By Edith M. Lederer/AP
The head of the U.N. women’s agency said Monday it’s unacceptable that an average of 40 per cent of women globally are likely to be beaten, raped, abused or mutilated in their lifetimes and demanded action to end the violence.
Speaking at the opening of a two-week meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, focused on combatting violence against women, Michelle Bachelet said that the conference provided a unique opportunity for all countries to address “this most pervasive violation of human rights and dignity.”
“This pandemic strikes the life of millions of women, fractures families and communities, and impedes development, costing countries billions of dollars each year in health care costs and lost productivity,” Bachelet told a news conference.
She said that data from the World Health Organization and other research shows that an average of 40 per cent — and up to 70 per cent of women in some countries — face violence in their lifetimes.
Bachelet expressed hope that this year’s meeting would produce a final document that will be “an important tool for improving and progressing on the struggle against violence against women.”
When the Commission on the Status of Women took up violence against women a decade ago, governments were unable to reach agreement on a final document because of differences over sex education, a woman’s right to reproductive health, and demands for an exception for traditional, cultural and religious practices.
Bachelet also called for strengthened implementation of laws to prevent and respond to violence against women, more focus on prevention, and better data and research.
Today, nearly 187 countries have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the U.N. Security Council now recognizes sexual violence as a tactic of war, but Bachelet said there are still over 600 million women living in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
Bachelet said it’s time for action when “intimate partner violence” is responsible for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, when one in three girls in developing countries is likely to be a child bride, when millions of women and girls are trafficked in modern-day slavery, and when rape is used as a tactic of war.
She called the meeting uniting 6,000 representatives of civil society attending along with ministers and ambassadors from the 193 U.N. member states “the largest international meeting ever on ending violence against women.”
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