I’m pleased to see so much orange in the room today. This year’s theme of Orange Your Neighbourhood promises grassroots action to raise awareness in local communities.
In our own neighbourhood, the UN Secretariat building and the Empire State Building were lit orange last night, and I am showing my personal support by wearing this orange tie.
Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that destroys lives, fractures communities and holds back development.
It is not confined to any region, political system, culture or social class. It is present at every level of every society in the world. It happens in peacetime and becomes worse during conflict.
We learn of horrific crimes of violence against women and girls on a daily basis.
This year alone, we have seen the kidnapping of more than 200 girls in Nigeria; the Indian schoolgirls who were raped, killed and hung from a tree; graphic testimony from Iraqi women of rape and sexual slavery during war; the continued bullying of women on the internet. An EU-wide survey found sexual violence is still a reality for many women, despite years of laws, policies and programmes to prevent it.
This is outrageous, and it must stop.
But violence against women and girls does not emerge from nowhere.
It is simply the most extreme example of the political, financial, social and economic oppression of women and girls worldwide.
Ending this violence is central to our efforts to empower women and girls, and to build stronger, fairer, more inclusive and stable societies.
At the international level, the passing of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in 2000 was a landmark in recognizing the crucial role of women in preventing war and building peace. Next year, the Security Council will review the implementation of resolution 1325 and related resolutions. We must use this moment of reflection to increase actions to prevent and ensure accountability for all forms of violence experienced by women and girls as a result of conflict.
My Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, is also bringing unprecedented attention and momentum to this issue.
At the national level, governments, workplaces, universities and sports authorities are stepping up much-needed action to end sexual violence. I commend the more than 80 per cent of governments that have passed laws on domestic violence and sexual harassment. But implementation is slow and uneven. In some countries, fragile gains are threatened by extremism and a backlash against women’s rights.
It is up to everyone to play their part; women’s rights are not only women’s business. Men and boys are finally taking their place as partners in this battle. The HeForShe campaign I launched two months ago brings together one half of humanity in support of the other, for the benefit of all.
It is only by changing the everyday experience of women and girls that we can challenge discrimination and impunity, and put a stop to practices and customs that encourage, ignore or tolerate violence against them.
Together, we must end this global disgrace.