Press Release

Five Underreported Stories Kick Off 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign

27 November 2007
Author: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS, New York — Domestic violence in the Russian Federation; sex slavery in India; self-immolation in Central Asian republics; gender-based violence and HIV; and ‘compensation’ marriages are the five underreported stories compiled by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, for 2007.

Since last year, the Fund has marked the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence with five stories that it believes global media might have ignored, under-played or simply been unaware of. The 16 days run from 25 November through 10 December, Human Rights Day. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed on that date in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Without exception, these stories—and the fact sheets that accompany them—highlight the scourge of violence against women and offer concrete recommendations about how to combat this global epidemic.

A sampling:

In the Russian Federation , an estimated 14,000 women are murdered by intimate partners every year. That means a woman is killed by her partner, spouse or boyfriend every 35 minutes. To put these numbers into perspective, the yearly death toll of domestic violence is comparable to the entire published number of Soviet troops killed during the 10-year Soviet Union/Afghanistan conflict.

Every year, the proportion of women infected with HIV continues to overtake that of men. Although women are two to five times more biologically susceptible to contracting HIV from a male partner, another factor comes into play: gender-based violence . This includes coercion, rape in wartime, the practice of ‘widow cleansing’, domestic violence and female genital mutilation/cutting. Indeed, some studies show that women who suffer violence at home are 10 times more likely to acquire HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The practice of self-immolation  in Northern Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is often a response to family violence that has a gender component. Although numbers are hard to pin down, research suggests that they are rising as economic crises in many of these countries continue and as more and more young girls and women find themselves with no way out.

The ancient custom of 'compensation’ marriage —prevalent in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, Afghanistan, parts of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa—refers to the practice of forcing girl children into arranged marriages as compensation for a murder perpetrated by a member of her family, to offset debts, or the settlement of other inter-ethnic or family disputes.

In Pakistan, this practice is called Swara, in other regions it is known as Vanni. Whatever it is called, compensation marriages are widely used as a way of keeping the peace among communities and families. However, under-aged girls torn from their homes in this manner often end up systematically abused and forced into a life of virtual slavery in the homes of their “enemies”.

These and other stories are featured at UNFPA’s website, www.unfpa.org , as the Fund’s contribution to the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence Campaign .

Contact information: 

Patricia Leidl
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5031
Cell Phone:
Email: leidl@unfpa.org