UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

State of World Population 2005



© Marie Dorigny/UNFPA
Villager covers face in the town of Tigray, Ethiopia.

Gender-Based Violence:
A Price Too High

-The Magnitude and Many Forms of Gender-Based

-Violence Against Women and the MDGs

-Mobilizing for 'Zero Tolerance'

-Men Take a Stand

Mobilizing for 'Zero Tolerance'

For decades, women's rights advocates and international agencies such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) have worked to promote a culture of zero tolerance for violence against women. An increasing number of communities, coalitions and countries are mobilizing around the cause.

Some 25 countries have signalled their commitment by developing national action plans on eliminating violence against women.(64) Many countries are also adopting laws on various forms of genderbased violence. For example, Tunisia criminalized sexual harassment in 2004. Niger's 2003 law defines rape and sexual harassment and prohibits any form of slavery of women and children.(65) A 2003 law passed in Kyrgyzstan was initiated by non-governmental organizations. They gathered 30,000 signatures in a first-of-a-kind, grass-roots effort to promote antiviolence legislation. Jordan has removed impunity for honour killings. More countries have criminalized rape within marriage.(66)

Gender-based violence is a multi-dimensional problem that demands a multi-faceted response. In India, Family Counselling Centres, set up by the Madhya Pradesh police department and supported by UNFPA, provide counselling and legal services in cases of violence related to dowries, harassment by in-laws, child marriage, rape and abuse.(67) UNFPA has also worked closely with the Network of African Women Ministers and Parliamentarians to scale up their national advocacy efforts for stronger laws and enforcement.(68) In Kenya, counselling services help girls who run away to escape genital mutilation/cutting or forced marriage to return home without risk.(69) China has produced a manual on domestic violence for social workers.(70) Disseminating legal information in a language that is easily understood is essential to ensure that communities, women and potential perpetrators- especially those who are illiterate, living in poverty, or from different linguistic backgrounds- are informed about rights and penalties under the law.

"Before the training, I felt very depressed and always thought about the violence I had suffered. I lived with fear. I was scared to share my experience with others. Now I feel more empowered. As a police officer, I can better understand and help a woman who is a victim of domestic violence because of my first-hand experience."

- Female police officer who was herself a victim of abuse, Centre for Police Training, Department of La Paz, Honduras

In Honduras, almost one in six women over age 14 reports having been the victim of physical violence. A groundbreaking initiative is training police officers to become more gender-sensitive when they intervene in cases of domestic violence. The partnership involving the Ministry of Security, the National Police, the National Institute for Women's Affairs and UNFPA has reached its goal of training all national police institute graduates-some 1,500 per year. The curriculum on gender-based violence is now part of the regular police training programme. The 2004 regional conference on good governance and gender equality convened by ECLAC recognized the initiative as a "best practice" and it was praised as the second highest achievement of the President's administration in his annual report. Since the project began in 2002, the number of domestic violence cases reported to authorities has increased significantly. This has been the result of the collaborative efforts of many other organizations and institutions who mobilized to address the issue. At the regional level, the Gender Council of the Commission of Heads of Police in Central America and the Caribbean, with UNFPA support, continues its work to improve responses to violence against women through gendersensitive training and protocols.


With support from UNFPA, the Panamanian National Directorate for Women launched a mass-media campaign against sexual exploitation on 25 November 2004, the International Day to Eradicate Violence Against Women. The campaign targeted the general public, government officials, the media and tourists and publicized a law on sex tourism passed in 2000. It aired radio messages from celebrities, distributed posters to neighbourhood shops, cybercafés, hotels and casinos, and gave information packets to government decision makers and journalists. In the presence of the media, the First Lady and high-level officials passed out postcards promoting safe tourism instead of sex tourism to tourists at the national airport.

NATIONAL CAMPAIGNS: 'QUICK WINS'. National campaigns against gender-based violence are one of the "quick-win" solutions recommended by the UN Millennium Project. These are relatively inexpensive, high-impact initiatives that are expected to reap development benefits within three years.(71) In some countries efforts are already under way. For example, the "Stop Violence Against Women" campaign was initiated in 2004 in Turkey with UNFPA support. The government enlisted celebrities and athletes to appear on public service ads aired on 15 television channels. Turkish Football Federation T-shirts with an anti-violence motto were produced, and religious leaders delivered speeches at Friday prayers in all the mosques. The private sector has been involved in the campaign, both as sponsors and champions for the cause.(72) In Latin America and the Caribbean, a UN inter-agency campaign generated sustained progress on the issue (see Box 31) and bolstered other efforts. Thailand launched its "Love and Peace in the Home" campaign.(73) In Burundi, UNFPA has played a leading role in a national campaign addressing sexual violence against women, including sponsoring research on the magnitude of sexual violence among displaced populations. In 2004, the campaign saw a 53 per cent increase in the number of women victims of sexual violence seeking services at NGO centres supported by UNFPA. The centres also provide legal assistance for raped women through the Burundian Association of Women Lawyers and the ITEKA Human Rights League.

Men Take a Stand >>
<< Violence Against Women and the MDGs