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A brief overview of the United Nations and violence against women

Violence against women persists worldwide, occurring in every region, country and culture and cutting across income, class, race and ethnicity. It impedes development and prevents women and girls from enjoying their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (A/RES/48/104). The Declaration defines violence against women as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’.

Since 1993, violence against women has been addressed in the work of the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its functional commissions and regional commissions, and the Human Rights Council (and its predecessor the Commission on Human Rights), including its special procedures such as the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. The human rights treaty bodies, in particular, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, also regularly deal with violence against women. 
Violence against women has been addressed in key documents on gender equality, including the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled: “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace in the twenty-first century”.

Violence against women is the subject of a comprehensive international legal framework, including general recommendations no. 12 and 19 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and articles 7(1)(g) and 8(2)(b)(xxii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The international legal framework is complemented by various legal instruments adopted at the regional level.

In 2006, the work of the United Nations to address all forms and manifestations of violence against women gained new momentum with the launching, on 9 October 2006, of the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women and the adoption by the General Assembly, on 19 December 2006, of an action-oriented resolution on the “Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women”: A/RES/61/143 [ Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

In February 2008, the Secretary-General launched his UNiTE to end violence against women campaign which will continue until 2015 to coincide with the target date for the Millennium Development Goals. The campaign will focus on three key areas: global advocacy; strengthened efforts and partnerships at the national, regional and international levels; and United Nations leadership by example. As part of the campaign, the Secretary-General is personally approaching world leaders to spur action through national campaigns.