“The world can no longer afford the cost of violence against women and girls, the social and economic costs and the costs in deep human pain and suffering,” Ms Michelle Bachelet UN under Secretary-General stated at the on-going 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women at New York.
Speaking on the theme “Time for action- Prevent and end violence against women and girls,” Ms Bachelet who is also the UN Women Executive Director, said in spite of progressive achievements, violence against women and girls remained widespread, and “impunity is still the norm rather than the exception. Now we must take on the challenge of implementation and accountability. Now is the time for action.
“It is time for action when up to 70 per cent of women in some countries face physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime. When intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States.
“When one in three girls in developing countries is likely to be married as a child bride; when some 140 million girls and women have suffered female genital mutilation; when millions of women and girls are trafficked in modern-day slavery; and when women’s bodies are a battleground, and rape is used as a tactic of war: it is time for action”.
Ms Bachelet said the 57th session provided a historic opportunity for members to exercise responsibility to prevent and end violence against girls and women.
She also noted that ending violence against women was the missing MDG that must be included in any new development framework. “We need a stand-alone goal on gender equality with gender mainstreamed across all other goals”.
The UN under Secretary-General suggested that in order to stop violence against women there was the need to strengthen the implementation of laws, policies and programmes for preventing and responding to violence against women and girls.
She said the rate of implementation must be accelerated and Governments should be held accountable for their commitments and obligations.
“We need to place more focus on preventing violence against women and girls. Violence can be prevented by addressing the root causes of gender inequality and discrimination and protecting the human rights of women and girls, including their reproductive rights and right to sexual and reproductive health.
Ms Bachelet said access to services was especially important in conflict and post-conflict settings, where women and girls were most vulnerable, whether to sexual violence, forced displacement, or targeted attacks on women human rights defenders, and services were most scarce.
She said building reliable data, analysis and research were also essential to inform the development of laws, policies and programmes on violence against women and girls.
She commended Africa Union taking the lead in the UN General Assembly with a resolution which gained unanimous support to ban the practice of female genital mutilation worldwide.
“It is now up to this Commission on the Status of Women to put its unanimous support behind an agreement that will strengthen international norms and standards and provide a plan of action to prevent and end all forms of violence against women and girls,” she said.
In his contribution, Mr Jan Eliassan, Deputy Secretary-General noted that systematically the world body was bringing gender equality to the centre of work for health, human rights, peace and sustainable development.
“I have been working with the United Nations for decades. When I look around meetings of top advisors today – in New York and in the world – I see more women at the table than ever before.
He added that women’s empowerment was picking up speed, but there was still the need to do more together in confronting the main theme of this year’s Commission session, since ending violence against women was now a matter of life and death.
“We must bring an end to this blatant manifestation of brutality, inequality and abuse of human rights”, he declared.