Helen Clark: Statement for International Women's Day
On this International Women’s Day, we imagine a world free of violence against women and girls, a world in which women and girls do not fear being attacked in their homes or communities, and one where would-be perpetrators know they will be held accountable for their crimes.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”
Indeed, it is now time for increased action to end this abuse. In 1995, at the Fourth World Conference for Women, governments identified violence against women as a violation of human rights and an “obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace.”
But the persistent prevalence of violence against women – experienced by up to seven in ten women at some point in their lifetime – shows that promises to end violence against women have not been met.
Today is a good day to recognize and speak out against the scourge of violence against women. But we must do more than that.
Preventing and eliminating violence against women requires leadership and political will backed by action and resources.
It requires the adoption and enforcement of national laws addressing and punishing all forms of violence against women and girls. There is much to be done in this regard; in more than 35 countries, marital rape is not considered a criminal offense. More than 630 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
It requires integrated approaches that bring together governments, civil society organizations, law enforcement and judicial systems, to ensure that victims have access to legal services, justice systems and support and that perpetrators are punished.
As part of our core commitment to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, UNDP is committed to helping countries in their efforts to respond to and prevent violence against women.
At least a third of UNDP Country Offices are engaged in initiatives for preventing and responding to gender-based violence. This includes in crisis countries, where rape and sexual assaults are often used in violent conflicts as a “tool of war” to humiliate and shame women and men.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, UNDP’s Access to Justice Programme has helped strengthen the capacities of police, judicial investigators and prosecutors to work with victims of sexual and gender-based violence and supported mobile courts to bring justice services closer to communities.
When gender based violence does happen, survivors must be provided with comprehensive and coordinated medical, psycho-social and legal service delivery.
Efforts must be accelerated to prevent gender based violence from occurring in the first place. We are also working to engage men and boys in efforts to prevent violence against women, a key element of the UN Secretary General’s UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women Campaign.
This fight is not just an important end in itself. Gender based violence is one of the means by which inequalities between men and women are perpetuated throughout the world. As such, it is essential to address if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and accelerate development progress more broadly. The importance of this issue was emphasized in a recent global consultation on inequalities that is part of a comprehensive and inclusive outreach process, being led by the UN system, on what the new global development agenda should look like post-2015.
Let’s mark International Women’s Day this year not only by recognizing the devastating impact of violence against women, but by renewing our collective efforts to stop it once and for all.