Tackling violence against women and girls: an urgent priority | Helen Clark

25 Nov 2013

This day reminds us that violence against women continues to be destructive and pervasive, and kills as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer.

From Chile, where partner violence is estimated to drain as much as 2% of the country's GDP, to the United States, where the cost of domestic violence is estimated to exceed $12.6 billion per year, violence against women imposes highs cost on both its victims and society.

Women who are able to live in a safe and secure environment can participate effectively in the economy and society. This helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities, and is beneficial for children’s nutrition, health, and school attendance.

Improving women's access to the justice system and to legal aid is vital. In countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are helping to strengthen the justice sector so that the many cases of rape and violence committed by combatants can be addressed. Impunity for perpetrators must end.

In addressing sexual and gender-based violence, it is important to know more about the entrenched attitudes and values which perpetrate it. A recent joint report surveyed 10,000 men in Asia and the Pacific. It found that 80% of men who admitted to committing rape in rural Bangladesh and China cited a sense of sexual entitlement as their motivation. The vast majority of them never faced any legal consequences.

Governments should also assume a stronger role in designing and implementing policies to protect women. Thailand has developed a set of indicators to monitor the development and effects of a new law to protect victims of domestic violence. Understanding these factors will be invaluable in preventing future violence.

Having more women parliamentarians committed to addressing the issues helps too. In Togo, one of many countries where we work to boost the political participation of women, the Women Parliamentarians Caucus is campaigning for a new law to improve the protection of women and children from violence.
There is no single way of addressing the complex, interwoven causes and symptoms of violence against women.

As violence breeds more violence, children who experience or are exposed to violence at home are much more likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence as adults. Breaking that cycle must be a top priority for action by governments and their partners, so that women the world over can have their rights to safety and security upheld.

Talk to us: What do you think is the best way to tackle violence against women and girls?

Read the full blog in The Huffington Post

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