UNITED NATIONS: Violence against women remains the most widespread and pervasive human rights violation in the world, says a UN report released on Friday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In his message on this special day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reminded the international community “this discrimination, violence and abuse targeting half of humanity comes at a steep cost, every 11 minutes, a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner or family member.”

The day kicks off 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, under the theme “Unite! Activism to end violence against women and girls”. The events that will be held across the globe would emphasise the findings of the latest UN report on women.

According to this report, over one in three women experience gender-based violence during their lifetime. In 2021, nearly one in five women, aged 20-24, were married before turning 18. And less than 40 per cent women who experience violence seek help of any sort.

Every 11 minutes, a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner or family member, says Antonio Guterres

“Behind every feminine statistic is the story of an individual woman or girl who has been failed,” said Sima Bshous, executive director for UN Women, which is the United Nations entity for gender equality and empowerment.

“These deaths are preventable — the tools and the knowledge to do so already exists. Now we need the concerted action across society that will fulfill women’s and girls’ right to feel and to be safe, at home, on the streets and everywhere,” she added.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration will soon release an action-oriented update to the priorities for ending gender-based violence around the world.

The new strategy, named as Safe from the Start Re-Visioned initiative, is “purposed to prevent, mitigate, and respond to gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies and protect survivors or those at risk from the onset of emergencies,” he said.

The report prepared by 11 UN entities, and released on Friday, noted that global emergencies, crises, and conflict further intensify violence against women and exacerbated the drivers and risk factors. “Since the start of Covid-19, 45 per cent of women reported that they or a woman they know has experienced a form of VAWG”, the UN agencies reported.

According to this report, natural disasters also aggravate all types of gender-based violence, as witnessed in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, in 2011’s tropical cyclones in Vanuatu, and from 2019 to 2022 during bush fires in Australia. The report also noted that existing forms of gender-based violence had grown online as anti-rights movements flourished.

The report argues that large-scale reductions in violence against women can be achieved through intensive feminist activism and advocacy coupled with evidence and practice-informed multisectoral action and investment. Citing evidence suggesting that “strong and autonomous feminist movements” as being “the most critical factor” in ending violence, UN Women and its sister agencies are calling upon governments and partners to “act now to end violence against women and show their solidarity to women’s rights movements and activists”.

Taking steps, making a stand The UN is advocating for resisting the rollback on women’s rights; amplifying the voices of women human rights defenders and feminist women’s movements; mobilizing more actors to join movements to end violence globally; and promoting the leadership and participation of women and girls in political, policy making, and decision-making spaces.

The report also underscored the need to strengthen protections to prevent and eliminate violence, harassment, threats, intimidation, and discrimination against women human rights defenders and women’s rights advocates and activists.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2022

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