Launch of the Secretary-General’s campaign on violence against women.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to join you today for the launch of your campaign, Mr. Secretary-General, to end violence against women. And I am honoured to be speaking on behalf of the UN system. This campaign represents the recognition at the highest level that eliminating violence against women is a priority for the world today.
It is our common vision that no woman or girls should suffer any form of violence. Today, one in three women faces violence in her lifetime. Both in times of war and peace, she will be harassed, beaten, raped, assaulted, or forced to submit to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation. She will be denied control over basic resources, isolated from her community, trafficked, or exploited. She will be forced to marry, sometimes while she is still a child. And in some cases, her abuse will be fatal.
A healthy and peaceful world is a world where women and girls live free of violence and discrimination. It is a world where all humankind enjoys peace, security and development. As we strive to achieve this ideal, we must make the elimination of violence against women our priority.
As you said, Mr. Secretary-General, violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation. It is also a major impediment to development.
The Millennium Development Goals will not be met unless greater attention and resources are devoted to women’s empowerment, gender equality, and ending violence against women and girls.
By respecting women’s rights and empowering women, we can enrich families, communities and nations. As we fight to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, we must preserve and nurture the human potential of every individual. It is clear that we cannot make poverty history unless we make violence against women history.
This is also true for our health development goals. The health consequences of violence against women are often severe and long-lasting. For pregnant women, violence can induce miscarriage, premature labour, or stillbirth. In order to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health, violence against women must stop.
Violence against women and girls also increases the spread of HIV. Too many women cannot negotiate condom use because they fear a violent reaction by their partners. Too many women will not test for HIV because they fear to be rejected by their communities. Women have been beaten, abandoned or thrown out of their homes because of their HIV positive status. And some people still believe in practices such as the rape of young virgins as a means to prevent HIV.
For millions of women and girls around the world, their visit to a health facility is the only opportunity to get the services and support they need to begin to heal. We must continue our efforts to make public health services available to all women.
It is a tragedy that, much like households, schools are a place where violence against girls frequently occurs. School girls have been harassed or sexually abused, sometimes by their teachers or their peers. Parents, teachers and governments must join hands to make schools safe for women and girls.
Eliminating violence against women helps us achieve universal primary education. Education enhances knowledge, opportunity, and the enjoyment of life. It must be a priority focus. When women are educated, their health improves, the survival of their children improves, and the society benefits.
Violence against women is inextricably linked to gender inequalities. By intention or effect, it serves to perpetuate male power and control.
Violence against women has been hidden in a culture of silence. With this campaign, we are breaking the silence and ensuring that women’s voices are heard. We need strong and sustained leadership - such as yours, Mr. Secretary-General - to change norms and attitudes. It is time to end complicity and impunity.
We all have a role to play. Men and boys can make a tremendous contribution by using their power for positive change. Together with them, we will create a world where both girls and boys are raised in a culture of mutual respect and responsibility, and equal opportunity.
Together, we can change deeply rooted attitudes and practices that discriminate against women and girls. We can ensure that all those who respond to violence against women-whether they are police officers, judges, lawyers, immigration officials, health personnel, or social workers-are sensitized and trained to provide a response that is compassionate, comprehensive and effective.
Over the years, governments have made progress in bringing national laws into compliance with international standards. They have increased the provision of services to victims. We have seen national campaigns bring results. We have seen politicians, religious leaders, and celebrities denounce violence against women.
In this fight, we pay tribute to the leadership taken by women and civil society. Their efforts have produced enormous change. Today, the United Nations as a whole pledges intensified, coordinated, and urgent action to help governments prevent, punish, and eliminate violence against women. We must pay particular attention to the most vulnerable women of all - to those women living in extreme poverty, in conflict situations and instable environments. Collectively, we have the responsibility and capacity to tackle this problem.
Women and girls are at risk of violence when carrying out essential daily activities - within their homes, or while walking, taking public transport to work, collecting water or firewood. Demanding the end of violence against women is not about demanding exceptional treatment. It is simply about letting women live in dignity.
From common to rare, from accepted to unacceptable, from impunity to justice, from suffering to support, we can build a world where violence against women belongs to the past.
More than sixty years ago, the founders of the United Nations reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women. These are the words at the top of our Charter. Today, we are renewing this commitment and we will make it a reality. This is not just an issue for women; it is an issue for everyone.