Ending violence against women

Ban Ki-moon: "Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act."

Violence against women occurs throughout the world. Despite great strides made by the international women’s rights movement over many years, women and girls around the world are still married as children or trafficked into forced labor and sex slavery. They are refused access to education and political participation, and some are trapped in conflicts where rape is perpetrated as a weapon of war. Around the world, deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are needlessly high, and women are prevented from making deeply personal choices in their private lives. Not to mention sexual violence against women and girls, the horrible massive rape and sexual assaults that has occurred in India, Germany and Brazil. In this blog I will address the UNiTE campaign, goals and the most prominent global norms and standards concerning the ending of violence against women.

UNiTE campaign
The United Nations 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” (General Assembly Resolution 48/104 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993).
Violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights. Its impact ranges from immediate to long-term multiple physical, sexual and mental consequences for women and girls, including death. It negatively affects women’s general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society. Violence not only has negative consequences for women but also their families, the community and the country at large. It has tremendous costs, from greater health care and legal expenses and losses in productivity, impacting national budgets and overall development.
To address the problem, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has identified five goals which his UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign aims to achieve in all countries.

  • Adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls;UNite violence against women
  • Adopt and implement multi-sectoral national action plans;
  • Strengthen data collection on the prevalence of violence against women and girls;
  • Increase public awareness and social mobilization;
  • Address sexual violence in conflict.

Global Norms and Standards: Ending Violence against Women
A number of internationally agreed norms and standards relate to ending violence against women. The most prominent conventions and standards are the following:

  • The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) does not explicitly mention violence against women and girls, but General Recommendations 12 and 19 clarify that the Convention includes violence against women and makes detailed recommendations to States parties.
  • The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights recognized violence against women as a human rights violation and called for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on violence against women in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. It contributed to the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.
  • The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women became the first international instrument explicitly addressing violence against women, providing a framework for national and international action. It 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.
  • The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action identifies specific actions for Governments to take to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. Ending violence is one of 12 areas for priority action. The platform includes an expansive definition of forms of violence.
  • In 2006 the Secretary-General’s In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women was released, the first comprehensive report on the issue.
  • The UN Human Rights Council adopts annual resolutions on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, the most recent being in 2012.
  • In 2013, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) adopted, by consensus, Agreed Conclusions on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. This represents a historic outcome as there had been no agreed conclusions on this issue when it was last considered by CSW in 2003.
  • The 2011 Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence became the second legally binding regional instrument on violence against women and girls. In addition to Council of Europe Member States, it can be ratified by the European Union and is open for accession by any State in the world. The Istanbul Convention reflects a comprehensive approach covering the areas of prevention, protection (including provision of support services for survivors), prosecution, and coordinated policies. In addition to its focus on survivors’ rights and protection, it also encourages action over the longer term through prevention measures, and requires the establishment of specialized institutions, partnerships, substantial budget allocations and data collection to ensure effective implementation. As of May 2016, more than three-quarters (42 of 47) of the countries that are Council of Europe members have signed the Convention and 22 of them have also ratified it: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

In order to prevent and combat violence against women, this issue should be prioritized at all levels. Unfortunately it has not yet received the priority required to enable significant change. Violence against womenTherefore UNITE is partnering with governments, civil society, UN agencies, women’s organizations, the private sector, and the media, to advocate for ending violence, increase awareness of the causes and consequences of violence and build capacity of partners to prevent and respond to violence. Promotion the need for changing norms and behaviour of men and boys, and advocate for gender equality and women’s rights is crucial. Policy guidance helps to step up investments in prevention—the most cost-effective, long-term means to stop violence. But the most effective way to fight violence against women is a clear demonstration of political commitment by States, backed by action and resources.

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