.

That is why it is so critical to tackle structural patterns of discrimination and to redouble our efforts to empower women.

Many international standards, treaties, declarations and resolutions recognize women’s rights as human rights and specifically condemn violence against women. These instruments apply at all times – in war and peace, in poverty and wealth, in sickness and health, and throughout the life cycle. Under all conditions, women have a right to lives of dignity and safety.

Today more than ever we must hold on to the solid human rights framework that has been built over decades.

But each act of violence against women breaks the promise embodied in that framework.

Each and every State has an obligation to develop or improve the relevant laws, policies and plans, bring perpetrators to justice and provide remedies to women who have been subjected to violence.

Each and every organization, community and individual has a responsibility to speak out against customs or beliefs that accept or condone acts of violence against women.

I applaud the General Assembly’s Third Committee for its action this week in passing its first-ever resolution on eliminating the harmful practice of female genital mutilation.

I look forward to the Assembly’s adoption of this resolution, which would mark a major step forward in protecting women and girls and ending impunity for this practice.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign is advocating for results that ensure women and girls lead safer, happier lives.

The campaign includes a Network of Men Leaders to address violence against women because I strongly believe we need male leadership to tackle this problem.  We need men to change their mentality.

But I first applaud the women themselves – including many of you in this room – who have brought us so far in this struggle.

I look forward to the video today showing voices of survivors.

One of those women, who now works with victims of violence, said: “I urge them to not be silent, to be brave and to fight for their dreams. [I tell them] that they can go forward, like I will.”

Today, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us strengthen our resolve to end violence against women and girls, and to help realize their human rights.

Thank you very much.