Statement on the Occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2003
Author: UNFPA

Today, let us welcome the progress that has been made to reduce violence against women and girls, and question why more progress has not been achieved. Women and girls should be safe in their homes, on the streets, in the workplace and in school. Yet far too many live in fear. Countless others have paid with their lives. In conflict zones, gender-based violence has reached truly alarming levels.

 On this day, we must ask ourselves: What will it take to put an end to this massive and systematic violation of human rights? How many more rapes, wife beatings, and honour killings must women endure? How many more women must be disfigured with acid or doused in petrol and set aflame? How many more millions of girls and women must be trafficked as virtual slaves? When will the impunity that is enjoyed by so many offenders finally be brought to an end?

The widespread violence against women and girls, which crosses all borders, is a painful reminder of the discrimination women continue to face. As long as it persists, we cannot claim to be making steady progress towards equality, development and peace.

These massive and systemic violations require a massive and systematic response. Offenders must be brought to justice and punished. Police and military officers must be properly trained to protect women’s rights. Laws penalizing violence against women and girls must be strengthened and vigorously implemented. And services for survivors offering shelter, counseling, and medical care must be urgently established.

There is a tremendous need for reproductive health services and trained health workers to provide family planning and care during pregnancy and delivery, and also counseling and treatment for rape, unsafe abortion and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. For too long these services have been given secondary importance and they remain under-funded. UNFPA is working to give them the high priority they deserve.

Today, nearly ten years after the historic International Conference on Population and Development, I urge all governments to renew their commitment to eliminate violence against women and girls. I urge all religious and local leaders, and members of every family and community to stand firmly against gender-based violence. Today, let us join hands with the activists working to end these crimes, and let us stand in solidarity with women and girls who deserve to live in dignity, free from fear.

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