Violence against women is not acceptable and it is preventable | Suki Beavers & Benjamin Kumpf

16 Dec 2013

Antonio Banderas, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, appeals to end violence against women

Globally, three out of ten women report that they have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse by an intimate partner at some point during their lifetime. The toll of violence on  women's health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined, creates significant costs for societies and hinders development.

Up to now, our efforts have largely focused on ending impunity for perpetrators and providing comprehensive services  for victims/survivors.  These are critical and must be accelerated.

But they must also be accompanied by additional efforts to prevent gender-based violence before it happens. In order to frame effective prevention policies, programmes and advocacy, we need to better understand the factors associated with some men’s use of violence.

As a contribution, we are investing in context specific research such as the multi-country study on the use of violence by men we commissioned with UN Women, UN Population Fund and UN Volunteers. The research found out that, out of the 10,000 men surveyed, nearly half reported using physical and/or sexual violence against a female partner. For example eighty per cent of men who admitted to committing rape in two of the study countries cited a sense of sexual entitlement as their motivation. Overall, men who view women as inferior are more likely to be violent.  

Clearly, it is essential to engage men, adolescents and boys. Preventing gender-based violence requires changing dominant attitudes and values about women and men. In the past year, men in India and Egypt joined women and girls to protest violent crimes against women. Men from around the globe called on their peers to take action and join the White Ribbon and Ring the Bell campaigns. We need even more male role models to speak up and challenge harmful constructions of masculinity and we need to increase our support for independent women’s movements that lead the efforts to end gender-based violence.

A recent study by Oxfam identified vibrant women’s movements as the single most powerful factor in triggering positive changes in government responses to gender-based violence. UNDP and others need to increase partnerships with women’s groups, especially where they are experiencing backlash and financial constraints.

These efforts are all important symbolically, politically and practically.  Still more can and must be done. The time has come for a sea change.

Talk to us: How can men contribute to the empowerment of women?

UNDP Around the world